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Where Mobility Needs Meet Technology

By Sandra Fusion, Staff Writer

(Page 1 of 3)

There are approximately 43 million Americans who experience some form of disability. Many are able to function without adaptive or assistive devices. For those who experience mobility issues, technological advances may be a key to helping them achieve a level of independence not previously available.

Approximately 6.8 million Americans use assistive devices to help them with mobility issues (Source: Kaye, H. S., Kang, T. and LaPlante, M.P. (2000). Mobility Device Use in the United States. Disability Statistics Report, (14). Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Education, National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research).

The type of technology can be an advance in computer-assisted technology or it can be as simple as a cane or crutches. The most common form of mobility is the wheelchair. In many cases, individuals use manual wheelchairs, with the rest made up of motorized wheelchairs or scooters. Researchers in the study quoted previously noted that the majority of individuals who use mobility devices are elderly.

There are many other types of technology that can be useful to someone who may be having mobility challenges. Some of these include global positioning systems (GPS) devices that can be worn by the blind or visually impaired, adaptations to automobiles or vans for accessibility, and even home or building modifications.

Where to Begin?

When making assessments of the technology that is available, it is most important to step back and take inventory of the specific mobility challenges that someone may have. This step is one where many different people may be able to offer insight. The patient’s physician and nursing staff can make suggestions of the types of range of motion or physical limitations that are most likely to be involved. In addition, rehabilitation staff may have useful insight since their focus is keeping the individual as mobile as possible to maintain independence. Finally, caregivers – both paid and family members – also have information on a day-to-day basis of the patient’s progress, limitations, and even areas that can be easily overlooked by professionals who do not have moment-to-moment contact with the patient.

Some issues that should be considered include:

  • Are there barriers in the home that can be addressed?
    Furniture, floor plan lay-out, steps or doorways that may not be accessible.
  • How long will mobility be an issue for the patient?
    Depending on the length of time, more extensive changes may need to be addressed.
  • How much help does the individual need? Is it a simple  issue or are extensive changes/renovations needed?
  • Is the condition likely to worsen, making mobility even more challenging in the future (whether immediate or long-term)?


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