Inability to move around easily or impaired mobility is really not something most of us think about often but unfortunately it is something that many people around the world have to live with every day.
There are millions of people around the world suffering from disabilities that are unimaginable for most of us and this number is only increasing as more babies are born around the world in this generation more than any other generation.
A mobility aid is a tool designed to assist walking or otherwise improve the mobility of people with mobility impairment. In most cases, people who have disabilities or injuries, or older adults who are at increased risk of falling, choose to use mobility aids for the disabled.
There are various mobility aids which can help people with an impaired ability to walk and mobility scooters or wheelchairs for disabilities which are more severe or longer journeys which would have otherwise have been taken on foot.
Quality mobility aids are a perfect solution for elderly people who can still walk but could still need a little help in the form of extra support.
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Types of mobility aids
These are mobility aids, which are used to help transfer body weight from the legs to the upper body. They usually help to keep a person in an upright position and may be used by those with permanent injuries or even short-term disabilities. Crutches can be used either singly or in pairs depending on the severity of the injury. Crutches may be available in different colors depending on the model.
There are several types of crutches;
Platform crutches– this is the type of crutches where the forearm rests on a horizontal platform and is usually strapped in place with Velcro-type straps that allow the platform or trough to release incase of a fall. These crutches are not commonly used, except by people with a weak hand grip due to conditions such as arthritis or cerebral palsy.
Axillary (underarm) crutches-with this type, one part of an axillary crutch is placed against the ribcage under the armpits while users hold on to the handgrip. They are mostly used by those with short-term injuries. Sometimes a towel or some kind of soft cover is needed to reduce or prevent armpit injury.
Lofstrand(forearm) crutches- this type of crutch has a cuff at the top that goes around the forearm. It involves placing the arm into the cuff and holding a hand grip. The design of the forearm cuff enables body weight to be well distributed. Forearm crutches are normally used by people who have long-term disabilities.
Also known as a walking stick, a cane is one of the common mobility aids for the disabled. They are very similar to crutches in that they support the body weight and help transmit the load from the legs to the upper body.
However, they are known to take less weight off the lower body than crutches and place greater pressure on the hands and wrists. In addition to making a person mobile and to travel independently and extensively, a cane provides a measure of protection and travel safety.
The most common types of canes include;
Forearm canes– they offer extra forearm support, therefore, allowing more weight to be distributed from the wrist to the arm.
Quad canes– quad canes have four feet at the bottom for providing a wider base and greater stability. These feet usually have rubber caps at the tip which help prevent slippage on floors.
White canes– These are longer and thinner than the traditional canes and they enable the user to detect objects that are in their path.
These are designed specifically to assist people who are visually impaired. They are also designed to alert other people or bystanders that the user is blind or visually impaired.
There are also other types of canes which are adjustable or foldable and also others which are used for nonmedical purposes such as those used by hikers.
Also known as a Zimmer Frame, walkers are regarded to be the most stable mobility aids for the disabled and they consist of a freestanding metal framework with four legs that provide stability to the user. The points of contact may either be fixed with rubber as with crutches and canes, or wheels, or even a combination of both.
Basic walkers have a 3-sided frame which surrounds the user. Users lift the frame and place it further in front of them, they then step forward to meet it an then they repeat the process. The walkers that have wheels or glides are designed to enable the user to slide the walker rather than lift it. This design has proved especially helpful to people with limited arm strength.
There are different types of walkers;
Walker-cane hybrids– These were designed to bridge the gap between a walker and a cane. The hybrid has two legs that are meant to provide lateral (side to side) support which a cane does not. It can be used with either one or both hands and provides greater support than a standard cane.
Rollators– They are typically more sophisticated than the normal walkers. Rollators have four fully rotating wheel, brakes, a seat and often a basket. It is mostly used for patients who are looking for more balance when moving around. The wheels also make it easier to maneuver on different surfaces.
Knee walkers– This mobility aid allows the user to rest their knee on a padded cushion while pushing themselves forward with their stronger leg.
Wheelchairs are designed for people who, due to their disability are not supposed to put weight on their lower limbs or who are unable to walk.
They are usually more suitable for people with severe mobility problems or when the user needs to travel over a longer distance.
There different types of wheelchairs but the most common is the self-propelled wheelchair where one needs to push themselves forward by constantly turning the wheels that are on the side or in some cases can be pushed by someone else.
There are also the self-propelled wheelchairs which use electricity and the user moves forward by pushing a lever which is placed at a position which makes access easier to the user. The most recent invention is the wheelchair which can be propelled by neural impulses.
Wheelchairs also come in some specialized types, for example, standing wheelchairs where the user is supported in an almost upright position, and sports wheelchairs, which have been designed for use in specific sports by users with disabilities.
These are dogs which have been specially trained to escort people who are blind or visually impaired and in turn help them to avoid obstacles.
They can also guide people through crowds, stop at curbs and stairs and even be trained to find some objects which are in sight such as, “find the door” or “find the elevator”.
These dogs can also be trained to find frequently used landmarks such as the bus stop or mailbox. Guide dogs have been proven to have positive psychological, physiological and social effects. They act as mobility aids for the disabled.
Several office or home modifications can be made to assist a disabled person to easily move around from place to place.
These modifications include;
Handrails– Special handrails are usually fitted in restrooms and at entrances to provide support and to enable disabled persons to be able to access these places in an easier way.
Stairlifts– These are devices used to move people in wheelchairs or with a disability up and down floors, either through the floor or along the staircase.
Ramps– people with walkers, canes or crutches will definitely find ramps to be easier to use as compared to the conventional stairs.Access ramps are especially important as some people, including those with wheelchairs and scooters, cannot be able to use stairs.
The use of these mobility aids does not come without its own risks associated with their long-term use. For example, the use of underarm crutches may lead to a condition called underarm paralysis which is caused by excess pressure to the nerves on the armpit.
People who are using a mobility aid for the first time should make an appointment with a physical therapist or doctor to be trained on the proper use of those aids