There are many modern day gadgets and gizmos that can help to make the world increasingly inclusive and interactive for wheelchair users and those with disabilities.
From modern technology which allows users to more easily interact with the world around them, to more traditional mobility aids such was walking sticks and crutches, there are assistive devices that can help with almost any type of disability.
The type of disability aid you use will depend on a number of factors. One of which is whether you are using the aid for a short period of recovery, or for long-term and more permanent use. For example, crutches or walking sticks can provide short-term assistance to someone going through a period of rehabilitation due to an injury or accident, whereas technology such as screen readers can provide more long-term support.
Why use a mobility aid?
There are many reasons why someone might choose to use a mobility aid, for example:
- To increase stability and balance
- To even out individual walking patterns
- To maintain an upright walking posture
- To increase a person’s confidence in their walking ability
- To redistribute weight and reduce joint and muscle pain
Types of Mobility Aids
Walking sticks, support sticks or canes may be used by individuals who have reduced balance. These users are generally (although not always) older. Walking sticks are available in a variety of materials, including metal and wood, with some having the ability to be folded for ease of storage when they are not in use. There are even some walking sticks that can fold into a chair to provide a convenient place for a short rest. Sunrise Medical offers a selection of walking stick solutions through its Coopers brand.
Tetrapods and Tripods
These are very similar to walking sticks, but either have three or four points to their base for increased stability. This means they can provide extra balance for the user when compared to a standard walking stick. They are generally manufactured from metal, usually aluminium or steel.
Crutches should only be used at the recommendation of a doctor or other qualified healthcare professional. They are generally used in pairs to aid the user in walking while relieving the weight from one foot or leg.
Walkers and Walking Frames
Generally used by people who have poor balance, or less strength in their limbs. Walkers are available in wheeled and non-wheeled versions and are often available with baskets, bags or trays for convenience. Non-wheeled versions are often used in hospitals and nursing homes.
Aids such as showerboards, bathboards and bath seats, allow users a sense of independence and dignity, whilst assisting with mobility in the bathroom. Options such as grab rails, or a shower/commode chair can allow for independent washing or toileting. Commodes may be a good solution for those less able to make it to the bathroom. If you’re looking to remodel your bathroom you might want to read our previous blog post on how to make your bathroom accessible.
A number of mobility aids are available with a higher maximum user weight for larger users. For example, Coopers stocks a permanent user crutch, an extra heavy duty rolling walker and an extra heavy duty walking frame – all available as a more robust solution.
Assistive technology allows individuals who may be visually or hearing impaired, as well as those with speech and communication difficulties to interact with their surroundings more easily. They tend to fall into two categories:
Communication aids – These comprehensive expressive aids are intended to meet the daily communication needs of the individual. They include a vast library of messages, represented by letters, words, photographs or symbols. Targeted expressive aids are even more focused or streamlined and can be used in situations where limited words are needed (for example, for basic requests).
Visual supports – People with complex communication needs may have a hard time remembering events or other types of information, as well as difficulty understanding abstract information. Visual supports can help people to understand faster and communicate more efficiently, especially for people who have conditions such as autism. Visual supports may be photographs, drawings, pictures, written records or lists that support communication.
Technology such as braille readers can allow a visually impaired person to easily use a computer. There are also electronic braille note takers, which are small portable devices with braille keyboards. Screen readers are able to act as an interface between a computers operating system, its application and the operator, by converting words on the screen into sound. A command can instruct the screen reader to read or spell a word, or a full screen of prose. They can also be used to control certain functions of the PC.
In fact, there is a huge range of devices suitable for those who are visually impaired, including: wearing artificial vision devices, smart canes, the Aira visual interpreter (which creates augmented reality content), a guide sense device (allowing users to sense their surroundings) and a braille sense polaris.