You’ve probably heard the saying “buyer beware” before. It’s that feeling you get when you’re shopping for something, like clothes. You start thinking about the occasion, the weather, and whether it’s the right color for the season. You also wonder how long you can wear it comfortably. But no matter how much you think things through, sometimes things just don’t turn out as expected, and you end up feeling like you made the wrong choice. And this common struggle with sufficient buyer awareness becomes especially relevant and impactful when it comes to the mobility device market. It cannot and should not be the end users’ sole responsibility to try and figure it all out. And Braze is here to help every end user who may feel lost with all the essential information they should look out for when shopping for mobility devices.
Adaptive and assistive technology can really change the game for people who use wheelchairs, making a big difference in their quality of life, independence, and mobility. This blog isn’t about saying, “be careful, you’ll run into problems no matter what.” Instead, it’s shedding light on the often overlooked value with proactive measures that can be taken to boost buyer awareness in order to make informed choices that best serve the buyer’s interest.
And the first step to optimizing buyer awareness is asking the right questions to best understand your options, just in case you face issues with your wheelchair or other assistive devices. When you’re getting a wheelchair, it’s important to ask the right questions to make sure it’s the right fit for your needs and preferences.
Navigating Wheelchair Adaptations and Considerations
Which wheelchair are you using?
If it’s a manual wheelchair, you need to be cautious about adding certain extras because there might not be enough space for them. For instance, you can attach backpacks or oxygen tanks to the wheelchair, but there might not be room for other assistive and adaptive devices. On the other hand, if you have a power wheelchair, there’s generally more space on the base and around it, allowing you to add more adaptive and assistive devices as needed.
How can you adjust your wheelchair?
Some wheelchairs are designed to tilt or stand, while others can lean forward and backward. When you’re looking for assistive and adaptive devices, you have to consider where you can mount them safely without causing any damage due to the wheelchair’s movements.
What’s the weight limit of your wheelchair?
This is crucial for safety. If you only use the wheelchair for your own mobility, it’s pretty straightforward. But if you have oxygen tanks, backpacks, additional medical equipment, or any assistive and adaptive devices, they can quickly add to the weight. This extra weight might affect how easily your wheelchair moves and turns.
Do you have a warranty or insurance?
If you do, it’s essential to know the duration and what it covers. This information is vital in case your wheelchair gets damaged from regular wear and tear or due to the addition of adaptive and assistive devices and medical equipment.
Assessing Wheelchair Technology Compatibility
1. Is your wheelchair tech-friendly?
- Do you know if your wheelchair can work with modern technology, or if it would work better with newer technology? It’s crucial to understand your mobility goals and find user-friendly tech that fits those goals. Think about compatibility for safety and financial reasons. Tech that doesn’t match your wheelchair might be risky, and you wouldn’t want the hassle of returning or replacing it.
2. Is wheelchair tech user-friendly?
- Are you familiar with the tech or need some training? Consider your comfort level. How long will it take to get the hang of using this technology? Is customer support available when you need it? Can you connect with other users to learn from their experiences? These factors play a role in your confidence and safety using the technology.
3. Is wheelchair tech accessible and affordable?
- Do you know if there’s any financial help to get the tech you need? Be aware of alternatives if you can’t get funding. Also, find out if there are upcoming upgrades for the technology. If it’s necessary, you might have to buy it right away. But if you have a temporary solution, waiting for an improved version could be worthwhile.
4. Can you test the tech before buying?
- When picking technology for your mobility device, it’s not just about whether it fits the device; it’s also about whether it fits you. So, find out if you can try the tech before purchasing it. This can help you gauge how you feel about using it – whether it’s safe, easy, or tricky to handle.
Selecting with Awareness for the Optimal Mobility Solutions
As you can see, there are many things to be aware of when it comes to buying mobility devices that are the best fit for your specific circumstances. To be an informed buyer, you should ask the manufacturer of your wheelchair, the makers of the adaptive/assistive devices, vendors, assistive technology professionals (ATP), clinicians, and fellow wheelchair users:
1. Who Covers Damages?
- Does the wheelchair manufacturer handle damages to the wheelchair, or is it the adaptive/assistive device manufacturer’s responsibility? Maybe the vendor, ATP, or clinician can help. It’s essential to know who can assist you if you encounter any issues with your wheelchair or technology-related adaptive/assistive device.
2. Which is the Best Fit for Me?
- After you’ve shared your mobility needs, strengths, and goals with these professionals, you can ask them whether a particular wheelchair or technological assistive/adaptive device is a good match for you. If it’s not, find out how you can customize it to better suit your needs.
3. Do the Second Opinions Check Out?
- There are various events and online groups related to mobility where you can get advice and insights. These gatherings may have researchers who can answer questions like how a specific wheelchair or technological assistive/adaptive device was developed, considering factors like the user’s needs, the environment, past and future technologies, and any identified issues that could affect users and society.
The A5 Method Plan
First and foremost, a big congratulations for making it this far. You are already more informed as a buyer! And to celebrate that, here is the A5 Method Plan, designed by Braze just for you, that summarizes the five essential steps to follow for cultivating the necessary buyer awareness around mobility devices and related technological adaptive and assistive products over time:
- Assess – Figure out your mobility needs, strengths, and goals.
- Advocate – Make your needs and goals clear.
- Advice – Seek advice from healthcare professionals, family, accommodation experts, vendors, manufacturers, and fellow mobility device users.
- Analyze – Try out products and make informed choices before buying.
- Approve – Buy with confidence and peace of mind, knowing you’ve followed all the necessary steps!
Whether you’re curious to learn more about buyer awareness in general or eager to get the help necessary to start making informed decisions about your mobility devices right away, enter your email below to get your own handy A5 Checklist!
Let’s work together to ensure your mobility needs, strengths, and goals are met, and you can confidently approve your choices with peace of mind. Your journey begins with us – take the first step and request your A5 Checklist now!Read More
In a world where the power of perception often shapes our understanding of others as well as ourselves, it’s crucial to embark on an exploration of wheelchair safety in solidarity with promoting inclusive mobility that values integrity and wellness beyond physical needs. Debunking prevailing social myths surrounding the capabilities of individual mobility device users, we hope to illuminate a path to break free from the biases that might negatively impact individuals’ self-perception and driving potential.
Emphasizing the functional strengths of individual mobility devices users, we will delve into how various factors – education, interaction, and societal attitudes – can profoundly influence the safe use of mobility devices, whether for the better or worse. In doing so, we hope to shift the focus away from individuals’ diagnoses and/or functional limitations to pay more attention to their current capabilities.
In our previous blogs, we explored surprising technological factors such as seating, programming and configurations, and drive controls: 3 Reasons for Accidents with Wheelchairs that Might Surprise You (Technological Factors) as well as key environmental barriers from accessibility, weather to traffic: Safeguarding Wheelchair Users: Unveiling 3 Key Environmental Barriers that Impact the Safe Use of Wheelchairs that all contributed to the safety of wheelchairs. With this third blog breaking down the significance of education, interaction, and societal attitudes, we invite everyone to perceive the safe use of mobility devices as an opportunity for assistance rather than a problem demanding solutions.
1. Mobility Education and Experience
1.1 Mobility Training Communication
It is essential to shift the conversation surrounding the training for individuals with disabilities from a focus solely on what they cannot do to a recognition and emphasis on what they still can, as this perspective encourages a more positively balanced view on their mobility potential, especially with proper use of mobility devices and adaptive technology. To elaborate, when individuals are learning about overall functionality of their bodies which is essential to their safety with mobility devices, they should be asked questions such as “which body part(s) do you find you use the most and are most helpful?” rather than only questions like “which part of your body do you struggle with the most in your everyday life and routine when you try to use mobility devices?”.
These two seemingly similar questions actually carry contrasting implications. One question emphasizes heavily on the individuals’ needs for the solutions proposed based on their reported limitations. This passive focus, in another word, implies that the individuals must depend on factors outside of their control to make their decisions for them. The other question, on the contrary, leaves the decision-making power within the hands of the individuals by simply highlighting all the functional capabilities they still have, allowing them to understand and recognize the available solutions in a much more dignified manner. The latter one is often more difficult to achieve because it requires not just telling, but also educating the individuals more in depth about their circumstances in order to arrive at the right decisions on their own.
1.2 Self Awareness and Training for Mobility
To build the self awareness needed to fully take control of one’s safety as well as realize one’s mobility potential in the long run, one should familiarize oneself with the diverse spectrum of functional abilities that impact one’s mobility:
Cognitive ability is the way we think. It is all about our ability to focus, memorize, multi-task, and make decisions. It impacts our attention and interpretation of the world around us. If an individual has impacted cognitive ability, it is likely they will need more training and repetition of tasks involving their mobility device in their home and outdoor settings, to ensure they have the ability to safely make decisions about when to go faster, slower, change direction, and/or stop their wheelchair. Additionally, if decision-making is impacted due to cognitive impairment, it is best to steer clear of doing multiple tasks at once while driving the mobility device, as the individual might not be able to focus their attention on safety if they are distracted.
Fine Motor Ability
Fine motor ability is the way we move and use our fingers, hands, feet, and toes to complete tasks. Individuals with impacted fine motor skills may need more therapeutic intervention to maintain or enhance their level of functioning to better use their fingers and hands. In this case, training in alternative drive controls such as sip-n-puff, chin/tongue switch, and head array would be helpful – anything that can be used in place of a joystick that requires finger and hand movement.
Gross Motor Ability
Gross motor ability is the way we move and use our head, neck, shoulders, arms, trunk, hip, and legs to complete tasks and navigate the world around us. Individuals with impacted gross motor skills may be receiving ongoing rehabilitation to maintain or enhance their current functioning and might be able to move their body to a certain degree while using their mobility device.
Visual ability is the way we see the world around us. It is how clearly we see, how far we can see, how much depth we can recognize, what colors we see, and what textures we can recognize. Spatial ability is how we use all of this information to help us navigate in relation to our environment. Together, these are termed visual-spatial ability. Therapeutic interventions involving eye movements, hand-eye-coordination, and depth perception can help with rehabilitation. Training on adaptive technology and assistive devices that may help to “see” the world around them, past the point of their real visual field, could help in operating mobility devices safely.
1.3 Experience with Mobility Devices
More time spent using a mobility device provides more experiential learning opportunities for individuals to become more aware of their bodies in relation to their surroundings, leading to safer use of mobility devices. Overtime, more experienced individuals learn to understand how to navigate various terrains in various weather conditions. They learn what areas in their homes are harder to navigate and which public spaces are accessible to mobility devices. They also have a better idea of how they can balance, go faster, go slower, or stop entirely while navigating known terrains ( the environment blog in this safety series discusses this in more detail). All in all, individuals who have more experience with their mobility devices can better advocate for improvements that will make their community more accessible and inclusive.
Individuals can learn to use their assistive devices and adaptive devices better, through use of these alongside their mobility device. Additionally, their ability to solve problems and later, build confidence in mobility device use increases as well. For example, the individual is not only aware of their own strengths, but the features of their assistive and adaptive technology, and the combination of both helps the individuals learn to be a safer mobility device user. Our technology blog in this safety series explores this further. Overall, their quality of life and self efficacy increase through experience of terrain and learning of technology.
It is important to provide training on cognition, fine motor skills, gross motor skills, and visual-spatial skills to clinicians, vendors, families, and anyone else who works with individuals who use mobility devices. This knowledge can help stakeholders understand the goals and strengths of individuals who use mobility devices, so recommendations and opportunities can be made to fit well with these individuals. They can also learn more about the strengths-based approach and person- and family-centered care. This would help view needs as goals and view functioning as strengths. Experience working with mobility devices over time will assist with understanding accessibility more as well.
2. Societal Attitude
It is important to understand what societal attitudes, perceptions, and acceptance is when it comes to mobility devices and individuals who use them. Although accessibility and disability may seem like universal concepts, the level of acceptance society displays varies.
Can societal attitudes of independence have an impact on how society views users of mobility devices and ultimately, how users of mobility devices view themselves? Can cultures where independence is highly valued view disability as more devastating perhaps, when compared to cultures where interdependence is supported? Is it possible that individuals who use mobility devices from independence-valuing cultures view themselves as being more in need of accessibility than individuals who use mobility devices from interdependence-valuing cultures?
A journal article published in the Scandinavian Journal of Occupational Therapy suggests that societal attitudes of disability impact whether individuals who use power mobility devices either feel included or excluded in society. The issue is not just societal attitudes, it runs deeper. The way society feels about individuals who use mobility devices can impact the way that individuals who use mobility devices view themselves.
We have to be mindful to make sure that our attitudes of disability, mobility devices, and accessibility are equitable and fair so we can create a more inclusive society for everyone. Explicitly, negative bias may look like individuals saying insensitive things about disabilities. Implicitly, this bias may play out in the way that spaces are designed, policies are created, and health related evidence-based practices are researched. Some individuals may not be familiar with the challenges faced by wheelchair users and may lack awareness or understanding of their needs. This can result in barriers that make it harder for wheelchair users to move around comfortably and safely.
Providing more advocacy related campaigns, social media posts, and education can help people understand whether society is being inclusive of individuals who use mobility devices or if there is more work that needs to be done to enhance accessibility of society by changing attitudes towards disability and accessibility.
Individuals using a mobility device have either used these as a child or they come into contact with using a mobility device in their adult life. Skills like navigation, learning a skill, using our senses, identifying problems, and using creativity to solve these problems develop not just through our training in mobility devices and the experience we have with mobility devices. Rather, it goes beyond that – the training and experience works through the element of interaction. Interaction is when the individual can make changes to their mobility device, environment, and/or themselves in response to their experience with the mobility device and associated technology, their own goals and strengths, and their environment.
For example, when an individual uses their mobility device and their adaptive devices and technology in their daily routine, they may realize they need to alter their mobility device (such as adjust their seating), their routine (perhaps to low-traffic times), the devices and technology on the mobility device (perhaps adding backup cameras or blind spot sensors), and/or their own training (perhaps needing more information or training on certain aspects). Check out our blog on The Prevention of Wheelchair Collisions to understand more about the value of experience, training, and your role in how to use mobility devices safely.
The three blogs in the safety series highlight the importance of the technological, environmental, and personal aspects of safe mobility. We must understand the individual and their needs not in isolation, but view the goals and strengths of the individual in relation to their current mobility device, environment, training, experience, technology, and support available through relevant stakeholders (such as clinicians, vendors, and family).
In summary, the goal of this entire blog series was to shed light on the factors beyond the individual’s diagnosis and functioning, and to increase opportunities for independent mobility. The purpose of this blog series therefore, is to take the strengths-based approach to improving quality of life. Just as one must not just speak of health in the presence of illness, one must not speak of accessibility only in the presence of disability, otherwise we will only work to make this society more accessible if and when there is a disability.
Mortenson, W. B., Miller, W. C., & Hardy, T. (2009). Ready to roll? Wheelchair use in residential care. . Disability Health Research network: UBC Okanagan. http://www.dhrn.ca/page.php?pageID=181
Widehammar, C., Lidström Holmqvist, K., Pettersson, I., & Hermansson, L. N. (2020). Attitudes is the most important environmental factor for use of powered mobility devices – users’ perspectives. Scandinavian journal of occupational therapy, 27(4), 298–308. https://doi.org/10.1080/11038128.2019.1573918Read More