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Choosing a mobility device? Check out these tips from our Multiple Sclerosis Comprehensive Care Center

June 20, 2013

Many individuals who have multiple sclerosis (MS) begin to have difficulty with their mobility as the disease progresses. Changes in vision, decreased balance, increased muscle weakness and spasms, changes in sensation, all of these side effects can affect mobility. When a decline in function occurs, especially in the lower extremities, individuals may want to begin researching mobility devices.

Making a decision to purchase a mobility device can be an overwhelming step when faced with changes in your physical functioning. On one hand it can be a wonderful avenue to greater independence, increased stability and safety, increased comfort and an amazing energy saving device. But there may also be emotional, financial and accessibility issues that need to be addressed. Selecting a mobility device is a very important decision and should not be made in haste. It can have an enormous positive impact on your lifestyle and how you function; therefore, you should consider all your options before making a choice, and rely on the experts who are looking out for your best interest.

For the sake of this article, I will limit the types of mobility devices to wheelchairs (manual or power). Selecting equipment can be frustrating and even devastating if the incorrect equipment is purchased. There are numerous products out on the market.

Which one is right for you?

Here are some important points to keep in mind when considering what equipment you might need.
  • Confer with an expert. Meet first with a physical and/or occupational therapist that can evaluate your physical needs and has experience not only with MS but is knowledgeable in mobility products. You should also be working with a supplier that has experience with the type of product you need. How do you find a therapist and supplier who fit the bill? You can find individuals who are credentialed through the Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America (RESNA), an interdisciplinary association of people with a common interest in technology and disability. They offer a certification called an Assistive Technology Professional (ATP). An assistive technology professional is an individual who analyzes the needs of individuals with disabilities, assists in the selection of the appropriate equipment, and trains the consumer on how to properly use the specific equipment.  This equipment may include manual and power wheelchairs, alternate computer access, augmentative and alternative communication devices, and other technology to improve the function and quality of life for an individual with a disability. It is best to find a therapist and a supplier who are both ATP certified. To find an ATP in your area check out the .
  • Pick a reputable supplier. Besides choosing a company that employs seating specialists who are ATP certified, select a supplier that has a showroom which carries a variety of products and manufacturers. Be wary of a supplier that doesn’t offer you a choice of equipment. Does the supplier has a service department and are there technicians certified? Do they keep parts in stock? Do they offer loaner equipment if your product has to go in for a major repair? These are all questions you should ask before committing to work with a supplier.
  • Meet as a team. You, your family members/caregivers, your physical/occupational therapist and the supplier’s seating specialist should all meet together to determine which products suits your needs for the long run. When everyone is together all your questions can be answered and the best choices can be made. You should always be measured for your product so that it is the appropriate size for your anatomical dimensions.
  • Know and understand your insurance benefits. Some insurance companies only buy one piece of equipment for the life of the policy. Most insurance companies, including Medicare and Medicaid, use five years as a benchmark and would only consider purchasing a new product if your condition significantly changes, and you can supply adequate documentation.
When choosing a mobility device remember to take your time, do your homework and follow the advice of your medical professionals. The decisions you make can make a huge difference in improving your quality of life. Ask questions and choose wisely!