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Design Of Disability Equipment Changing For The Better

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By Author: Derry Hall
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The design of rollator walkers is an exciting area of change. New models have better wheels, lighter frames and smoother folder mechanisms. Because most people using this type of equipment tend to be frail or have limited mobility, all of these developments are significant.

Moving On From ‘Bone Shaker’ Walking Aids

Gone are the days of heavy units made of steel. While these were stable, their weight made them both difficult to control and for many people, almost impossible to lift. Disability aids of the 1970s and 80s were frequently ‘bone-shakers’. They rattled down pavements with hard, tiny wheels, heavy frames and frequently had no brakes.

Larger, softer tires have made a big difference. These absorb impact and make a walker a smoother to use. Usually the tires a solid varieties, rather than pneumatic versions found on bicycles.

Many people take their rollators on buses. This means lifting them on and off the bus at either end of the journey. With steel framed models, this is very hard and may need help from a third party.

Weight Counts!

An aluminium framed rollator walker is a different matter. These are lighter and much easier to lift. So whether it is travelling by bus or simply transporting the rollator in the boot of a car, the process is much easier.

Weight has long been a key issue for a variety of disability aids and heavy materials make a poor choice for walking sticks, for example. In the old days, the only readily available metal vaguely suitable was steel, but this was both heavy and prone to rust.

Wood or Metal Walking Sticks?

For many years, wood was the only realistic material for a walking stick. While it remains popular today, aluminium has also become a realistic choice. Aluminium tubing is both strong and rigid, making it great for walking sticks. Unlike steel, it is also light in weight and does not rust.

Metal walking sticks have an advantage over wood because they are adjustable to fit the user. A pin-clip system is common, allowing a lower tubing section to be set at the desired length. While wooden walking sticks adjust in length simply by sawing them down, many people prefer the metal option.

Rubber Feet Don’t Slip!

An important extra part for either wooden or aluminium walking sticks is the ‘ferrule’ at the bottom. These are rubber or plastic feet which make the stick less likely to slip when in contact with the ground. These are particularly valuable when it has been raining.

Ferrules are also required for crutches, along with other disability aids like shower chairs. Anything which involves metal tubing rubbing against hard flooring needs a ferrule to create friction.

Ferrules vary in quality. It is important to ensure it has an internal metal disc which fits against the foot of the walking stick. This is especially vital for aluminium sticks. If this disc is missing, the tubing will rapidly cut through the rubber of the ferrule as the stick is in use. Once the tubing comes through and makes contact with the ground, it is likely to slip against the surface.

Special Handles Spread the Weight!

Another important component for walking sticks is the handle itself. With most wooden sticks, this is quite narrow and can dig into the palm of the hand. This is likely to cause pain as time goes on, especially in those with arthritis of the hands.

Most aluminium models have ‘ergonomic’ handles, shaped to fit the grip of the user. These spread weight evenly, making them more comfortable to use.

The same applies to a rollator walker. It is now common to find models with anatomically shaped handles, making it comfortable to use the walking aids for longer periods.

Most wheeled walking aids collapse down so they can be easily stored or transported in a car or on public transport. Down the years, the mechanisms have improved. Because those using these devices tend to have limited strength, this is a valuable advance. Now, many of them fold up with a simple gentle pull of a lever.

More About the Author

Essential Aids provides disability aids, mobility equipment and rehabilitation products to people in the UK.

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