Freedom of mobility is an essential aspect of the American character, yet whether due to a temporary injury, a permanent disability, or simply getting older, most Americans will at some point find that freedom constricted. Luckily, ingenuity is also an essential American trait, and there are numerous mobility aids now on the market to restore that freedom. From crutches, to motorized wheelchairs, to three-wheeled scooters, the level of injury or disability will help determine the product that is best for you. For those suffering from mobility impairment due to a lower leg injury, such as a sprained or broken ankle, there are many options now available. Gone are the bulky, heavy, creaky wooden crutches that we were once consigned to, having been replaced by titanium models that are light-weight, stylish, sturdy, and much more shock absorbent. For those with a single lower leg injury underarm crutches are ideal, but for those who suffer impairment in both the upper and lower leg forearm crutches provide a better option. These crutches have either full or half cuffs (depending on the level of disability) around the bicep and forearm and are gripped by the hands. This allows one to support their body weight by the strength of the entire upper body.
There are many variations upon the underarm and the forearm models of crutches designed to meet specific needs, including telescoping crutches for easier traveling and those equipped with a four point base for those who need balance support. For those who are suffering from weakness or injury to one side of the body or who are experiencing pain or excessive tiredness from walking, a cane may be an excellent option. Canes allow the user to stay mobile and active while providing support when needed. Quad, or four-legged, models are also available for those in need of more support. Canes are low profile and come in many styles and forms from beautiful hand-crafted wooden canes to those made of light-weight carbon fiber. The traditional style walker, a waist high, four-legged metal frame that surrounds the front and sides of the user’s body, can be utilized by those needing more balance control and support than can be provided by crutches or a cane. Traditional walkers are lifted by the arms and moved forward with the user then following behind using their arms to support their walking. New models of the traditional metal walkers have wheels on either of the front legs or all four legs, a better option for users who have a weakened upper body or who have trouble lifting.
Those currently using a wheeled walker may want to consider a rollator. Rollators are similar to walkers but are sturdier. In addition, they are equipped with more modern technologies like a seat in case the user becomes tired and hand brakes for the wheels. Many have shopping baskets on the front making them useful for errands and shopping. New wheelchair technologies are providing those with more serious injuries or disabilities significantly more mobile freedom than had been available in the past. Manually powered wheelchairs are much lighter and more easily stowed for travel than ever before. There are models designed for all sorts of different sports activities like hand powered cycling, racing, basketball, and tennis, opening up a new world of possibility for sport enthusiast wheelchair users.
For those who require an electric wheelchair there are numerous models to meet almost any need with new variations and technologies being developed all the time. Electric wheelchairs can be equipped with front, rear, mid, or all-wheel drive depending upon the user’s needs. They can employ a motorized seat lift or mechanisms that allow the wheels to rise up and over curbs. Most motorized wheelchairs are controlled by the hand, using an armrest-mounted joystick, but there are options for those without full upper body mobility. For example, wheelchairs have been designed that can be controlled by the breath using a straw where an exhale results in forward motion and an inhale in reverse motion. Currently, engineers and scientists are working on models that can be controlled by one’s thoughts! For many who struggle with walking but have full physical functionality and do not require a wheelchair, a scooter is the best option. Many companies have developed such scooters with a wide range of amenities. There are heavy-duty, all-terrain scooters and more light-weight and portable scooters. There are three-wheeled and four-wheeled scooters, scooters with shopping baskets, two-seated scooters, and even scooters that give the user the option to operate it while standing. If a scooter is what you’re after there is certainly one out there that will fit your individual needs.
Getting from place to place is the largest hurdle for those that struggle with mobility, but there are other technologies designed to increase access to different venues. These include ramps, chair and stair lifts, pool lifts and chairs, and shower chairs. In addition, there are a whole line of products designed to facilitate vehicle access and operation. There are innumerable modifications that can be made to certain vehicles to accommodate many levels of disability. From hand powered braking and acceleration to foot controlled steering, the world of the open road is being made available to disabled drivers through new technologies. Being injured or disabled no longer means being cut off from the things that keep us functional and make us happy, as scientists and engineers are continually introducing new technologies designed to ensure the freedom of mobility to all people. The ability to explore these wide-ranging technologies and find the one best suited to our individual’s needs make this an exciting time of expanding opportunities for those suffering from an injury or a disability.