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Mobility Aids

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 8 Feb 2013 | comments*Discuss
 
Mobility Equipment Mobility Aids

There are many different types of mobility equipment and aids on the market today designed to give a better quality of life to disabled people and others who might find it physically difficult to get around. Here are just some of the main products which are available today.

Wheelchairs

There are numerous different types of wheelchair on the market today to suit the different needs of people performing different kinds of tasks.

Manual wheelchairs consist of a rigid frame or an 'X' frame mechanism to allow them to be folded inwards when not in use. The lighter, folding models are easily transportable which make them ideal if you're a driver. Other chairs are motorised and there are also chairs designed specifically for different kinds of sports. Standard wheelchairs are lightweight and suitable for people who weigh up to about 20 stone, although more robust and wider models are available for larger users. For extra comfort, some of these chairs offer reclinable adjustments.

When choosing a wheelchair, it's important you shop around and try out as many different ones as possible as wheelchairs all have different capabilities and specifications. Physiotherapists and occupational therapists can offer you good advice here, taking into account factors such as the user's age, strength and their degree of disability. Other factors to consider are whether or not the wheelchair is going to be used predominantly indoors or outdoors and for what purpose. Foot rests, arm rests and neck supports may also be things you might want to consider. Seat size is one of the most important factors. You need to measure the width, depth and height needed and remember to add enough extra height in the backrest if a cushion is required. The depth should be sufficient to provide support but not be so great that the backs of your knees rub against the seat.

If you opt for a motorised (electric) wheelchair, find out the types of batteries they use and how long they last. You also need to know how easy and accessible spare parts are and how easy it is for the wheelchair to be serviced and repaired if needed.

Adapting Your Car

Whilst there are many cars on the market that have been designed specifically to suit disabled people, many choose to have their own car adapted to suit their own individual requirements.

Whether you buy a brand new car or choose to adapt your existing vehicle, you may have to consider some of the following issues.

There are accessories and adaptations that can make it easier to get in and out of your vehicle. This allows you to get in and out of the car from your preferred access point, be that the driver's side, the passenger side, or, in the case of hatchbacks, from the rear. From the driver or passenger side, you'll need wider doors and preferably a sliding or swivelling aid.

Depending on whether you have lower or upper body disabilities or both, here is a list of other adaptations that can make driving easier for you:

  • A steering wheel knob fitted to the rim of the steering wheel
  • Automatic transmission
  • Direction indicators and the horn within finger reach or as foot controls, which you can operate without letting go of the wheel
  • Moving the handbrake to the right of the driver's seat
  • Joystick steering
  • A foot steering system
  • Moving the accelerator to the left side of the foot brake on an automatic car if you have a right leg disability
  • If you've lost the use of both legs, you may consider hand only controls which come in a variety of models with automatic transmission

Other Mobility Walking Equipment

In addition to walking sticks and crutches which should always be the correct height and comfortable for you to use (your physiotherapist can help with this), there are many different types of walking aids available.

There are zimmer frames and both tri and quad wheel walkers. If you choose a walker with a wheel mechanism, you need to consider braking mechanisms, for example, loop brakes or pressure brakes. Some of these come with seats fitted to allow for rest stops should you walk a lot. Sizing is also important and you must have adjustable frames and handlebars that suit your height. Do you require more stability? Then double wheels as opposed to single ones can offer you that. Steel frames are more durable but aluminium frames are more lightweight and that might also be a consideration. And you need to think about the type of handgrips you want that are the most comfortable to you. Again, only by trying out the different apparatus can you make an informed choice and your physiotherapist can advise you on this.

Being physically impaired in many cases, does not preclude you from being mobile and still getting out and about and enjoying yourself. Today, technology has advanced to take into account all manner of disabilities and physical difficulties and there are several organisations that can help and advise you.

Some useful ones are:

  • Mobility Advice and Vehicle Information Service (MAVIS)
  • The Forum of Mobility Centres
  • Mobility and General Information Centre (MAGIC)
  • Disabled Living Foundation

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