Over 16 million adults in the United States use a mobility device to get around. These devices range from wheelchairs to walkers and beyond. Now more than ever, the advanced technology behind these devices helps people enjoy more freedom and movement.
By the end of this guide, you will be able to:
There are different mobility devices out there, and the right one depends on your individual mobility limitations. The options include walking aids and vehicles—both manually and power driven. Let’s dive deeper into what each of these devices looks like.
Walking aids provide support for people to walk around on their own. These devices are good for people who have chronic mobility issues, leg or ankle injuries, or general challenges with getting around. Choosing the right walking aid for you will depend on a number of factors, including your specific mobility concerns and sensitivities around putting pressure on other parts of your body. Read below to find out the best option for you.
There are benefits and drawbacks to every mobility assistance device. While canes are great for better stability, they increase strain on your hands and wrists. This pressure could mean that canes aren’t the best option for you if you have arthritis or other wrist mobility issues.
If you require more support, there are canes that may suit your needs. Here are three types of canes to consider:
These walking aids distribute weight from the wrist to the arm to avoid excessive strain on hands and wrists.
White canes are designed for people who are blind or visually impaired. These canes don’t provide the same weight-bearing support. Instead, they allow people who are visually impaired to scan their surroundings and identify obstacles.
Quad canes have four prongs at the base of the cane and provide a higher level of support.
If you’re not familiar with walkers, they are walking aids that have four legs attached to handlebars for greater support. There are plenty of types of walkers available, making it easy to find one that fits your needs and lifestyle. There are walkers for indoor and outdoor use, walkers for tight spaces, and also walkers that are foldable, making them easy to store. Walkers have a few different forms, including rollators and knee walkers.
Rollators have four wheels, handlebars, and a built-in seat. If your mobility limitations require you to stop and rest often, then this type of walker could be a good choice for you.
Knee walkers have a place for people to rest their knees as they move. Knee walkers are most commonly used after an injury or surgery.
As the name suggests, this mobility device is a combination of a walker and cane, allowing for more stability than a standard cane.
If you have limitations due to knee issues, a knee brace may be what you need. This device stabilizes your knee joint and keeps it in place so you can walk with more comfort. People wear knee braces for common injuries such as sprains or ligament injuries. You may also want a knee brace if you have knee arthritis or another condition that affects the muscles and joints.
Crutches are mobility devices that shift support from your legs to the upper body. People often use crutches after a short-term injury, but they can also be used by people with long-term disabilities. Depending on your needs, your doctor may suggest:
Axillary (underarm) crutches
These are the typical crutches you receive for an injury.
Lofstrand (forearm) crutches
These crutches have a cuff that fits around your forearm and are intended for people who need crutches for long-term support.
These crutches attach to a platform to create a padded area for your forearm to rest on.
Vehicles are mobility devices with wheels for people who have limited use of their legs, even with support. They can be manually operated or power-driven.
Wheelchairs are typically used by people with more severe mobility challenges who aren’t always able to walk. These mobility assistance devices can be manual or power-driven, and you can find a wheelchair that suits your lifestyle. For example, you can find wheelchairs that have better reclining flexibility, sport wheelchairs designed for basketball, tennis, and other sports, and all-terrain wheelchairs for greater ability to travel.
Wheelchair technology is always improving, and you can now find “smart” wheelchairs with sensors that will alert you of blind spots and obstacles.
Scooters are similar to wheelchairs, but scooters are typically battery powered, whereas wheelchairs can be manual or power-driven. Scooters also have handlebars and steering wheels to maneuver the mobility device. There are various options to consider when it comes to deciding on a scooter such as the number of wheels, ease of transport, and accessories. The size and storability of a scooter are additional factors you should consider when choosing the right one for your needs.
Depending on the situation, region, and availability of mobility assistance devices, you may have access to additional options, such as golf carts, ATVs, and personal devices like Segways. These “other power-driven mobility devices” are referred to as OPDMDs by the ADA and have specific regulations.
In addition to mobility devices, safety modifications in the home can make your life easier. Especially if you choose to age in place, these common home improvements can make it much easier to get around:
Often attached to wheelchairs or another device, stair lifts move people up and down stairs.
These inclines are important for those with wheelchairs, scooters, and walking aids who can’t get up or down stairs.
There are also specially designed furniture options to provide aid for people who find it difficult to move. For example, you can find standing assist couches. Standing assist devices provide support for you when you need to stand up after sitting down.
Designed with flexibility and different lifestyle options, mobility devices can help you live a more independent life and vastly improve your health. Whether you have temporary or long-term challenges, there are a variety of reasons why you might need mobility aids. Choosing the best one for you is key to maximizing your mobility and independence.
While mobility devices are meant to help you get around easier, you may experience some new challenges. These are the most common hurdles people might encounter when using a wheelchair, scooter, cane, walker, or other aid:
People who use mobility devices could experience some difficulty getting around tight indoor spaces. People with more limited mobility may experience more challenges navigating narrow spaces. Similarly, buildings and other places with poor accessibility (spaces without ramps, for example) could also pose problems. However, new science around assistive technology helps to improve the lives of those with limited accessibility every day.
Another challenge that people with mobility issues face is the cost and maintenance of wheelchairs, scooters, walkers and other assistive technologies. While there are instructions to keep your device working properly, general wear and tear can occur. The good news is that many mobility devices have standards that require them to last at least 3 years.
There's a wide range of mobility devices, and the costs can vary as well. For example, mobility scooters generally cost between $600 to $2,000. Thankfully, Medicare covers part of their cost. Read below for more details around how Medicare coverage works for mobility devices.
There are often rules around traveling with mobility devices. If you are traveling with a wheelchair, scooter, or walker, your airline, train, cruise, or other transit authority will have the best answers around these regulations.
Most airlines will allow you to stow your assistive device around your seat or in a designated stowage area. Most airlines also allow you to check the equipment for free and they do not count towards any baggage limits. Depending on the size and portability of your mobility device, you may have to stow it in cargo.
Check with the transit authority ahead of time to ensure you have a space dedicated to your assistive device.
The short answer is yes, Medicare does help cover the costs of mobility devices. Medicare Part B covers medically necessary equipment, but there are a few requirements that you should know about when considering the costs of mobility devices. Medicare helps cover medical equipment, including assistive technology if:
Once you’ve met your Part B deductible, Medicare will pay for 80% of the cost of eligible mobility devices. You’ll be responsible for the remaining 20%—this is your coinsurance. If you have a Medicare Supplement plan, your costs will be reduced according to your plan benefits.
If you have a Medicare Advantage plan, your plan must cover the same services and equipment as Original Medicare (Part A and Part B), but your costs will vary based on your specific plan. To understand how your plan will cover mobility devices, look at your summary of benefits or give us a call at (855) 900-2427 to get help.
Medicare covers the following mobility devices:
Still have questions about how Medicare coverage for mobility devices works? We're here to help! Call us at (855) 900-2427 to get your questions answered about what's covered and how much you can expect to pay.