Category Archives: Community Mobility & Pedestrians

Mobility and the Second Act Generation

Mobility Related Disability in Middle-aged Americans
Source: RAND Corporation
Published: Apr 06, 2010 (Revised: Apr 06, 2010)

Abstract: Proportion of older middle-aged Americans who report disabilities related to mobility increased significantly.
Detail: Middle-aged Americans reporting more mobility related disabilities, study finds.
The proportion of older middle-aged Americans who report disabilities related to mobility increased significantly from 1997 to 2007, in contrast to the disability decline that has been found among Americans ages 65 and over, according to a new study by the RAND Corporation and the University of Michigan.

Researchers found a rise in the proportion of Americans aged 50 to 64 who reported mobility-related difficulties or the need for help in daily personal care activities such as getting out of bed, according to findings published in the April edition of the journal Health Affairs.

The reason for the increase is not clear, although many of those reporting disabilities say they are due to health problems that began in their 30s and 40s.

“Although the overall rate of needing help with personal care among this group remains very low — less than 2 percent — this rise in disability is reason for concern,” said Linda Martin, the study’s lead author and a senior fellow at RAND, a nonprofit research organization. “It does not bode well for future trends for the 65 and older population, plus there are substantial personal and societal costs of caring for people of any age who need help.”

Researchers examined disability trends among people aged 50 to 64 by analyzing information from the 1997 to 2007 National Health Interview Survey, a nationally representative effort that asks thousands of community-dwelling Americans each year about a broad range of issues regarding their health status.

More than 40 percent of people aged 50 to 64 reported that because of a health problem they had difficulty with at least one of nine physical functions and many reported problems with more than one. Over the study period, researchers noted a significant increase in the number of people reporting that a health problem made it difficult for them to stoop, stand for two hours, walk a quarter mile or climb 10 steps without resting.

There also was a significant increase in the proportion of people who reported needing help with personal care activities of daily living such as getting in or out of bed or getting around inside their homes.

“This a disappointing trend with potentially far-reaching and long-term negative consequences,” said Richard Suzman, director of the Division of Behavioral and Social Research at the National Institute on Aging, which funded the study. “If people have such difficulties in middle age, how can we expect that this age group, today’s baby boomers, will be able to take care of itself with advancing age? If it continues, this trend could have a significant effect on the need for long-term care in the future.”

From 1997 to 2007, increasing proportions of people aged 50 to 64 attributed their need for help to back or neck problems, diabetes, and depression, anxiety or emotional problems. By 2005-07, the most common causes for needing help were these ailments plus arthritis or rheumatism. People who reported these conditions as causes were most likely to report that the ailments started at ages 30 to 49 years.

The reported increases in conditions causing disability may reflect real deterioration of health or improved awareness of conditions as a result of diagnosis and treatment. It also could be that improved medical care has extended the lives of people whose disabilities began early in life and who might have not survived to age 50 in earlier decades.

Despite continuing concerns about obesity in the United States, those needing help did not cite obesity as an important cause of their limitations.

“We have this uptick of people in their 50s and early 60s who say they need help with their daily activities of living and we’re not sure why,” said study co-author Vicki A. Freedman, a research professor at the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan. “But the patterns suggest the need for prevention and early intervention before the age of Medicare eligibility.”

Other authors of the study are Robert F. Schoeni and Patricia M. Andreski of the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan.

RAND Health, a division of the RAND Corporation, is the nation’s largest independent health policy research program, with a broad research portfolio that focuses on quality, costs and health services delivery, among other topics.

The University of Michigan Institute for Social Research is the world’s largest academic social science survey and research organization, and a world leader in developing and applying social science methodology, and in educating researchers and students from around the world.

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit research organization providing objective analysis and effective solutions that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors around the world. To sign up for RAND e-mail alerts:

Manual Wheelchair Power Assist!

TGA Wheelchair Powerpack PLUS – Electric Assist for Manual Wheelchairs
Source: TGA Mobility
Published: Mar 15, 2014 (Revised: Mar 15, 2014)
Author Contact Information:

Abstract: The TGA Powerpack provides an electrically powered method to propel a manual attendant controlled wheelchair and occupant.
“We receive countless visits and enquiries from people with disabilities and their carers who are looking for powered assistance with propelling a wheelchair.”
Detail: TGA WTGA, the UK’s leading mobility product specialist, will be unveiling its new Wheelchair Powerpack PLUS at Naidex National (29th April – 1st May, NEC, Stand B70) which now delivers a significant user weight capacity of 32 stone (448 Pounds).

The TGA Powerpack is first choice for many leading healthcare providers, care home managers, carers and disabled individuals. It delivers the most effective, powered method to propel a manual, attendant controlled wheelchair and occupant. This market-leading product has been totally designed and built in the UK for over 25 years and through decades of TGA development, has evolved into a proven product that is trusted by 50,000+ carers worldwide.

The highly established Solo, Duo and Heavy-Duty models, now alongside the new PLUS, drive almost all types of wheelchair, including many specialist tilt-in-space models. They eliminate the difficulties posed for carers when negotiating slopes, ramps or uneven surfaces and significantly reduce manual handling risks. Each reliable model has a lightweight yet robust design, ergonomic controls and compatibility with the majority of wheelchair types through an infinite range of UK manufactured fittings.

TGA is delighted to be launching the new Powerpack at Naidex National 2014. This product innovation from TGA will help protect care teams and wheelchair attendants against back injury, muscle strain and poor posture as the trend towards heavier wheelchair occupants continues. Over and above relatives and friends in the community sustaining injuries from over exertion, staff sickness in the commercial care sector is a major concern in relation to wheelchair propulsion. If carers are subject to undue risks, behavior practices and care levels can be compromised. Care home managers and healthcare groups are also then exposed to higher levels of financial loss through potential lost ‘man hours’ or even costly litigation issues.

The heightened capabilities of the new TGA Powerpack PLUS have been developed in response to significant evidence, that continues to build, regarding the moving and handling risks associated with carers pushing manual wheelchairs. As an example, the ‘Keeping the Wheels Turning’ white paper produced by the University of Dundee in association with NHS Fife, states why powerpacks significantly reduce pain and health-related difficulties for attendant carers: ‘….shoulder pain for example is over four times as common for carers propelling attendant propelled manual chairs as for those where the user has a powered chair. It is also noticeable that carers propelling manual wheelchairs are very much more likely to report heart, breathing or balance problems than those supporting powered wheelchair users….’

This report also highlights that the Health & Safety Executive advises that a carer should not manually propel an occupant weighing more that 20kg – the average weight of a six-year-old child. Hence the manual propulsion of an adult that typically weighs 80kg, plus the weight of a ‘standard’ 12kg wheelchair, far exceeds safe limits for males and females to push. Within the data, it also confirms that without the use of powered momentum, the number of healthcare professionals complaining of back pain increases by 25%. Coupled with statistics demonstrating that the majority of wheelchair occupants and attendants are aged 40+, the health and mobility benefits of fitting a TGA Wheelchair Powerpack are heightened even further.

In addition to its remarkable higher user weight capacity, the new Powerpack PLUS incorporates several additional pioneering features to enhance both the occupant and attendant’s mobility. These include advanced ‘soft-start’ technology, additional safety features, greater battery range and a service performance indicator.

The Powerpack hardware and software have been re-engineered to ensure powered activation is smooth and gradual, irrespective of how the control lever is operated.

This will now provide a more comfortable and relaxing transfer experience for occupants. The PLUS has a reduced top speed of 3mph so that steering heavier occupants is safe, manageable and strain-free even on cambers. When the Powerpack reverse gear is selected, an automatic restrictor limits power output to 60% so that manoeuvring is hassle free. The new 24v motor and high-grade tyres deliver greater torque for better traction and the 2 x 14ah batteries provide an impressive range of up to 10 miles, even with abariatric occupant. In the unlikely event that maintenance is required, the new integrated service indicator displays the Powerpack’s historic performance so faster repairs can be completed. Each PLUS is supplied with a two-year warranty and when off board charging is required, the battery pack can be quickly removed from the chassis without the need to disconnect complex wiring.

The clinical benefits of the Powerpack for wheelchair attendants have been clearly recognised by numerous leading Occupational Therapists.

Ailsa Reston of RKS, a Private OT Practice in Chester, has already commended the launch of this new 32 stone user capacity model. Ailsa said: “When we have previously prescribed the TGA Powerpack, we have had complete confidence it is the best solution for propelling an attendant wheelchair. It is obvious from a clinical point of view, its design has been carefully considered to ensure unhindered walking as all TGA models fit further underneath wheelchairs than competitors’ versions. It is fantastic to see that this new PLUS will greatly reduce moving and handling risks for carers attending to bariatric clients – a major issue faced by many of my peers in the sector.”

Ailsa continues: “We receive countless visits and enquiries from people with disabilities and their carers who are looking for powered assistance with propelling a wheelchair. With the growing trend towards larger care home residents and private individuals requiring propulsion, the new more powerful TGA model will make a significant difference. As Occupational Therapists, we are fully aware that there are many benefits for people to be able to access the community they live in. The ability to socialise with other people improves their well-being and lifts their mood. This pioneering TGA Powerpack PLUS will enable far more members of society to access these facilities and therefore improve quality of life for countless larger people. I would recommend it to all fellow healthcare professionals, care home managers and carers.”

Daniel Stone, TGA Managing Director concluded:

“The TGA team and I are extremely proud to be launching this new, 24v Wheelchair Powerpack PLUS at Naidex National. We have pro-actively listened, reviewed and understood the needs of both wheelchair users and their carers so that a trusted solution could be introduced to solve bariatric mobility issues. This new product is the culmination of extensive R&D and investment that will now resolve a current challenge healthcare professionals face on a daily basis. The new PLUS will once again further reiterate our engineering prowess and 30-year proven heritage for manufacturing quality products, which deliver mobility with peace of mind. The TGA Powerpack is regularly copied but will never be equaled.”

Eric Cooper, TGA’s Wheelchair Powerpack specialist, will be demonstrating the benefits of the new PLUS version at the Soap Box Seminar Theatre during Naidex National, Day 1, 12-12:20pm.

On-Demand Ridesharing Startup Lyft Adds Insurance Between Rides

This could have interesting implications for people who have retired from driving and need to identify alternative transportation solutions.

Mobility Resources

Power Wheelchairs
Manual Wheelchairs
All-Terrain Wheelchairs
Wheelchair Accessories
Abledata Factsheets
Books to Buy!

Power/Electric Wheelchairs

21st Century Scientific – Power Wheelchair Manufacturer
Bruno Independent Living Aids’ Home Page
Feather Wheelchairs – Lightweight Motorized Electric Wheelchairs
Invacare Rehab Products Group – power and manual wheelchairs
Sunrise Medical – Quickie Electric Wheelchairs
Manual/Sports Wheelchairs

Mobility Sports provider of custom wheelchairs and custom sleds for sled hockey
Melrose Kiwi Concept Chairs
MobilityPro – Wheelchairs and Accessories
SportAid-MedAid – Sports wheelchairs
TheMedSupplyGuide – Manual Wheelchairs
All-Terrain Wheelchairs

Achievable Conceptsy – Adapted Recreation and Sporting Equipment
Beach Wheelchairs – Hanicapped Recreational Surf Chair
Hotshot Products – The Beach Cruzr, The Beachcomber
Magic Mobility – Four wheel drive power wheelchair – IRV 2000 individual recreational vehicle
Wheelchair Accessories

Aquila Corp – Wheelchair Cushion Manufacturer
AllegroMedical – wheelchairs & power scooters
BXL International Sales – “K-Special Back”, Wheelchair Seating Components
Diestco Manufacturing Co – products for wheelchair and scooters
Frog Legs Inc – shock absorbing devices which replace the front forks
Greentyre Airless Wheelchair Tire
Haseltine Systems Corporation – containers to protect wheelchairs during air travel
Magic Wheels :: 2-Speed Wheelchair Drive
The EASE – Active Massage Wheelchair Cushion
replacement batteries for wheel chairs and scooters
WestCanProducts – wheelchair supplies

Bruno Independent Living Aids’ Home Page
MobilityPro – Scooters and Accessories
Scoot-Around North America – Electric Scooter rentals
TravelScoot – Lightweight Mobility Travel Scooters
Abledata Factsheets

Adaptive Equipment & Vehicles Modified for Persons with Disabilities
Factsheet: Wheelchairs for Children
Factsheet: Powered Wheelchairs
Factsheet: Manual Wheelchairs
Factsheet: Scooters

Absolute Mobility Center – Northwest’s largest dealer and rental service for wheelchair accessible vans
Adaptive Equipment & Vehicles Modified for Persons with Disabilities (NHTSA)
Access AMS – Wheelchair Accessible Vans and Adaptive Driving Aids
Access Industries – accessable vans
Access Unlimited – Adaptive Transportation And Mobility Technology
Accessable Vans of America
AMS Vans, Inc. – Nationwide provider of wheelchair accessible transportation
Automotive innovations – Vehicle modifications
Bruno Independent Living Aids
Braun Corporation : leader in handicapped accessible vehicles, wheelchair lifts
Hire Mobility – Wheelchair Accessible Vans Australia
MobilityWorks! – accessable vehicles
Mobility Sales: Wheelchair vans, Handicapped Vans – Nationwide Sales & Rental
Motion Automotive Specialty – Meeting the Transportation Needs of the Physically Challenged
Ride-Away Handicap Equipment Corp. – modified vehicles and adaptive equipment
Rollx Vans: Handicap Vans, Wheelchair Vans, and Van Conversions
Transit Plus Inc. wheelchair vans

4 Stair Lifts – Your source for stair lifts and stair lift accessories
Access Options – lifts, ramps
Adaptive Engineering Ltd. – Mobile Wheelchair Lifts
All-ways Accessible, Inc. – lifts, ramps, tranfer lifts
Ascension Portable Wheelchair Lifts – ADA compliant portable wheelchair lifts that do not require a ramp.
CoachLift- Lifts from Coach Lift® are chairs that rise on a lift tube, and swing around to the door
Comforthouse – Wheelchair Ramps
Concord Elevator – vertical accessibility lifts and stair-chair lifts
Discount Ramps .Com Affordable wheelchair ramps, wheelchair lifts, and other accessories
Garaventa Accessiblity – Stair-Lifts, vertical residential lifts and an emergency evacuation device for the mobility impaired.
Homecare Products – EZ-Access Portable Ramps
LiteRamp – Portable Wheelchair Ramps and Scooter Ramps
movemanSKG – designs, supplies and installs platform lifts for wheelchair users.
Pollock Lifts – through floor domestic lifts, stair lifts, step lifts, platform lifts and overhead hoists.
Premier Lift Products – residential elevators, commercial & residential wheelchair lifts
Stiltz Limited – Home Lifts and Elevators The Duo – the most innovative, unique and useful home lift to date.
Startracks Mobility – Affordable Accessible Lift and Mobility Products
Wheelovator – elevator vertical platform lift stairway chairlift
TheMedSupplyGuide – Lift Chairs
TheMedSupplyGuide – Wheelchair Ramps


Bodypoint Designs – Wheelchair Seating Accessories
Levo AG – standing wheelchairs – serves as an educational guide on wheelchair options, mobility resources and recreational outlets
Northwest Driver Rehabilitation
SoloRider Industries, Inc. – multi-functional golf car can be used for the disabled golfer
Wheelchair is an online resource for the disabled community. It features informative articles about wheelchairs, wheelchair accessories and wheelchair sports.
The Wheelchair Site – independent Consumers Guide To Wheelchairs, Scooters & Accessories
Wheelchair Buying Guide | Different Types of Wheelchairs
Wheelchair Buying Guide
Books to Buy! Available in association with
Life on Wheels : A Guide for the Active Wheelchair User (Patient-Centered Guides)
Choosing a Wheelchair: A Guide for Optimal Independence
Positioning in a Wheelchair : A Guide for Caregivers of the Disabled Adult
The Wheelchair Evaluation : A Practical Guide
Wheelchair Selection and Configuration

Pedestrian Safety

President Signs Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act
Source: National Federation of the Blind
Published: Jan 05, 2011 (Revised: Jan 05, 2011)

Abstract: Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act law will protect the blind and other pedestrians from injury as a result of silent vehicle technology.
Detail: The National Federation of the Blind today commended President Barack Obama for signing into law the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act (S. 841), which will protect the blind and other pedestrians from injury as a result of silent vehicle technology.

“The National Federation of the Blind is pleased that this critical legislation has been signed into law, preserving the right to safe and independent travel for the blind,” said Dr. Marc Maurer, President of the National Federation of the Blind. “The blind, like all pedestrians, must be able to travel to work, to school, to church, and to other places in our communities, and we must be able to hear vehicles in order to do so. This law, which is the result of collaboration among blind Americans, automobile manufacturers, and legislators, will benefit all pedestrians for generations to come as new vehicle technologies become more prevalent. We look forward to working with the Department of Transportation throughout the regulatory process.”

Because blind pedestrians cannot locate and evaluate traffic using their vision, they must listen to traffic to discern its speed, direction, and other attributes in order to travel safely and independently. Other people, including pedestrians who are not blind, bicyclists, runners, and small children, also benefit from hearing the sound of vehicle engines. New vehicles that employ hybrid or electric engine technology can be silent, rendering them extremely dangerous in situations where vehicles and pedestrians come into proximity with each other.

About the National Federation of the Blind – With more than 50,000 members, the National Federation of the Blind is the largest and most influential membership organization of blind people in the United States. The NFB improves blind people’s lives through advocacy, education, research, technology, and programs encouraging independence and self-confidence. It is the leading force in the blindness field today and the voice of the nation’s blind. In January 2004 the NFB opened the National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute, the first research and training center in the United States for the blind led by the blind. Please visit our Web site:

Most Livable U.S. Cities for Wheelchair Users

Author: Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation

Published: Jul 26, 2010 (Revised: Jul 26, 2010)

Abstract: Seattle, Denver, Chicago Among Top 20 Most Livable U.S. Cities for Wheelchair Users.

Detail: Seattle, Denver, Chicago Among Top 20 Most Livable U.S. Cities for Wheelchair Users – Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation Rates Cities to Commemorate 20th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Denver and Chicago are some of America’s Top 20 most livable cities for people living with paralysis, rated by the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation. The Reeve Foundation commissioned the list in commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA was passed by Congress on July 26, 1990, to protect against discrimination based on disability.

The Top 20 Most Livable Cities represent several regions of the country and highlight those communities that provide the best combination of health and livability-related factors, which enable a disabled person to live a fuller, longer life. Health factors include clean air, Medicaid eligibility and spending, access to physicians and rehabilitation facilities. Livability factors include access to fitness facilities and recreation, access to paratransit and the percentage of people living with disabilities who are employed. The city’s age and climate are also taken into account. Find out more details at

“Our Top 20 list highlights the great work taking place across the country to help Americans living with paralysis live their lives to the fullest, thanks, in large part to the passage of the ADA,” said Peter Wilderotter, President and CEO. “However, there is still so much more we can do as a nation to improve the quality of life for the tens of millions of Americans living with a disability.”

The cities named are as follows, in ranked order:

1. Seattle, Wash.
2. Albuquerque, N.M.
3. Reno, Nev.
4. Denver, Colo.
5. Portland, Ore.
6. Chicago, Ill.
7. Birmingham, Ala.
8. Winston-Salem, N.C.
9. Orlando, Fla.
10. Lubbock, Texas
11. Miami, Fla.
12. Tampa, Fla.
13. Durham, N.C.
14. Fort Worth, Texas
15. Virginia Beach, Va.
16. Arlington, Texas
17. Baltimore, Md.
18. New Orleans, La.
19. Arlington, Va.
20. Atlanta, Ga.

The Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation is dedicated to curing spinal cord injury by funding innovative research, and improving the quality of life for people living with paralysis through grants, information and advocacy. For more information, visit

Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles: The Basics

Published: Mar 05, 2014 (Revised: Mar 05, 2014)
Author Contact Information: Allied Mobility
Abstract: Information regarding puchasing or leasing a wheelchair accessible vehicle in the U.K..
“A WAV or Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle is a standard car that has been specially converted to accommodate a wheelchair, in a passenger capacity or as a driver.”
Detail: If you or someone you love has a disability, it’s important to be informed of all the mobility options available.
The Motability Scheme is a government funded program that allows those with disabilities to exchange part of their benefit for a free vehicle. You will be eligible to join the Motability Scheme if you receive the Higher Rate Mobility Component of Disability Living Allowance, the Enhanced Rate of the Mobility Component of Personal Independence Payment, the War Pensioners’ Mobility Supplement or the Armed Forces Independence Payment. More information on eligibility is available online.

What is a Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle?

A WAV or Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle is a standard car that has been specially converted to accommodate a wheelchair, in a passenger capacity or as a driver. These vehicles vary in size and design but they have all been modified to give the greatest comfort and ease of access to wheelchair users. A WAV will include a built in ramp or lift, tie downs for the wheelchair, conversions to allow comfortable headroom and access from the side or the back of the vehicle.

Leasing a WAV Through the Motability Scheme

You can lease a brand new Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle through the Motability Scheme and this includes a five year agreement and a mileage allowance of 100,000 miles. The Motability Scheme means that you don’t need to worry about insurance, servicing or maintenance as these are all taken care of as part of the package. You can nominate two named drivers; get free RAC breakdown assistance and tire and windscreen replacements at no additional cost.

Choosing Your Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle

There are hundreds of dealerships in the UK that operate as part of the Motability scheme, so choose one that offers a comprehensive range of vehicles that best suit your individual requirements. When deciding on the best kind of WAV for you, it’s important to:

Consider the size of your wheelchair and how much space you think you will need. It’s also advised that you take into account the number of passengers that regularly travel with you and the amount of luggage you will take on long and short journeys.
Consider the kind of journeys you will be making and how often you will use your vehicle, because this will determine the kind of WAV you should choose.
It’s also a good idea to test drive the WAVs you’re interested in before committing to a make and model.
To find out more about Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles, contact a specialist retailer like Allied Mobility.

Related Topics
This information is from the Disabled World Private Section – Other relevant documents include:
The Vehicle Production Group LLC (Jun 28, 2010). First Factory-Built Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle
Disabled Motoring UK (May 15, 2012). Campaign Calls for Safer Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles
VCI Mobility (Jun 20, 2010). Rear-Entry and Side-Entry Wheelchair Conversion Options for Minivans
Kersey Mobility (Sep 29, 2011). Wheelchair Accessible Van Rentals for Persons with Disability
Discuss this Document
Do you agree, disagree, or would like to add an opinion on this topic? We welcome articulate, well-informed remarks relevant to the article. Comments are moderated by editorial staff of Disabled World, however we do not verify or endorse material shared by commenters below.

Cite This Document

Mobility Aid Selection

Selecting a Mobility Device
Author: Patricia Kennedy, RN, CNP, MSCN
Published: Jul 30, 2009 (Revised: Jan 16, 2010)
Abstract: More than 100000 people were treated in the US for injuries related to wheelchairs and other mobility devices last year alone.
Document Detail: In the past decade, the number of people injured while using a mobility device (cane, walker, wheelchair, scooter, etc.) has more than doubled. More than 100,000 people were treated in the US for injuries related to wheelchairs and other mobility devices last year alone, and the number of injuries is expected to increase in coming years.
In the past decade, the number of people injured while using a mobility device (cane, walker, wheelchair, scooter, etc.) has more than doubled. More than 100,000 people were treated in the US for injuries related to wheelchairs and other mobility devices last year alone, and the number of injuries is expected to increase in coming years. Often, the cause of these injuries is not malfunction of the device – but the fact that many people choose the wrong device for their needs or use them incorrectly.

Beth Bullard is an occupational therapist who volunteers her time to people living with multiple sclerosis (MS) at The Heuga Center for Multiple Sclerosis, a nationally-renowned organization that runs wellness programs to transform and improve the quality of life for people and families living with MS. Beth is also the Director of Case Management and Patient Assessment Information Coordinator at Northern Colorado Rehabilitation Hospital in Johnstown, CO. Bullard has worked with hundreds of patients with all kinds of disabilities, whether they are related to a degenerative disease like MS or injuries caused by accidents at the workplace. A primary focus of her job is to help people with walking impairment find and use the proper mobility device for their particular disability, placing a strong emphasis on device safety. In most cases, she finds that people with walking problems get injured because they do not seek advice about choosing a mobility device and, even making matters worse, do not learn how to use the device properly.

And that’s not the only problem that people living with MS face in their attempts to keep themselves mobile. Research has shown that many people who need the mobility devices don’t use them as much as they should, or even at all. A 2008 Harris Interactive survey of more than 1000 people with MS found that 37% were embarrassed to use their mobility device. Another 36% said they didn’t use their mobility device as often as they should. Without the use of mobility devices, people with disabilities face a much higher risk of getting injured through falls and other balance-related accidents.

These findings are especially troubling in light of the numbers of people with MS who experience mobility problems. Fully 64% of respondents in the survey reported that they have trouble walking at some point. The respondents overwhelmingly stated that the walking difficulties were very disruptive to their life as well.

To address some of these problems, Bullard has developed a special safety guide “checklist” for people to consider before choosing a mobility device. The guide covers how to select the right mobility device and how to care for and maintain the device. Her guidelines focus on the five issues in mobility devices that present the highest risks to users:

1) Use the right device.

In many cases, patients choose mobility devices on their own and without consulting with a doctor or other expert. Some people make purchasing decisions based on advertising or information on the Internet. Others may feel that they do not need any guidance when choosing the best mobility device for their needs. But such thinking can be dangerous. Using a device that is not appropriate (either because it provides too much or too little support) can cause a further decline in mobility for some patients.

“Everyone likes to maintain their independence, and choosing your own mobility device is a big part of that,” says Bullard. “But consulting a doctor or therapist is especially important for people affected by MS and other diseases and conditions where mobility can change from day to day.”

2) Train to use any mobility device correctly.

Before using a mobility device, patients should consider participating in a hospital or clinic based training course. Many home care companies are also able to provide instruction on the use of mobility devices. Recent advances in training techniques include the use of virtual reality technology as a tool to train people to properly use mobility devices.

“Whether they are using a cane or a motorized scooter, people need to take advantage of all the training they can get. Over the long run, it’s that training that will ensure a person’s safety and well-being,” says Bullard. “The best mobility device in the world isn’t going to help you at all if you don’t use it properly.”

3) Plan ahead.

While mobility devices can help you to remain independent, they often do require some changes to a normal routine. People with mobility devices should take time to think about the best route to use for their travel. They should try to travel during off-peak times and avoid areas of heavy traffic, busy roads, small sidewalks, construction sites and other areas where travel may be more challenging or risky.

“Sometimes all it takes is a crack in the sidewalk or a small pothole to cause someone with a mobility device to lose their balance and fall,” explains Bullard. “That’s why it’s so important for people with mobility devices to be aware of their environment and use careful planning to avoid travel problems.”

4) Avoid “Mobility under the Influence” (“MUI”).

Many medications can cause severe drowsiness and fatigue. Before operating a mobility device, patients should make sure that any meds they are using will not impair their ability to use a device safely.

“This is a big problem for mobility device users including seniors and people who are living with MS or other serious illnesses,” says Bullard. “Certain kinds of medications can cause drowsiness or a sudden drop in blood pressure that can lead to dizziness. That can cause further problems in judgment and other safety issues.”

5) Care for the mobility device.

For most mobility devices, routine maintenance and repairs can be completed at home by users and care providers. However, most mobility devices should have a professional service and maintenance check every six months or so, depending on rate of use.

“There are many simple adjustments or repairs that a patient or a caregiver can make to mobility devices,” says Bullard. “Little things like making sure all wheels are properly oiled and nuts and bolts are fully tightened can make a big difference in preventing falls or other accidents. But it is also very important to have professional maintenance service as needed to keep devices operating smoothly and safely.”