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Aging in Place at Home: The Definitive Guide Part 2


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Ambulating

Ambulating Section Banner

One of the many results of growing older is that bodily functions that once worked in harmonious unison start breaking down. Diminishing muscle tone, reduced bone density, poor balance, and even weakened lung capacity not only make walking more difficult, but they also increase the likelihood of falling. It is clear why utilizing mobility equipment and accessibility home modifications can help older adults maintain an active, fall-free lifestyle.

The debilities that naturally surface with age are not the only contributing factors, though. Planned procedures like hip or knee surgery require short-term solutions to address temporary and minor mobility deficiencies. Acute health conditions, such as a stroke or a broken bone sustained in a fall, can cause a sudden, drastic loss in mobility that necessitates more extensive ambulatory assistance during the rehabilitation process. Especially severe health episodes that cause permanent mobility loss, such as an infection that leads to a diabetic foot amputation or a spinal cord injury that produces paraplegia, can result in complete dependence on mobility aids and accessibility home modifications. Finally, those with degenerative diseases that affect mobility, like arthritis and Parkinson’s disease, would benefit from special equipment and home solutions that help with walking.

This section examines those various mobility aids and home modifications that are available to assist users with general ambulation, whatever the specific degree of need and longevity.


Cane


Purpose

Provides stability and support to users while walking. Particularly helpful for users who suffer from arthritic joints, exhibit poor balance, or experience dizziness caused by any number of factors such as vertigo, medication side-effects or orthostatic hypotension. Canes can also speed up the healing process for users recovering from a minor leg or ankle injury by shifting some of the weight off of the injured side onto the stronger side. Certain types of canes are intended to assist solely with maintaining balance while other types are intended for both balancing and some weight support.

Please note that canes should never be used to completely bear the weight of the user. If a healthcare practitioner classifies a user as non-weight-bearing then the user requires more supportive mobility aids such as a knee walker, manual wheelchair, or power wheelchair.


Must-have Features

Cane tipsNon-slip, rubber tips – Nothing compares to the gripping power and dependability of traditional rubber tips. As simple as they may seem, conventional rubber cane tips truly offer the best performance. Plenty of manufacturers have created new cane tips, but they only introduce reliability and safety concerns. Stick with rubber tips.

Click here for replacement ½ inch diameter rubber tips.
Click here for replacement ⅝ inch diameter rubber tips.
Click here for replacement ¾ inch diameter rubber tips.
Click here for replacement 1 inch diameter rubber tips.


Features to consider

Single tip cane – The single tip cane, also called a single point cane, is the prototypical cane that features one point of contact between the cane and the ground. Single tip canes are intended to be used for balancing, not bearing weight.

Users who need to rely on a cane for support should select a quad tip cane.


Quad tip cane – The quad tip cane, also called a quad point cane, features a base with four points of contact between the cane and the ground. The base and additional tips significantly increase the cane’s weight-bearing capabilities compared to the single tip cane.

Quad tip caneQuad tip canes come with small or large bases. Small-base quad tip canes give extra stability while minimizing the overall weight and footprint.

Large-base quad tip canes offer the most support but are heavier and take up more space than their small-base counterparts.

Click here to see the highest recommended small-base quad tip cane.
Click here to see the highest recommended large-base quad tip cane.

Users who need the support provided by a large-base quad tip cane but find its weight too much to carry should consider a walker as an alternative.


Sit to stand caneSit-to-stand cane – Users who have limited dexterity or weak upper bodies may find standing up with a cane from a seated position to be quite the challenge. If such is the case, a sit-to-stand cane may be the best option for standing up safely without enduring undue pain.

The proper method for rising up from a chair with a conventional cane splits a user’s weight and balance between the chair and the cane. A sit-to-stand cane gives users greater leverage to sit up by concentrating the weight and balance solely onto the cane.

Due to the stability and strength needed to support a user’s weight and balance while standing up, sit-to-stand canes should only be used with a quad point base. Sit-to-stand canes with a single point of contact simply are not capable of keeping a user balanced and may lead to a fall.

Click here to see the highest recommended sit-to-stand cane.


A bariatric cane – Conventional canes typically support up to 300 pounds. Bariatric canes, however, are able to support between 500 and 600 pounds. Bariatric canes normally aren’t any larger than their conventional cane counterparts, but they are noticeably heavier. The extra strength of bariatric canes comes from the stronger, and heavier, materials that are used in its construction.

Conventional canes are typically made of aluminum, wood, and carbon fiber while bariatric canes are generally made of steel. When shopping for bariatric canes, keep in mind that the user must have enough arm strength to lift the heavier style cane. If the user needs the added support of a bariatric cane but cannot lift the cane, then consider a bariatric walker or bariatric rollator.

Click here to see the highest recommended bariatric single tip cane.
Click here to see the highest recommended bariatric quad tip cane.


Adjustable height caneAdjustable-height – Wooden canes are typically made very tall so that each user can have the shaft custom cut to his or her optimal length. Obviously, wooden canes are fixed in length, but most other canes on the market are adjustable within a certain range. Users may feel more comfortable selecting an adjustable-height cane because their preferences for the cane height may change over time.

If an adjustable-height cane is used, it must have a double-lock feature to securely hold the cane height in place. Most adjustable-height canes have a push button that protrudes through the cane shaft to set the height.

Canes endure an extraordinary amount of weight and stress, though. As such, the single button lock may gradually weaken until it unexpectedly slips, causes the cane to collapse under the user’s weight, and sends the user to the ground. Therefore, look for an adjustable-height cane that not only has this button lock but also has a second locking function such as a tightening ring.

The double-lock features distribute the pressure and actually reinforce each other. Thus, the chances of the cane collapsing are significantly reduced. Regardless of the type of cane purchased (adjustable vs non-adjustable) it’s necessary to determine the appropriate cane height for the user. Instructions for finding the right cane height are spelled out later in the guide.


Handle Types

  • Cane with knob handleKnob – The knob handle, also called a ball handle, is not a recommended handle option because it offers little to no wrist support. The arm and wrist push down on the cane handle, so it is very important that the handle be ergonomic for the user. Opt for one of the options below instead.

  • Cane with derby handleDerby – The derby handle is curved to fit the contour of the user’s hand. The handle thickens at the end so the palm and wrist are properly supported. The flared end of the handle slightly wraps around the user’s hand, which helps with keeping a strong grip on the handle. Also, the flared end makes it easy to securely hang single tip canes on the arm of a chair or on a table.

Click here to see the highest recommended derby handled cane.


  • Cane with fritz handleFritz – The fritz handle is a truncated version of the derby handle. The fritz handle thickens at the end to support the palm and wrist, but the fritz handle differs from the derby handle in that it has a slightly less pronounced curvature and omits the flared end. Whatever grip diminution that results from the absence of the flared end is made up for in the straighter handhold, which offers a more natural mold for hands to grasp. Furthermore, some fritz handles feature minor finger indentations for added comfort. Note: some manufacturers use “derby” and “fritz” interchangeably.

Click here to see the highest recommended fritz handled cane.


  • Cane with offset handleOffset – The offset handle is unique from all other handles because it repositions the handle so that the user’s weight is centered above the cane. This significantly improves the stability of the cane and its ability to support the user’s weight. While single tip canes are used only for maintaining balance, users may find it reassuring to have the extra strength of an offset handle during unexpected circumstances when its weight-bearing capabilities may be needed. A quad tip cane with an offset handle is the strongest of all cane types. Offset handles are available in a variety of materials to suit the user’s preferences.

Click here to see the highest recommended offset handled cane.


  • Cane with crook handleCrook – The crook handle is a very simple half-circle shape. Although it is common for crook handles to be the same material as the cane, there are crook handle canes that come with a cushioned grip.The round nature of crook handles make them good for hooking onto the arms of chairs or the edge of tables. This curved feature is so extreme, though, that users may find the handle uncomfortable. When shopping for a crook-handled cane, consider one with a less distinct curve that more naturally fits the hand.

Click here to see the highest recommended crook handled cane.


  • Cane with grooved handleGrooved – The grooved handle, also called the finger grip, features very prominent finger grooves and a contoured palm to help users establish a deeper, more comfortable grip. Users often find grooved handles help reduce stress on the hand and wrist.Despite the benefits of grooved handles, the grip can be uncomfortable for those whose hands don’t mold well to the handle. Grooved handles are usually made of rubber, plastic, or wood.

Click here to see the highest recommended grooved handled cane.


  • Cane with palm handlePalm handle – The palm handle is distinct from the rest of the handles because it is molded specifically for the left or right hand. All other handles can be used in either hand, but the palm handle can only be used in the hand for which it is intended. What makes the palm handle so special is how it uniformly distributes pressure across the palm. The handle also changes the hand grip in such a way that stress is taken off of the wrist and elbow. This difference in the grip may not be appealing to some users or require a learning period for those who are used to other cane handles. Palm handles are typically made of plastic or wood. If shopping for a palm handled cane, be sure to buy the handle intended for the hand that holds the cane.

Click here to see the highest recommended palm handled cane.


Handle Materials

  • Foam cane handleFoam – Foam handles provide a spongy texture that is especially comfortable for users with weak hands. It’s important to note, though, that foam handles are porous, so they can get soiled more easily and are difficult to clean. Due to their soft nature, foam handles may shed under heavy and long-term use and can tear if caught on something sharp. Replacement handles are available. In fact, foam grips are the only replacement cane handles sold.

Click here to see the highest recommended single tip cane with a foam grip.
Click here to see the highest recommended quad tip cane with a foam grip.


  • Gel cane handleGel – Gel handles offer a solid surface to grip that is also easy on the hand. Gel handles are particularly adept at reducing hand fatigue and stress by absorbing the shocks of the cane striking the ground. The gel material can stain and become permanently discolored but is fairly easy to clean. While gel handles are moderately durable, a single puncture to the handle can cause the gel material to leak out and render the cane useless. This is a rare occurrence but important to keep in mind to prevent accidental puncture.

Click here to see the highest recommended single tip cane with a gel grip.
Click here to see the highest recommended quad tip cane with a gel grip.


  • Rubber cane handleRubber – Rubber handles are similar to gel handles in their dual-quality nature: firm yet simultaneously giving. This helps rubber handles reduce the impact of the cane hitting against the ground and give users a smooth experience. Rubber handles are easy to clean, durable, and mostly resistant to discoloration and tearing. With that being said, heavy and long-term use can wear away the rubber handle to a point at which the handle’s comfort and durability have been compromised. This would likely only result after several years of use, but due to the potential number of variables and unknowns involved, each individual experience will vary. In most cases, rubber is one of the top options as far as handles are concerned.

Click here to see the highest recommended cane with a rubber grip.


  • Acrylic cane handleAcrylic – Acrylic and plastic handles are hard, solid surfaces. The grip finish can be textured or smooth. Acrylic is immune to staining, very easy to clean, and long-lasting. While these benefits certainly are appealing, acrylic handles also have certain drawbacks. First, acrylic can be scratched fairly easily, which affects its appearance. Second, acrylic doesn’t have any give, so it may be uncomfortable to hold for some users who prefer a handle that can be squeezed.It’s worth mentioning that the more ergonomic handle types (grooved and palm) are typically made of acrylic; so although the material is harder than others, it may nonetheless still provide comfort due to how well it can conform to the hand.

Click here to see the highest recommended cane with a plastic grip.


  • Wood cane handleWood – The qualities of wood handles are exactly the same as acrylic handles. The wood is hard and has a smooth, clear finish. This finish on wood handles keeps the wood from becoming discolored but can easily be scratched. The hardness of the wood may cause discomfort, but wooden ergonomic handles (grooved and palm) that fit in hand like a glove can still be quite comfortable.

Click here to see the highest recommended cane with a wooden grip.


  • Carbon fiber – Due to the nature of the material and its fabrication, carbon fiber handles are only available with a carbon fiber shaft. Carbon fiber canes are made from a single mold, so the cane and handle are always one, continuous piece. As with other carbon fiber products, the cane mold is covered in a resin finish, so the handle has a plastic-like appearance and texture. The hard, smooth finish may be a drawback to those who prefer a more cushioned handle.Carbon fiber cane There are some carbon fiber canes that wrap the handle in a thin, cushioned lining to provide added comfort, but the tenuous layer may leave users wanting. The greatest benefit of carbon fiber canes is the strength they offer while being incredibly light weight. Carbon fiber exhibits just as much strength as wood or aluminum but its much lighter frame makes it suitable for users who have poor arm strength. Users may also find that the lighter carbon fiber canes help reserve energy and fend off premature fatigue.

Click here to see the highest recommended cane with a carbon fiber grip.


Single tip cane with strapStrap for single tip cane – Straps are good for wrapping around the wrist or holding in hand while sitting to keep the cane from falling down and out of reach. Single tip canes cannot stay standing on their own and may accidentally fall if left leaning against a chair or wall. Hand straps are very important for keeping the cane within reach while sitting down and preventing situations in which the user must bend down to retrieve the cane.

Many single point canes include a hand strap but some do not. Straps can be purchased separately for canes that do not have them, though. One strap feature that may appeal to users is when the strap is made of a reflective material. This reflective material helps keep users safe by making them more visible at night.


Flip-up cane ice tipIce tip for single tip cane – Snow and ice are dangerous slip hazards, even for the most sure-footed of people. Those who use mobility aids are especially at risk of losing balance; the good news is that cane users can take advantage of a special cane tip attachment made specifically to maintain traction in snowy conditions. There are two types of ice tips: single prong and multi-prong. The multi-prong ice tip is the better option because it offers several points of contact and helps ensure a solid bite into the snow and ice. The single prong ice tip, however, is more susceptible to slipping due to a weak connection in the snow and ice.

Cane ice tipSelect an ice tip that can flip up when not needed. When the ice tip is flipped up and out of the way, be certain the ice tip is on the front-facing part of the cane shaft, away from the user’s legs. This helps prevent accidentally scraping one’s legs against the prongs.

Cane ice tip attachmentSome manufacturers have made retractable ice tips that are built into the existing rubber cane tip. These tips should be avoided because of two major flaws in their design. First, the ice tip isn’t centered under the cane, which makes using the cane awkward and potentially unsafe. Second, the rubber tip wears down very quickly because a significant portion of the rubber is cut-out in order to accommodate the retractable ice tip. Stick with the rubber tip included with the original cane and attach a flip-up, multi-prong ice tip to stay safe when inclement weather strikes.

Click here to see the highest recommended ice tip for single tip canes.


Features to avoid

Decorative cane handleDecorative handles – The two purposes of a cane are to help with balance and provide weight support (quad canes only). The handle is the contact point between the user and the cane and is the most important part of the cane. In an effort to add character to canes, many decorative handles sacrifice function for form. As a result, cane handles become difficult to grip and maneuver, making for an unsafe and even painful experience. Skip the stylized handle and choose an ergonomic, strong handle instead.


Cane with swivel baseCanes with pivoting base – Manufacturers claim that pivoting bases allow canes to stand up freely and manage uneven terrain more effectively. Unfortunately, canes with a pivoting base simply don’t measure up to these claims. Often times the canes are not able to stand up on their own. In some cases the cane is able to stand but unreliably and only if carefully balanced on a very smooth, level surface.

Furthermore, the swiveling base suffers from a serious engineering flaw. The pressure of the user’s weight combined with the various angles that the swivel base endures creates too much stress for the swivel joint. As a result, the swivel joint breaks very easily and dismembers the base from the cane shaft. Beyond the obvious issue of rendering the cane useless, there is a significant safety concern as well. The cane could break at any moment during use and send the user to the ground. It’s always admirable to try to introduce new features for products, but this development missed the mark: avoid canes with pivoting bases.


Foldable caneFoldable – According to manufacturers, foldable canes make storage, transportation, and travel easier for users. Actual use proves these benefits to be negligible at best. First, users with limited dexterity and poor hand strength may find it too difficult to break down the cane into its foldable state. Second, conventional canes can just as easily be stored, transported, and brought along for travel. In fact, folded canes can turn out to be bulkier than conventional canes.

Most importantly, though, foldable canes pose a safety hazard to users. It is not uncommon for the foldable cane joints to unexpectedly give way while in use, causing the user to fall. Simply put, the minimal benefits of using foldable canes do not warrant putting one’s health at risk.


Multi-tip cane attachmentAfter-market multi-tip attachment – Multi-tip cane attachments are meant to replace a cane’s existing single rubber tip and allow the cane to stand up freely on its own. After-market tips, however, have a poor record of fitting securely onto the end of the cane, even when the tip and the cane share the same manufacturer. The tip attachment may fall off at a moment’s notice, creating a very unsafe scenario for its users.

Also, after-market tips are not as wide as a true quad tip cane and are not able to stand up freely very well. The minimal spread of after-market tips limits their ability to stay standing unless on the level of surfaces.


Cane with flashlightBuilt-in flashlight – Some canes include a built-in flashlight that’s meant to provide added visibility in the dark. These flashlights are often fairly weak and suffer from shoddy construction. In fact, it’s very common that these flashlights break soon after being put into action. Manufacturers have the right idea, but the quality of these flashlights is simply too poor. Users who would benefit from a flashlight should instead opt for an attachable bicycle flashlight.


Acrylic caneCanes made entirely of plastic and acrylic – Plastic and acrylic are too weak of materials to serve as canes. Canes made of plastic and acrylic bend under pressure and have low weight thresholds. Even though single point canes are not intended to carry weight, it is important to have a cane that is strong enough to stand firm if such a demand is ever placed on the cane in emergency situations. And, of course, quad tip canes should always be capable of bearing a user’s weight.


Seat cane with a handleSeat canes – Seat canes are another example of a well-intentioned product that is great in theory but fails in execution. First, the seat top and legs must be light enough to allow the cane to function as a cane without being too heavy for the user to carry. Unfortunately, this translates to weak materials that make the cane’s seat feature unstable and unsafe. Seat canes have a reputation of breaking under the weight of their users.

Second, the two additional legs make the cane potentially dangerous to use while walking because they can accidentally catch on something like a stair, railing, or door frame. Users who need a cane and a portable seat are better off employing the use of a sturdy, conventional cane and bringing along a foldable camping chair.


What to know before buying

Measuring cane height

Distance from wrist to floor

The first step in purchasing a cane is determining the ideal cane height that best fits the user. Users should have a family member, friend, or some other assistant help take down these measurements. Make sure the user is wearing the shoes that will be worn while using the cane. The user should stand up straight with arms hanging freely on each side. Measure the distance from the floor to the crease of the user’s wrist.

When shopping for a cane, make sure the cane matches this measurement. For adjustable height canes, make sure that the user’s ideal cane height fits within the cane’s adjustable range. The increments for adjustable height canes are typically an inch apart, so keep in mind that the cane may ultimately be slightly shorter or slightly taller than the ideal measurement. Nonetheless, the cane should still be close enough to the measurement that it usually works just the same. If forced to choose between the cane being slightly shorter or slightly taller, it’s always best to err on the side of taller. Cane handles that are too tall require more effort from the user to lift the cane, but handles that are too short may require the user to lean and can actually disrupt the gait of the user.

Canes with wood and carbon fiber shafts can be cut to length with a hacksaw. When cutting a cane, it is best practice to first cut the cane a little longer than the measurement that was taken. Once cut, replace the tip and give the cane a test run. If the cane is still too long, make an additional cut at the proper measurement length.


Bike tape for cane handleBicycle handlebar tape is great for wrapping around a cane handle to provide a more cushioned grip.

This solution is particularly useful for those who prefer a cane with a wooden or carbon fiber handle but find the grip to be too rigid and uncomfortable.

Click here to see the highest recommended bicycle handlebar tape.


In general, as the weight-bearing capability of a cane increases so does its own weight; stronger materials are inherently heavier. While shopping for a cane be sure to pay attention to its weight and keep in mind the arm strength of the user. Those who are unable to find a light enough cane should consider using a walker or rollator instead.


Bicycle flashlight for caneA bicycle flashlight that clamps onto the cane shaft is a great solution for providing visibility in the dark and at nighttime. Unlike the flashlights that are built into canes, bicycle flashlights are very powerful and durable. When shopping for a bicycle flashlight, make sure its clamp is compatible with the diameter of the cane’s shaft. Also, look for a bicycle flashlight that is easy to operate with large buttons.

Click here to see the highest recommended bicycle flashlight for canes.
Click here to see the highest recommended compatible bicycle flashlight mount holder for canes.


Users often find that certain canes are better in certain situations than others. As an example, a single tip cane may supply the balance assistance needed while walking inside one’s home, a quad tip cane with a large base may be needed to handle the more uneven terrain outside, a sit-to-stand cane when relaxing or sitting down to eat, and a quad tip cane with a small base may be best when walking up and down stairs. For this reason, it’s recommended that users employ multiple canes and select the appropriate cane based on the setting. Furthermore, it may be wise to stock up on a few reserve canes placed throughout the home in case a cane is misplaced or inaccessible at the moment one is needed.


Before purchasing a cane that will be used to travel up and down stairs, check that the stair tread depth can safely accommodate the cane base and tip(s). Single tip canes obviously fit on all stairs. Small base quad canes typically fit on all stairs, but it would be wise to measure the tread depth and compare to the base dimensions just to be sure. Finally, large base quad canes typically do not fit on stairs, but again a quick comparison can verify that this is the case. Remember: none of the tips of a quad tip cane should ever hang over the edge of a stair.


How to use a cane properly

Hold cane opposite of affected leg

Correct cane usage

Canes are used for at least one of two reasons: to assist with balance (single tip) and/or to bear weight (quad tip). In both scenarios, the user typically has one lower extremity that is weaker than the other. Perhaps one knee is weaker than the other and a cane helps stabilize the weaker side. Or maybe the user has a sprained ankle and needs a cane to bear part of the weight for this affected side.

Whatever the circumstances, the protocol for using a cane is always the same: the cane is used on the opposite side of the weak or affected side. For those who are using a cane for balancing purposes and cannot clearly identify a weaker side, use the cane in the more dominant hand.

The cane always moves exactly with the opposite leg: the cane is lifted when the opposite leg is lifted, and the cane hits the ground at the same time when the opposite leg hits the ground. After stepping with the affected leg and cane in sync, the unaffected leg can either “step through” or “step to” depending on the user’s capabilities. Stepping through requires greater coordination since it is continuous movement, while stepping to allows users to take a momentary break and establish good balance before proceeding.


“Step to” Method

Feet and cane positioning - Step 1

Cane on strong side

Lead with weak side and cane - Step 2

Move weak side and cane forward together

Step to cane walking method - Step 3

Strong side “steps to”

Repeat step with weak side and cane - Step 4

Repeat, starting with weak side & cane


“Step through” Method

Feet and cane positioning - Step 1

Cane on strong side

Lead with weak side and cane - Step 2

Move weak side and cane forward together

Step through with strong side - Step 3

Strong side “steps through” beyond cane

Repeat step with weak side and cane - Step 4

Repeat, starting with weak side & cane


When using a cane, it is important to use proper form. The ideal form includes an upright stance, a slight 20 to 30 degree bend in the elbow, and a straight wrist. The bottom of the cane shaft should be positioned slightly in front of the near foot. Utilizing good form maximizes the cane’s ability to support the user and minimizes the chances of developing a poor gait, which can cause muscle strains and increase the risk of falling. Those who find it challenging to keep proper form should consider using a walker or rollator instead of a cane.

Too short cane height

Cane height is too short

Correct cane height

Correct cane height

Too tall cane height

Cane height is too tall


Ascending and descending stairs is trickier than walking on level ground, but there is a simple phrase to help learn proper technique: “up with the good, down with the bad.” While ascending the stairs, hold onto the stair railing with one hand and the cane in the other hand. If the stair railing is on the same side as the cane, then swap the cane into the other hand upon arriving at the base of the stairs.

The stair railing acts as the cane to support the weak side and the cane acts as a stair railing for additional stability. Note: always make a complete stop and wait until within arm’s reach of the stair railing before swapping the cane into the opposite hand.

Ascending: With one hand holding the cane and the other hand holding the stair railing, lift the good, or unaffected, leg onto the first step. Establish balance and then lift the bad, or affected, leg onto the step while relying on the cane and stair railing for support. Finally, bring the cane up onto the same stair.
Ascend stairs with cane

Step up with the “good”

Descending: With one hand holding the cane and the other hand holding the stair railing, lower the bad, or affected, leg onto the first step while relying on the cane and stair railing for support. Establish balance and then lower the good, or unaffected, leg onto the step. Finally, bring the cane down onto the same stair.
Descend stairs with cane

And step down with the “bad”


Remember to only use a cane that fits entirely on the stairs. Generally, large base quad canes do not fit on stairs, small base quad canes typically fit on stairs, and single tip canes always fit on stairs. Always measure the stair tread depth and verify that the cane tip(s) will safely fit before purchasing.


Recommended supplementary products and home modifications


Walker


Purpose

Stabilizes and bears weight for users while walking. Increases the mobility of users who have poor balance, one weak leg or one weak side of the body, and tire easily from walking. Walkers exhibit greater weight-bearing and balancing capabilities than canes because they offer support for both hands and have a broader base with four points of contact on the floor. Technically walkers can be used as a mobility aid for those who cannot bear any weight on one leg, but this requires the user to hop on the good foot while holding the injured foot off the ground.

Due to the upper body strength, coordination, and balance required to utilize the walker in this fashion, it is not recommended that older adults use walkers when one leg cannot bear any weight. With that being said, walkers are ideal mobility aids for those who are capable of full or partial weight-bearing. As far as specific health conditions go, walkers can generally be of benefit to users who are recovering from a stroke, hip replacement surgery, or a neurological disorder that affects balance. Those who are non-weight-bearing should consider mobility aids intended for such a purpose like a knee walker, manual wheelchair, or power wheelchair.


Must-have Features

Cane tipsNon-slip, rubber tips – Standard, non-wheeled walkers must have rubber tips on the bottom of each leg to keep the walker secure while in use. Although rubber tips are included with each standard walker, these tips wear down over time until the metal walker frame actually pushes through the bottom. Worn down rubber tips introduces a slipping and sliding hazard that can result in falls.

Due to differences in construction quality, frequency of use, and demands placed on the walker, there is no life expectancy established for rubber tips. Users must periodically inspect the condition of the rubber tips and order replacements as needed.

Click here for replacement ½ inch diameter rubber tips.
Click here for replacement ⅝ inch diameter rubber tips.
Click here for replacement ¾ inch diameter rubber tips.
Click here for replacement 1 inch diameter rubber tips.

Folded walkerEasy press folding levers – Whether it’s picking up groceries, meeting with the doctor, or running some errands, the vast majority of users will need to take their walkers with them on excursions outside of the home. Even those who only expect to use their walkers for a short period of time will still need to bring their walkers on at least a handful of trips. Therefore, the levers that fold a walker should be easy for the user to operate.

Walker with push to fold buttonWalkers with levers that can be pushed down with the palm or side of the hand are especially helpful for those with weak fingers. Finally, it’s important to know that the location of the folding levers may impact a walker’s compatibility with a walker tray. If a walker tray is a must-have, then confirm that the folding levers do not interfere with the tray attaching to the walker.

Click here to see the highest recommended easy-fold walker.


Features to consider

Padded grip covers – The hand grips on walkers are typically made of a firm vinyl material that some users may find uncomfortable. Those who prefer a softer, more padded material can place cushioned covers over the walker hand grips for added comfort. Padded grip covers that wrap around the existing walker hand grips have a universal application and can fit all walkers regardless of make.

Walk hand grips
Arrow
Walker padded grip covers
Click here to see the highest recommended padded grip covers for walker handles.


Front wheels – Compared to a front-wheeled walker, a conventional walker offers more support but requires users to lift the walker with each step. Therefore, a front-wheeled walker may be the better option for those who tire easily or have limited upper body strength. Keep in mind, though, that front wheels do make the walker slightly less stable, and consider if this trade-off between mobility and stability is appropriate for the user. Also, the front wheels on walkers do not swivel, so the user must have enough strength to reposition the walker when changing directions. If both standard and wheeled walkers are not suitable for the user, then a rollator or knee walker may serve better.

Walkers can be purchased with front wheels included or the front wheel attachments can be purchased to convert a standard walker to a front-wheeled walker. If purchasing front wheel attachments, be sure to verify that the front wheels are compatible with the existing walker since not all manufacturers share the same construction method.

Standard walker with no wheels
Arrow
Front wheel walker with 5 inch wheels
Click here to see the highest recommended front-wheeled walker.

Furthermore, wheel attachments that do fit the walker may be longer or have higher height adjustment options than the legs they are replacing, which effectively raises the height of the walker. This can easily be resolved by adjusting the height of the legs and wheels accordingly. Unfortunately, the aforementioned solution is not possible for those who use the walker on the lowest height setting.

In such cases it is necessary to find wheel attachments that not only fit the existing walker but also match the length and height adjustment options of the legs to be replaced. Tracking down an exact match can prove difficult, even when considering wheel attachments made by the same manufacturer as the walker. Rather than risk buying wheel attachments that do not match, some may prefer to simply buy a new front-wheeled walker altogether.

Choose the 5 inch diameter wheels rather than the 3 inch diameter ones; the 5 inch diameter wheels are more capable and hold up better.

3 inch walker wheel
5 inch walker wheel
Click here to see the highest recommended 5 inch diameter front walker wheels.
Click here to see the highest recommended 5 inch diameter front walker bariatric wheels.

Front-wheeled walkers only work correctly if the rubber tips on the rear legs are replaced with glide tips that allow the walker to move easily over any flooring surface. Front-wheeled models usually include a set of walker glides, but these glides are so a set will need to be purchased separately. Whether buying a front-wheeled walker or retrofitting a standard walker with front wheels, the right set of walker glides must also be purchased.


Walker glide tipsRear walker glides – Front-wheeled walkers must have glides on the rear walker legs for optimal maneuverability. These glides replace the rubber tips that are included on standard walker legs. Manufacturers typically throw in a set of economy walker glides with the purchase of front-wheeled walkers, but the quality of these glides is lacking.

To get the most out of a front-wheeled walker, it’s recommended to purchase a set of high quality walker glides. There are two glides that perform the best: ski and tennis ball.


Walker ski glide tipsSki glides are ideal for uneven and rough terrain. Skis are the most durable and capable of walker glides, making them ideal for outdoor use. The smooth, hard surface also makes skis great for indoor carpet.

Unfortunately, the hard plastic can scratch indoor flooring surfaces such as wood and tile. Therefore, when it comes to indoor use, the tennis ball walker glides should be used.

Click here to see the highest recommended rear walker ski glides.


Walker tennis glidesTennis glides are actually legs with a special mount that uses conventional tennis balls for the gliding material. In the case of tennis glides, the entire existing rear walker leg extensions are replaced as opposed to only the rubber tips. Tennis balls fit into the special mounts and allow the walker to easily slide across the floor without causing any scratches or catching on the floor.

The qualities of a tennis ball present a unique cross-section of benefits that makes this piece of sporting equipment an ideal walker glide. The felt allows the walker to slide easily across almost any surface, similar to its flexible application on various kinds of tennis courts. The rubber portion that makes up the shape of the ball enables the walker to absorb bumps.

Tennis glides are an improvement to a homegrown walker glide solution that’s been in use for years. For as long as walkers have been in existence, the practice of appending tennis balls to the bottom rear legs has been considered one of the best glide solutions. Two significant drawbacks make this traditional tennis ball application problematic, though.

Walker tennis glide bottom without ball
Walker tennis glides ball installation

The tennis ball must be slit open to properly fit onto the walker leg. Making these slits is extremely dangerous even for those with the steadiest of hands. Second, the felt wears down quickly and requires frequent tennis ball replacement. Even those with only a temporary need for a walker would find the rate and number of necessary replacements to be excessive.

Walker with slit tennis ball attachedManufacturers began producing pre-cut tennis balls to eliminate the cutting safety hazard, but this still did not solve the durability issue.

Eventually, Invacare developed tennis glides to address both the safety and durability issues. Invacare’s tennis glides use whole tennis balls and allow for the user to manually rotate the position of the tennis ball once a particular section of the ball has worn down. This makes using tennis balls as glides safe and economical.

Click here to see the highest recommended walker tennis ball glides.


Walker with trayWalker tray – Using a walker ties up both hands and makes transporting certain items nearly impossible. A walker tray is a great product for safely carrying a plate of food, books, or other flat items while still employing the walker as a mobility aid. Also, walker trays come with molded portions that can hold drinking cups.

Sometimes these built-in cup holders do not accommodate a user’s drinking glasses due to differences in diameter and shape. It is well worth the effort to find a set of glasses, thermoses, Tervis tumblers, etc. that snugly fit in the tray cup holders because a proper fit helps prevent spilled drinks and dropped cups.

Walker trays can be easily placed onto walkers when needed and removed when their services are done, which is important so users do not have to always bear the additional weight of the tray. Most walker trays are intended to be one-size-fits-all, but the reality is that there are simply too many different kinds of walker frame construction for this to be the case.

Therefore, it is very important to compare the measurements of the walker tray with the dimensions of the walker to ensure that the tray will properly fit over the handles.

Click here to see the highest recommended walker tray.
Measure distance between tray slots for fit with walker
Measure outside distance between walker handles for tray sizing

Even trays that correctly align with the walker may still exhibit problems with staying in place and not rattling while the walker is in transit. Nonetheless, any stability issues can most often be remedied by one or two simple after-market modifications. Walker trays are designed to slide over the walker handles and lower into place until the walker handle tubing catches the walker tray.

In some cases, the walker tray may not fit tightly over the walker handle tubing and shake about during movement. One possible solution is to affix a small section of self-sticking pipe insulation to each of the four tubes that make up the walker handles on which the walker tray will rest. This provides a solid bottom surface to help keep the tray stable.

Click here to see the highest recommended pipe insulation for ¾ to 1 inch walker tubing.
Click here to see the highest recommended pipe insulation for ½ to ¾ inch walker tubing.
Click here to see the highest recommended pipe insulation for ¼ to ½ inch walker tubing.

Pipe insulation around walker tubing to support walker trayDespite the self-stick feature of the pipe insulation, the weight of the walker tray and the items it carries may eventually cause the pipe insulation to slip down the walker tubing.

To address this possible issue, wrap a 1 inch wide strip of self-fusing silicone tape around the walker tubing directly below the pipe insulation to help bolster it in place. Wrap as many times as necessary to ensure a strong hold.

Click here to see the highest recommended self-fusing silicone tape.

Hose clamp to secure walker trayAn alternative to self-sticking pipe insulation are hose clamps that can be screw-tightened around the walker tubing below the tray. The hose clamps will likely provide greater support than pipe insulation but will also require a layer of self-fusing silicone tape to provide a surface for the metal band to grab and stay put.

Click here to see the highest recommended hose clamp for ½ to 1¼ inch walker tubing.
Click here to see the highest recommended hose clamp for ¼ to ⅝ inch walker tubing.

With bottom support in place, the next step is to address any other tray shifting that may occur due to excess space at the areas where the tray slots and walker handles meet. Once again, 1 inch wide self-fusing silicone tape can be used.

Points where the walker handle tubing contacts the tray slots

Jostling may occur where the tray slots meet the walker tubing

Stretch the tape until very thin and wrap it around each of the four pieces of tubing that make up the handles. The tape should be placed on the tubing directly above the pipe insulation.

The application should be thick enough to securely stay in place, yet thin enough so the tray slots can still properly slide over the handles and rest on the bottom supports. Try only wrapping the tape around the tubing twice, and remember to stretch the tape as much as possible to thin it out.

Test the effectiveness of the first tape application by seeing if the tray no longer exhibits shifting while the walker is in use. If the tray still jostles, then apply a single additional revolution of tape to the front two tubes. Conduct another test. If the tray is still unsatisfactory, then apply a single additional revolution of tape to the back two tubes. Test the walker tray again.

Continue in this fashion as needed until the tray no longer shakes while the walker is in use. If the layers of tape are too thick and obstruct the tray’s ability to properly rest on the bottom support, then the entirety of the tape must be cut off and new tape must be applied.


Bicycle flashlight for walkerFlashlight – A bicycle flashlight that clamps onto the walker frame is a great solution for providing visibility in the dark and at nighttime. Bicycle flashlights are very powerful and durable.

When shopping for a bicycle flashlight, make sure its clamp is compatible with the diameter of the walker’s tubing. Also, look for a bicycle flashlight that is easy to operate with large buttons.

Click here to see the highest recommended bicycle flashlight for walkers.
Click here to see the highest recommended compatible bicycle flashlight mount holder for walkers.


Cane holder for walkerCane holder – A cane holder that clamps onto the walker frame is very handy for users who switch to a cane when negotiating stairs or entering particularly tight spaces where the walker cannot fit.

The same hardware used to hold a bicycle flashlight can also function as a cane holder, but be sure to verify that the clamp can accommodate the diameter of the cane it must hold.

Click here to see the highest recommended cane holder for walkers.


Front walker tote bag – A front walker tote bag allows users to carry important items with them wherever they go. While trays are temporarily placed on walkers to carry something and then taken off when the task is completed, tote bags are generally kept on walkers at all times. Tote bags can lug around items that are important for the user to have handy such as a cell phone, tablet, medications, reading glasses, a writing utensil, and other necessities that should be kept nearby.

Tote bags for the front of the walker are preferred over those that attach to the sides because front bags distribute the weight more evenly across the walker frame. This is important because walkers that are heavier on one side can cause users to overwork one side of the body and develop gait problems. A front tote bag that hangs over the walker’s front crossbar is the strongest type of tote bag. Other bags that use Velcro to attach to the tubing of the walker simply are not capable of bearing much weight before failing.

Click here to see the highest recommended front walker tote bag.
Hanging side walker tote bag
Hanging front walker tote bag
Front draping walker tote bag


Winner Cup Holder for WalkerCup holder – A cup holder can be especially helpful for users who like to have a bottle of water or a thermos of coffee while on the go. Walker trays typically feature cup slots to help with carrying drinks to the dining table, but it is burdensome to always have the extra weight of a tray simply to have a drink on hand.

Furthermore, those who use front tote bags will find that trays block access to the bag pockets. Trays are great for temporary uses, but users who like to have a drink with them are better off with a permanent cup holder that attaches to the walker. There are plenty of options when it comes to walker cup holders, but only three are worth considering.

For walkers with round tubing with an outside diameter of 1 inch or less, the Winner® drink holder is the best option available. Attach the two halves of the fastener to the walker tubing and screw them together, then attach the drink platform to the fastener.

Winner Cup Holder Parts
Mounting the Winner Cup Holder onto Walker

Only tighten the screw enough to hold the drink platform loosely in place; the entire platform should be able to rotate to ensure that it is set parallel with the ground.

Positioning the Winner Cup Holder

The cup holder rotates in set increments for re-positioning to level

The Winner® drink holder features a platform on which cups can rest along with an adjustable-width stabilizer that helps hold cups in place. Most cups, even those with extremely wide diameters and bases, are compatible with the Winner® drink holder.

And finally, the Winner® drink holder folds up when not in use, which is a great feature for reducing its obtrusiveness.

Walker with Winner Cup Holder Carrying a Mug
Folded Winner Cup Holder for Walker
Click here to see the highest recommended cup holder for walkers.


Cuda's Customs Cup HolderThe second-best option for walker cup holders is the Cuda’s Customs universal cup holder.

While it’s true that most walkers are made of 1 inch diameter round tubing, there are some models with square tubing and/or tubing that is greater than 1 inch thick. This “universal” application feature is what really makes the Cuda’s Customs cup holder so useful; it can attach to round or square tubing up to 1¼ inch thick.

Cuda’s Customs universal cup holder is made up of three parts: the clamp, the ring, and the holder. The first step to install the cup holder is to loosen the screw on the inside of the ring. This allows the ring to rotate freely, so the angle of the drink can be set to be level with the ground. With the ring portion now loose, place the clamp at the cup holder’s intended location on the walker tubing and screw the clamp onto the ring to secure it in place.

Note: do not place the cup holder into the ring yet. First the ring must be rotated so that it is level with the ground and then the ring screw must be tightened. This can only be done while the cup holder is not in the way.

Cuda's Customs Cup Holder Parts
Installing Cuda's Customs Cup Holder onto Walker Tubing

Users who have walkers with tubing that is less than 1 inch thick can simply build up the diameter to an acceptable width by wrapping self-fusing silicone tape around the tubing; this solution works for both of the cup holders mentioned. Once the ring is set to level and tightened, simply insert the cup holder through the ring until it is snug in place.

Applying Silicone Self-Fusing Tape to Walker Tubing
Cuda's Customs Cup Holder Assembly

Cuda's Customs Cup Holder Attached to Walker Carrying a TumblerThe major drawback of Cuda’s Customs universal cup holder is its inability to keep drinks snuggly in place. The Cuda’s Customs cup holder has a double-cylindrical base rather than a flat base (like the Winner® drink holder base). The inner base has a diameter of 2 ⅝ inches and the outer base that sits above has a diameter of 3 ½ inches.

Although many sizes of cups can fit into the Cuda’s Customs cup holder, only cups of a certain diameter will fit tightly enough not to rattle around or tip while the walker is in use. It’s recommended to those using the Cuda’s Customs cup holder to purchase glasses and cups that properly fit inside the cup holder; not doing so may result in spills and drops.

Click here to see the Cuda’s Customs cup holder for walkers.


Think King Cup HolderFor walkers with tubing that is rectangular and/or larger than 1 ¼ inches it is best to use Think King®’s soft buggy cup holder. Think King®’s cup holder attaches to the walker with two Velcro straps.

Think King Cup Holder Attachment StrapsThe straps make the cup holder more universal in application because it can fit walker frames of various sizes and shapes, but the Velcro isn’t as secure as the fastening methods offered by the previous two cup holder options.

Also, because Think King®’s cup holder is soft-shell, drinks are less likely to stay upright while on the go. Therefore, it’s best to use water bottles, tumblers, or thermoses with lids to prevent any type of spilling that may occur if the drink jostles about.

Click here to see the Think King cup holder for walkers.

Finding a cup holder that’s compatible with the walker is more important than finding a cup holder that accommodates the drinking glasses already in the cupboard. Spending a little effort on tracking down drinking glasses that fit the cup holder well is worth the benefits of no spills or broken glasses.

Whichever cup holder is used, it’s important to be thoughtful about where to attach it to the walker. Those who use a tray on occasion should make sure the cup holder does not inhibit proper user of the tray. Likewise, those who use a front walker tote bag should be certain to avoid attaching the cup holder on the portion of the walker’s front crossbar where the tote bag hangs. Finally, consider purchasing durable Tervis tumblers and thermoses with spill-proof lids for an added layer of insurance against potential accidents (just be sure to verify that the tumblers and thermoses fit correctly in the cup holder!).


Walker hanging hookHanging hook – Carrying bags while trying to operate a walker can be a challenge at best and a disaster at worst. Whether it’s grocery sacks, a purse, or a bag of tools, hanging hooks are the best solution for safely maneuvering a walker while having items temporarily in tow. A Velcro strap on one end attaches to the walker tubing and the hook hangs in place below ready to carry a load.

It is important to use hanging hooks that are made of durable materials that won’t fail. The hook should be metal; avoid hanging hooks with any plastic parts as they are known to break unexpectedly during use. These hanging hooks are actually marketed for use with baby strollers, but they almost perfectly transfer to walker use.

Click here to see the highest recommended hanging hook strap for walkers.

There are two caveats concerning the use of hanging hooks with walkers, though.

Walker hanging hook on strollerFirst, strollers typically have non-slip foam all along their handles that provide the gripping surface necessary to keep the hanging hook straps from slipping.

Walker handles, however, can only accommodate users’ hands; there isn’t space on walker handles to attach hanging hooks.

As a result, users must attach hanging hooks on the walker’s metal tubing, which is too slick for the straps to stay securely in place.

Silicone Self-Fusing Tape on Tubing to Secure Hanging HookTo help the hanging hook strap hold its place, simply apply a layer of self-fusing silicone tape around the metal tubing that extends about an inch beyond both sides of the strap. With the self-fusing tape wrapped, apply the Velcro strap tightly around the walker tubing with the hook facing the desired direction.

Click here to see the highest recommended self-fusing silicone tape.

Make sure that the area below the hanging hook is clear so that items will be able to freely hang without getting caught on any part of the walker. And even more importantly, keep all hanging items out of the walking area between the handles so that there is nothing banging into the user’s body and nothing to disrupt proper gait.

Arrow

Second, when hanging items from the hooks it is very important to keep the walker evenly balanced; the walker shouldn’t be heavily weighed down on one side. Uneven weight distribution will require users to overcompensate on the heavier side and develop an unnatural walking pattern.

The only exception to this rule is when transporting items on very short trips such as bringing in groceries or moving an item from one part of the house to another. And remember that it is better to take more trips with lighter loads than to overexert oneself with too much weight.


Sit-to-Stand WalkerSit-to-stand walker – Sit-to-stand walkers can be a great option for users who have trouble standing back up from a seated position.

A sit-to-stand walker has two sets of handles. The lower handles are for users to hold onto when sitting down and to push off of when standing up, while the upper handles are for users to hold while walking. There are a few important caveats to take into consideration before deciding on a sit-to-stand walker, though.

  • Sit-to-stand walkers are heavier than typical walkers because they need extra weight to hold steady while the user lowers and rises. Those who tire easily may find sit-to-stand walkers unsuitable for extended walks without rest breaks. Sit-to-stand walkers are best for settings in which the user is frequently transferring from sitting and standing with limited overall walking. Obviously, the ideal scenario is to have a selection of walkers with different specialties so the user can employ the most suitable walker for the occasion.
  • Users should always exercise the proper body mechanics with a sit-to-stand walker. To avoid falls and injury that can result from improper use, follow these instructions. When sitting down, slowly walk backwards towards the seat until both legs are pressing against the edge of the seat. One at a time, move both hands to the lower handles. At least one hand should be holding a handle at all times. While keeping a neutral spine and forward gaze, bend slightly forward at the waist until centered above both feet. Bend at the elbows and knees to lower onto the seat, being careful to maintain the neutral spine position throughout the motion. Lowering in this way not only prevents the walker from tipping, but it also guards against back injuries that may result from improper form.
    How to properly sit down with a sit-to-stand walker
  • When standing up, scoot forward to the edge of the seat and place both hands on the lower handles. With a neutral spine and forward gaze, bend slightly forward at the waist until centered above both feet. Upon moving into this position it is important that the elbows and knees form something close to 90 degree angles. Push off of the lower handles by extending the elbows and knees while holding the neutral spine position. Once both elbows are fully extended, step backwards slightly to center both feet under the hips and establish balance. Finally, replace both hands onto the upper handles one at a time with at least one hand always holding a handle. Users who cannot properly perform these steps for sitting and standing should not attempt to use a sit-to-stand walker due to the risks of injury as a result of improper user.
    How to properly stand up with a sit-to-stand walker
  • A sit-to-stand walker cannot be used with wheels or glides because it is vitally important that the walker remain securely in place during use. Sit-to-stand walkers must have non-slip rubber tips that keep the walker from skidding out of place. Of course, this means that users must manually lift sit-to-stand walkers with each step. This is certainly a drawback, however, it is less significant than it may initially seem since sit-to-stand walkers are meant for use around the home rather than on long trips; additionally, most users will not tire out from using the walker at home.
  • The shortened upper handles of sit-to-stand walkers make them incompatible with walker trays. Transporting a plate of food to the dinner table must be done with another walker that can accommodate a tray. This leaves users without the benefits of a sit-to-stand walker, so it is necessary that dining chairs have arms and be in good repair to provide support for sitting and standing.

Click here to see the highest recommended sit-to-stand walker.

It’s worth knowing that there is a viable alternative available that provides the same benefits: arm chairs. Arm chairs offer users all the support needed, but they must meet three conditions to qualify as being suitable for use.

  • Proper sitting postureFirst, the chair height must be appropriate for the user. A chair is the correct height if the knees bend at no more than 90 degrees and the hips bend at no less than 90 degrees while the user is resting against the back of the chair. The user should find the chair to be comfortable, but more importantly, the user should be able to easily sit down onto and stand up from the chair.
  • Second, the chair arms must be full length. That is, the arms should extend at least to the edge of the chair seat.
  • Third, the chair must be in good condition; strong arms, all four feet touching the ground, no loose legs, etc. As long as those who need assistance with lowering and rising can commit to only sit in arm chairs, then a sit-to-stand walker isn’t needed.

Walker platform armrestPlatform attachments for front-wheeled walkers – Platform attachments are special armrests meant for those with weak or injured hands and wrists who are unable to safely hold onto and push front-wheeled walkers with conventional handles.

Walkers with platform attachments are often used to overcome the challenges brought on by specific health conditions such as a stroke, arthritis, or a broken wrist.

Platform attachments can be added for both arms or for a single arm. The height of the platform adjusts to fit the user and clamps onto the side walker crossbars. The straps on each platform secure the arm in place and provide extra support for moving the walker. Please note that if both arms require platform attachments, then the user will need a caregiver to fasten and unfasten the arm straps.

Walker with both platform armrests
Walker with single platform armrest on the left side


The position of the armrest has three adjustments that can be made to conform to the user.

First, the direction of the armrest can adjust inwards or outwards according to the user’s comfort. The top armrest piece sits on the attachment shaft and can rotate independently of the shaft; users must manually crank tightening bolts to keep the top armrest piece in place.

Generally, users find that turning the armrest inward at about a 45 degree angle provides the most natural position.

With that being said, each user is different and should adjust the armrest to the position that offers the most support and comfort.

Walker platform armrest direction adjustment

Walker platform armrest handhold depth adjustment

Second, the depth of the handhold can be modified to fit the length of the user’s forearm.

With the forearm in the armrest and hand grasping the handhold (if able), the user’s elbow should extend one to two inches beyond the rear edge of the armrest.

This helps ensure that the shoulders are carrying the bulk of the user’s weight rather than the forearm, elbow, and wrist.

Walker platform armrest handhold grip angle adjustmentThird, the handhold can pivot in any direction independent of the armrest.

With an armrest turned inward at a 45 degree angle, the best position for the handhold is a 45 degree inward. A handhold angle of 90 degrees or less is the most natural.

Again, choose whatever handhold position is most comfortable and supportive.


Before making a final decision about platform attachments, there are four important details to consider.

First, the attachments add to the weight of the walker. Remember that even though front-wheeled walkers are easy to roll, the walker must still be lifted and moved to change direction since the wheels do not swivel.

The arm supports provide enough added leverage that most users will have no problem with the extra weight, but those who are especially frail may find that the heavier weight makes the walker unusable.

Walker with side crossbarsSecond, the walker must have two side crossbars so that the platform attachments can securely clamp to the walker.

Most walkers have two side crossbars, however, there are a handful that only have one side crossbar. While there are platform attachments made to fit onto walkers with one side crossbar, these platform attachments are not as secure and should be avoided.

Only use platform attachments with walkers that have two side crossbars.

Third, the platform attachments must fit the height of the user.

Measuring walker platform height

Platform walker 90 degree elbow

Place the arm on the rest to make a 90 degree angle

Measure the distance from the floor to the bottom of the forearm to determine the proper armrest height measurement.

While standing upright, the armrest should fit snugly underneath the forearm with the elbow bent at a 90 degree angle.

An armrest that is too low causes the user to slouch down, which may result in discomfort and back problems.

An armrest that is too high diminishes the weight-bearing benefits of the platform attachments and makes maneuvering the walker more difficult.

When shopping for platform attachments, be sure to take note of the overall length. In this case, the overall length is the bottom of the metal shaft to the padded portion where the forearm rests.

Walker platform armrest height adjustmentNote: always verify that the platform attachment is long enough for the user before placing an order.

Knowing that the tubing must attach onto both of the walker’s side crossbars, determine the maximum and minimum armrest heights based on the existing walker.

A quick way to calculate the maximum armrest height is to add the overall platform attachment length to the height of the lowest crossbar. And the minimum armrest height is simply the overall length of the platform attachment.

If the optimum armrest height for the user fits within this range, then the platform attachment is compatible and can be purchased. If the armrest range is too short, then consider buying an extra tall walker to use with the platform attachments.

Finally, folding walkers with platform attachments are not able to fold as compactly as standard walkers without attachments. Users who transport their walkers should make certain that the extra bulk does not prevent the walker from fitting in vehicle trunks or backseats.

Click here to see the highest recommended platform attachment for front-wheeled walkers.


Bariatric walkerBariatric walker – Most standard walkers are rated to support between 300 and 350 pounds. Users who require more support should utilize bariatric walkers, which typically can support up to 500 pounds. Bariatric walkers generally are made of stronger materials and employ a stronger construction method. This usually means that bariatric walkers are made of steel tubing as opposed to aluminum tubing, which is used for standard walkers.

Also, bariatric walker frames are usually deeper and wider than the frames of conventional walkers. The larger frame helps provide greater weight support and also gives more space to accommodate larger-bodied users.

Click here to see the highest recommended bariatric walker.

Users who do not necessarily require the extra support and space may, nonetheless, prefer a bariatric walker because of the greater sense of security they may experience with the heavier-duty model. There are two important points to take into consideration before purchasing a bariatric walker, though.

First, bariatric walkers are heavier than standard walkers. If the user requires the added support of a bariatric walker but does not have the upper body strength needing for safe maneuvering, then forego a bariatric walker and opt for an appropriately weight-rated knee walker, manual wheelchair, or power wheelchair.

Bariatric walker with wheelsSecond, the larger bariatric walker frame may be too large to fit through doorways, passages, and other tight spaces in a user’s home. In addition to the larger frame, the front wheels on bariatric walkers are actually doubled-up to properly support the extra weight.

While the front wheels on standard walkers can be placed on the inside of the frame to reduce the overall width of the walker, the doubled front wheels on bariatric walkers results in one wheel protruding on each side of the walker frame. Be sure to factor the overall width of a bariatric walker (including the wheels) before making a buying decision.

Click here to see the highest recommended bariatric front-wheeled walker.
Click here to see front wheels that are designed to attach to standard bariatric walkers.

Again, if the user needs the extra space of a bariatric walker but does not have space at home to accommodate the walker, then consider an appropriately-sized knee walker, manual wheelchair, or power wheelchair.


Junior-sized walkerJunior-sized walker – Users who are of a particularly short stature should consider a junior-sized walker that fits their height. Despite being much shorter than conventional walkers, junior-sized walkers can typically still support up to 300 pounds. and share the same features of other walkers.

Those who intend to use a junior-sized walker with front wheels should only use the more capable 5 inch diameter size and employ a suitable set of rear glides. Finally, be certain to correctly determine the appropriate walker height for the user before making a purchase.

Click here to see the highest recommended junior-sized walker.
Click here to see the highest recommended junior-sized walker with front wheels.


Features to avoid

Walker with basketVinyl-coated metal frame basket – In an attempt to help walker users easily carry items while in transit, manufacturers created vinyl-coated metal frame baskets that attach to the front of walkers.

Walker basketIn practical application, though, these baskets are more problematic than not.

First, the baskets are not universally compatible with all walkers. The front frame of walkers are either straight or curved. A basket intended for straight front walkers is incompatible with round front walkers and vice versa. Also, the metal tubing of walkers can vary in diameter and shape.

Baskets with clasps intended for a certain type of tubing may be too large, causing the basket to easily slip off, or too small, preventing the clasps from fastening onto the walker altogether.

Walker with straight front frame

Walker with straight front frame

Walker with curved front frame

Walker with curved front frame

Second, even the baskets that do adequately fit onto walkers tend to exhibit poor stability. It is not uncommon that baskets shake and rattle loudly while walking. Other than being a noisy nuisance, this shaking may inadvertently cause loose items to scatter about freely and disorganize the basket.

More importantly, though, the design and position of vinyl-coated metal frame walker baskets places extra weight at the top of the walker. This imbalance of weight can actually cause lightweight walkers to tip over if the contents in the basket are too heavy.

Avoid the potential headaches and risks of using metal frame baskets; stick to using a front walker tote bag instead.


Walker with flip up trayFlip walker tray – The flip walker tray is an attempt to have a walker tray that can easily flip into place when needed and flip out of the way when not needed. Unfortunately, there are two significant flaws with flip trays that make them undesirable.

First, the flip tray clamps do not fit all walkers. Flip trays may not properly attach to certain walkers and it is very difficult to confirm compatibility before purchasing. Those who purchase a flip walker tray may be stuck with a product they cannot use.

Second, flip trays can cause walkers to tip and fall. Flip trays rest on the top and front of walkers, creating a top-heavy weight distribution that can result in walkers actually tipping over. Walker users who need to carry food or other items should opt for a conventional resting walker tray instead.


Walker with side tote bagSide walker tote bag – Side walker tote bags may seem benign enough, but the truth is that their functional issues make them more trouble than they are worth. Placing a tote bag on the side of the walker increases the walker’s overall width and makes it more difficult for users to fit the walker through doorways and other tight spaces.

Also, a side tote bag filled with various items adds weight to one side of the walker. Pushing and lifting a walker that is noticeably heavier on one side can lead to users developing unnatural gait patterns that favor one side of the body over the other.

The best option for keeping things handy is a front walker tote bag that doesn’t increase the width of the walker or create any weight imbalances.


Space-saving walker

Space-saving walker fully & partially expanded

Space-saving walker – There is a walker for sale in the market called a space-saving walker that folds up like an accordion to make for easy storage and transportation. In its expanded form the walker is just as wide as any other given walker. Unfortunately, the general public has misinterpreted this space-saving feature as meaning the walker can be partially folded up to navigate through especially narrow spaces where the walker would otherwise be too wide to fit.

Those using this walker in this incorrect fashion are putting themselves at risk. The walker is safe to use when fully expanded and locked. When the walker is folded to any degree, though, the lock is disengaged and, if used in this state, the walker could expand unexpectedly or even tip. There is no risk in using this walker in its fully expanded and locked form, but those looking for something to fit into tight spaces should consider walkers that are specifically manufactured with narrower frames.


What to know before buying

Measuring walker heightBuying a walker that best fits the height of the user is of utmost importance. Some measurements will need to be taken to determine the proper walker height for a user. Users should have a family member, friend, or some other assistant help take down these measurements.

Make sure the user is wearing the shoes that will be worn while using the walker. The user should stand up straight with arms hanging freely on each side. Measure the distance from the floor to the crease of the user’s wrist.

When shopping for a walker, make sure this measurement falls within the handle height range for the walker. The height increments for walkers are typically an inch apart, so keep in mind that the walker may ultimately be slightly shorter or slightly taller than the user’s ideal measurement. This minute level of difference usually will not have any impact on the user’s comfort.

If forced to choose between the walker being slightly shorter or slightly taller, it’s always best to err on the side of taller. Handles that are too tall require more effort from the user to lift the walker, but handles that are too short may require the user to lean and can actually disrupt the gait of the user.


Replacement rubber tips for walkerWhen selecting walker glides and replacement rubber tips, be sure they coincide with the walker’s tubing diameter.


Ski glide with expansion toggleWhen shopping for ski glides, select ski glides with expansion toggles that tighten with a screw. This expansion feature guarantees a strong, tight fit that keeps the ski glides securely in place.


Those who plan on using a walker tray should shop for the walker and the tray at the same time to ensure that they are compatible. Remember: not all walkers can accommodate trays. Some walkers, like sit-to-stand models, have handles that do not align with the tray slots. Also, some walkers have tall trigger release paddles that may obstruct the tray and keep it from securely settling on the handle tubing. Always compare walker-tray compatibility before purchasing either of these items.


Shelf liner for walker trayWalker trays are made of a plastic material to make for easy cleaning. The drawback of this material is that its smooth texture may result in items sliding around on the tray.

To help keep plates of food, books, and other items from sliding off the tray, consider placing a double-sided, non-stick rubber shelf liner to the top of the tray. Look for a shelf liner that is machine washable so it can clean easily in the event of spills.

Click here to see the highest recommended shelf liner for walker trays.


Poor quality replacement rubber tips wear down quickly and leave marks on carpet and hard flooring surfaces. Investigate various replacement rubber tip sets and ask the retailer or manufacturer if the tips leave marks. When in doubt, purchase replacements before they are needed and test them in an inconspicuous area to see if they leave marks. Continue this trial and error until finding a quality replacement rubber tip set.


Compare the overall width of the walker to the widths of the doorways, hallways, and areas where the walker will be used to verify that the walker will fit. To help fit front-wheeled walkers through narrow spaces, reverse the walker caster legs so the wheels are inside the walker frame. This is an easy way to reduce a few inches from the overall walker width. Remember that many bariatric walkers have a wider frame compared to conventional walkers.

Also, bariatric front-wheeled walkers have two wheels on both sides of both legs, so reversing the walker caster legs doesn’t reduce the overall width. If the standard and bariatric walkers are too wide to fit through narrow spaces, then consider purchasing a narrow knee walker, installing offset door hinges, and/or expanding doorways and hallways.


Walkers generally require the user to perform minor assembly. Although most walkers can be assembled tool-free, it is wise to have common tools (screwdriver, crescent wrench, pipe wrench pliers, etc.) available in the event their assistance is required. Even tool-free assembly may require a certain degree of hand strength, so users with poor dexterity should find a capable helper to put the walker together.


How to use a walker properly

Correct form when using a walker is key for maintaining the proper walking gait, preventing trips and falls, and expediting recovery from an injury. Correct form includes an upright stance and a slight 20 to 30 degree bend in the elbows. For non-wheeled walkers, users should extend the walker and the weak leg (if applicable) forward at the same time. The strong leg then steps forward beside the weak leg, propelling the user’s body into the walker between the two handles.

Non-wheeled walkers

Feet and walker positioning - Step 1

Stand inside the walker between the handles

Lead with weak side - Step 2

Lift the walker & move forward with weak side

Bring strong side to meet weak side - Step 3

Step with strong side to bring feet together

Repeat step with weak side and walker - Step 4

Repeat, starting with weak side & walker

There are two walking options with front-wheeled walkers; the right method depends on the user’s ability. First, those with one weak side and significant balance issues should follow the same steps as non-wheeled walkers except, of course, the walker is pushed rather than lifted. Users who only have minor stability concerns, however, can assume a more natural, continuous gait while keeping hold of the front-wheeled walker:

Front-wheeled walkers

Feet and walker positioning - Step 1

Stand inside the walker between the handles

Lead with weak side - Step 2

Lift the walker & move forward with weak side

Step through with strong side beyond weak side - Step 3

Keep pushing forward & step with strong side

Repeat step with weak side and walker - Step 4

Repeat, starting with weak side & walker

Those who find it challenging to keep proper form should consider using a rollator, knee walker, manual wheelchair, or power wheelchair instead of a walker.


There is a practice in place that is commonly employed by walker users when climbing stairs in which the walker is turned sideways and used as support while ascending and descending. This practice is potentially very unsafe, though, because the walker can tip very easily if the user’s weight isn’t distributed correctly.

Another unsafe, technique is to fold the walker and use it as a single or double point cane. But walkers aren’t able to function as canes: the weight of the walker may be too much for users to lift with one hand; the walker may unfold unexpectedly if weight is misplaced on the handle; the walker feet and frame stand directly in front of users so there is less tread space on the stair for users to fit their feet.

Using a walker sideways on stairs
Using a folded walker as a cane on stairs

Instead, walker users who need to navigate stairs should follow the protocols for ascending and descending stairs with the assistance of a cane and handrail. The combination of a cane for one hand and the handrail for the other is arguably the best method for navigating stairs. To help learn proper technique, remember this helpful phrase: “up with the good, down with the bad.” While ascending the stairs, hold onto the stair railing with one hand and the cane in the other hand.

Ascending: With one hand holding the cane and the other hand holding the stair railing, lift the good, or unaffected, leg onto the first step. Establish balance and then lift the bad, or affected, leg onto the step while relying on the cane and stair railing for support. Finally, bring the cane up onto the same stair.
Ascend stairs with cane

Step up with the “good”

Descending: With one hand holding the cane and the other hand holding the stair railing, lower the bad, or affected, leg onto the first step while relying on the cane and stair railing for support. Establish balance and then lower the good, or unaffected, leg onto the step. Finally, bring the cane down onto the same stair.
Descend stairs with cane

And step down with the “bad”

Walker users should have a walker on each level of their homes at the landing of each set of stairs so they can easily transition from the cane back to a walker.


Remember: in the event that one side of the body is weak or injured, cane and walker users must be able to bear at least partial weight on the affected side. Those who are unable to bear any weight on a certain side need to use a knee walker, manual wheelchair, or power wheelchair. Instructions for how to navigate stairs with these other mobility aids are discussed in their respective sections.


Recommended supplementary products and home modifications


Rollator


Purpose

Serves as a balancing aid and weight support when walking. Rollators with built-in seats also provide rest on long walks. Those with an unsteady gait, a diminished ability to bear weight, or low physical endurance are great candidates for a rollator. The versatility of rollators make them appealing to a wide spectrum of users with various health circumstances including knee replacement surgery, a broken leg or foot, C.O.P.D., osteoarthritis, and other conditions that affect balance and weight-bearing.

Compared to walkers, rollators offer slightly less stability because all points of contact with the floor are wheeled. The chances that the mobility aid gets away from a user are greater with a rollator than a walker because the rollator is more prone to move. Keep this in mind when choosing what mobility aid is best. Individuals who are unable to bear any weight at all (non-weight-bearing) on a leg or foot cannot use rollators. The nature of rollators requires that users be able to bear some or all of their weight on both sides of the body. Non-weight-bearing users should opt for a knee walker, manual wheelchair, or power wheelchair.


Must-have Features

Rollator hand brakesHand brakes with park brake function – Since rollators are completely on wheels, it is absolutely necessary that they feature a set of hand brakes to help users stay in control. Typically there are two brakes, one for each hand, that apply pressure to the respective side’s rear wheel. Hand brakes can be engaged to reduce the rollator speed when descending a ramp or maneuvering through a tight space.

In addition to slowing speed, the hand brakes should also be able to stay locked so users can park the rollator. Locking the brakes on some rollators can require a bit of hand strength, so users who may struggle with this should ask the manufacturer how difficult it is to operate a specific rollator’s brakes before purchasing. Look for a rollator model with brakes that are easy to operate.

With the hand brakes locked, users can lower onto the rollator seat and raise back up without the rollator moving out from under them. When transferring onto or off of a rollator, always park the rollator on a smooth, level surface. Please note that even with the hand brakes locked, most, if not all, rollators still exhibit some movement as users sit down and stand up. Usually any such movement is too minor to be of serious concern, however, it is important to know that under certain conditions rollators with locked brakes can actually move significantly enough to pose a real safety hazard.

The brakes work best when users fully place their weight down onto the rollator so that the wheels are more forcefully pressed into the ground. As a result, the wheels are tightly locked in place by virtue of being sandwiched between the brakes and the ground. When the brakes are locked and little to no weight is applied downward onto the rollator, any slight force that pushes the rollator forward or sideways can cause the rollator to skid. Since there is not enough downward force to push the wheels into the ground, the bottom of the wheels are freed up and become susceptible to movement.

The weight of the rollator itself also plays a part in how easily the rollator can be moved when the brakes are locked. The heavier the rollator, the less prone to skidding. Users should keep this in mind when shopping for rollators.

Click here to see the highest recommended everyday rollator.


Height-adjustable handles – Correct rollator handle height is necessary for good posture, proper gait, and maximum comfort. Therefore, height-adjustable handles is a must-have feature for customizing the rollator to fit the user. Height-adjustable handles are also convenient for reducing the rollator’s size for easier transportation and storage. There are three types of height-adjustable handles for rollators.

Tightening clamps compress onto the handle tubing and hold it in place. It is very important to thoroughly tighten the clamps to ensure a secure lock; users should have a capable assistant with strong hands properly tighten the clamps before using the rollator.

Screw-through bolts insert through the handle tubing and use a tightening knob to lock the height setting. Screw-through bolts do require manual tightening, but very little torque is needed to adequately secure the bolt.

Click here to see the highest recommended rollator with height-adjustable handles featuring screw-through bolts.

Push-button bolts also insert through the tubing but use a spring-loaded lock to secure the handle. Since they require the least amount of hand strength to operate, push-button bolts are the most user-friendly.

Click here to see the highest recommended rollator with height-adjustable handles featuring push-button bolts.

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Push-button and screw-through bolts are easier to adjust than tightening clamps, but users with poor dexterity may need assistance, nonetheless. Keep this in mind when planning the purchase and set-up of the rollator.


Features to consider

Lightweight rollator – Users with particularly small frames and/or diminished upper body strength may find that conventional rollators are too heavy and bulky to maneuver. In such instances, lightweight rollators that can weigh as little as 11 pounds may be the best option. Users may find themselves feeling more energized since lightweight rollators are less taxing to push. Since lightweight rollators are easier to lift, they can make crossing tall thresholds and surmounting curbs much more manageable. And those who take frequent trips will enjoy how much easier it is to load a lightweight rollator in the car.

Lightweight rollatorBefore making any commitments, though, there are two important aspects of lightweight rollators that should be taken into consideration. First, lightweight rollators cannot support as much weight as conventional rollators. According to manufacturers’ standards, lightweight rollators may only be certified for 250 pounds while conventional rollators can support up to 400 pounds. Always check that the lightweight rollator’s weight-bearing capacity is safe for the user.

Second, the seats on lightweight rollators are light-duty and may not be as large or comfortable as the seats of other rollators. Seat size is an important factor in good posture and proper support. If the seat cannot properly accommodate a user, then search for a rollator with a conventional-sized seat that is still light enough for the user. To determine the proper size seat for a user, follow the instructions in the section on seat dimension below.

When it comes to the comfort of the seat, those who prefer thicker padding may not care for lightweight rollators’ streamlined seats. With that being said, smaller users may not actually experience any discomfort from the light-duty seat. If a user who prefers a well-padded seat can only handle a lightweight rollator, then it may still be an acceptable solution if the alternative means than no mobility at all.

Click here to see the highest recommended economy lightweight rollator.
Click here to see the highest recommended premium lightweight rollator.


Bariatric rollator – Larger users who need additional weight support and sitting room are the best candidates for bariatric rollators. Bariatric rollators are typically made of stronger materials, such as steel rather than the standard aluminum, and/or use extra material to build a reinforced framework. Obviously, this better construction increases the maximum weight-capacity, but it also helps increase the overall stability and durability.

Bariatric rollatorSeats on bariatric rollators are often oversized and thickly padded; users who need extra seat space and cushion will appreciate the oversized and thickly padded seats. Even the wheels on bariatric rollators are typically larger than those of standard models. Again, the bigger wheels not only improve bariatric rollators’ weight-bearing rating, but they also make the rollators more capable in various and rugged terrains.

A stronger frame, wider seat, and larger wheels all come at a cost, though: bariatric rollators are often significantly heavier than conventional rollators. Standard rollators can weigh around 17 to 18 pounds and bariatric rollators can weigh as much as 25 pounds. Although bariatric users are typically capable of handling the heavier bariatric rollators, it would be prudent to make certain of this before shopping. To accommodate bigger-bodied users, bariatric rollators also tend to be wider than standard rollators, so take the time to ensure that the rollator can fit through doorways and other important spaces in the home.

While bariatric rollators are intended for larger users, even those who don’t necessarily require a bariatric rollator may find them appealing on the basis of their better durability, stronger performance, and cozier seat. One word of caution to non-bariatric users interested in bariatric rollators: be sure to thoroughly verify whether or not the bigger, heavier frame if feasible. If bariatric rollators prove to be too much to handle, then consider standard rollators that are on the larger end of the spectrum.

Click here to see the highest recommended standard height bariatric rollator.
Click here to see the highest recommended petite height bariatric rollator.
Click here to see the highest recommended tall height bariatric rollator.


Rollator stress on hands and wrists

Stress on the hands and wrists may be uncomfortable

Platform rollator – Platform rollators are intended for users with weak or injured hands and wrists who are unable to safely hold onto and push rollators with conventional handles. With standard rollators, users pass their upper body weight down onto the rollator through their wrists and hands. For users who lean heavily on their rollators, the pressure may be too much for their hands and wrists to bear. Furthermore, certain health conditions such as arthritis, an injured back, a frozen shoulder, or a stroke may inhibit a user’s ability to use standard rollator handles.

While only one arm may actually need the support of the platform, it is standard practice to use the platform for both arms when it comes to platform rollators. In fact, some platform rollators have one piece that stretches across the frame to support both arms. Adjusting the height of the armrest is similar to the process of adjusting the height of rollator handles.

Platform rollator with single armrest

Platform rollator with one rest for both arms

Platform rollator with single armrest

Platform rollator with one rest for both arms


Armrests have three adjustments that can be made to custom fit the user.

Platform rollator handle length adjustmentFirst, the distance between the armrest and the brake handle can be modified to fit the length of the user’s forearm.

With the forearm in the armrest and the hand grasping the brake (if able), the user’s elbow should extend one to two inches beyond the rear edge of the armrest.

This helps ensure that the shoulders are carrying the bulk of the user’s weight rather than the forearm, elbow, and wrist.

Platform rollator adjustable angle armrests
Second, the direction of the armrest can adjust inwards and outwards according to the user’s comfort. The bottom metal tubing of the armrest slides into the rollator frame and can twist to whatever angle fits the user.

Generally, most users find that turning the armrest inward at about a 45 degree angle provides the most natural position.

With that being said, each user is different and should adjust the armrest to the position that offers the most support and comfort.

Platform rollator adjustable angle handlesThird, the brake handle angle can pivot inward and outward. The top metal tubing extending from the handle into the armrest can rotate independently to the user’s liking.

Again, the majority of users prefer the handle to slant inwards at approximately 45 degrees because it offers a comfortable position for the wrist.

Of course the ideal brake handle angle is always a matter of personal preference, so each user should experiment with different positions to see what is most supportive.

Click here to see the highest recommended platform rollator.


Before making a final decision about platform rollators, there are several important details to consider.

First, platform rollators are heavier than average rollators, starting at 24 pounds and increasing up to 28 pounds. Make sure the user does not find the weight of the platform rollator too taxing.

Second, platform rollators typically have very small seats. The seat may be too small for some users, so be sure to compare its dimensions with the user’s acceptable seat size.

Platform rollator 90 degree elbow

Place the arm on the rest to make a 90 degree angle

Third, the armrests must fit the height of the user. While standing upright, the armrest should fit snugly underneath the forearm with the elbow bent at a 90 degree angle. Measure the distance from the floor to the bottom of the forearm to determine the proper armrest height measurement.

Measuring rollator platform heightAn armrest that is too low causes the user to slouch down, which may result in discomfort and back problems. An armrest that is too high diminishes the weight-bearing benefits of the platform and makes maneuvering the rollator more difficult. Before purchasing, find out the platform rollator’s armrest height range. If the user’s optimum armrest height fits within this range, then the platform rollator is compatible and can be purchased.

Fourth, platform rollators are not able to fold as compactly as standard rollators, so users who transport their rollators should make certain that the extra bulk does not prevent the rollator from fitting in vehicle trunks or backseats.


Non-slip food tray for rollatorNon-slip food tray – With both hands holding onto the rollator, transferring food from the kitchen to the dining room table can be hard to do without the assistance of a food tray. To guard against spilling, food trays need to rest on a flat, level surface; the rollator seat serves this purpose perfectly. Rollator manufacturers have made food trays that are supposedly compatible with their rollators, but they tend to be undersized and made of plastic that can easily slide off the seat.

Therefore, it is better to find a serving tray that is made of a non-slip material and is large enough to accommodate the user’s dishes. Just make sure the tray isn’t so large that it extends well beyond the front or back edges of the rollator seat because it could easily be knocked off by accident. The non-slip material should keep the tray itself from sliding off the seat and prevent dishes from sliding around while on the tray. The tray should include raised edges so any food or drink spills stay on the tray instead of falling on the user, rollator, or floor. Finally, the tray should have extended handles so the user can easily tote the tray where needed.

Click here to see the highest recommended non-slip food tray for rollators.


Rollator tote bag – A rollator tote bag allows users to carry important items with them wherever they go. Things like a phone, e-reader, medications, books, and more can be kept on-hand at all times. It is true, though, that most rollators include baskets for users to stash their belongings, so an additional tote bag may not be necessary. Users who would like extra storage or do not care for the rollator basket should consider a tote bag.

There are a variety of bags that attach to the rollator via Velcro straps and plastic buckles, but these fastening methods have a tendency to fail unexpectedly. A fabric tote that hangs over the rollator’s backrest is the strongest type of bag available.

Hanging rollator tote bag with straps
Rollator front tote bag

Click here to see the highest recommended tote bag for rollators.

The one caveat to using this type of tote bag is that it requires the rollator to have a traditional backrest made of metal tubing. The flexible backrest boasted by some rollators isn’t sturdy enough to support a tote bag draped over it.

Rollator with metal tubing backrest

Rollator with metal tubing backrest

Rollator with flexible backrest

Rollator with flexible fabric backrest

Those who have a rollator with a flexible backrest simply have to use the basket that’s included within the seat of the rollator.


Winner Cup Holder for WalkerCup holder – A cup holder can be especially helpful for users who like to have a bottle of water or a thermos of coffee while on the go. While some of the new rollator models feature built-in cup holders, most rollators still do not include a designated place to keep drinks secure and, therefore, require a separate cup holder attachment.

There is much less standardization when it comes to the metal framework of rollators compared to walkers. Rollator frame shape can be round, square, or rectangular and size can be ¾ inch, 1 inch, or even larger.

For rollators with round tubing that is 1 inch or less in diameter, the Winner® drink holder is the best option available.

Winner Cup Holder Parts
Winner Cup Holder for Rollator Installation

The Winner® drink holder features a platform on which cups can rest along with an adjustable-width stabilizer that helps hold cups in place.

Positioning the Winner Cup Holder onto Rollator

The cup holder rotates in set increments for re-positioning to level

Folded Winner Cup Holder for RollatorMost cups, even those with extremely wide diameters and bases, are compatible with the Winner® drink holder.

Finally, the Winner® drink holder folds up when not in use, which is a great feature for reducing its obtrusiveness.

Click here to see the highest recommended cup holder for rollators.


Cuda's Customs Cup HolderThe second-best option for rollator cup holders is the Cuda’s Customs universal cup holder. Cuda’s Customs cup holder is ideal for rollator models with square or round tubing that is no greater than 1¼ inches thick.

This “universal” application feature is what really makes the Cuda’s Customs cup holder so useful; it can attach to round or square tubing with diameters as wide as 1¼ inches.

Cuda's Customs Cup Holder Parts
Cuda's Customs Cup Holder Installation onto Rollator

Users who have rollators with tubing that is less than 1 inch in diameter can simply build up the diameter to an acceptable width by wrapping self-fusing silicone tape around the tubing; this solution works for both of the cup holders mentioned.

Applying Silicone Self-Fusing Tape to Build up Tubing Diameter

Applying Silicone Self-Fusing Tape to Build up Tubing Diameter

Cuda's Customs Cup Holder Assembly

Cuda's Customs Cup Holder on Rollator with TumblerThe major drawback of Cuda’s Customs universal cup holder is its inability to keep drinks snuggly in place. The Cuda’s Customs cup holder has a double-cylindrical base rather than a flat base (like the Winner® drink holder base). The inner base has a diameter of 2 ⅝ inches and the outer base that sits above has a diameter of 3 ½ inches.

Although many sizes of cups can fit into the Cuda’s Customs cup holder, only cups of a certain diameter will fit tightly enough not to rattle around or tip while the rollator is in use.

It’s recommended to those using the Cuda’s Customs cup holder to purchase glasses and cups that properly fit inside the cup holder; not doing so may result in spills and drops.

Click here to see the Cuda’s Customs cup holder for rollators.


Think King Cup HolderFor rollators with tubing that is rectangular and/or larger than 1 ¼ inches it is best to use Think King®’s soft buggy cup holder. Think King®’s cup holder attaches to the rollator with two Velcro straps.

Think King Cup Holder Attachment StrapsThe straps make the cup holder more universal in application because it can fit rollator frames of various sizes and shapes, but the Velcro isn’t as secure as the fastening methods offered by the previous two cup holder options.

Also, because Think King®’s cup holder is soft-shell, drinks are less likely to stay upright while on the go. Therefore, it’s best to use water bottles, tumblers, or thermoses with lids to prevent any type of spilling that may occur if the drink jostles about.

Click here to see the Think King cup holder for rollators.

Finding a cup holder that’s compatible with the rollator is more important than finding a cup holder that accommodates the drinking glasses already in the cupboard. Spending a little effort on tracking down drinking glasses that fit the cup holder well is worth the benefits of no spills or broken glasses.

Whichever cup holder is used, it’s important to be thoughtful about where to attach it to the rollator. Those who use a tray on occasion should make sure the cup holder does not inhibit proper user of the tray. Regardless of the cup holder used, it is wise to consider purchasing tumblers and thermoses with spill-proof lids to add an extra layer of insurance against potential accidents (just be sure to verify that the tumblers and thermoses fit correctly in the cup holder!).


Walker hanging hookHanging hook – Carrying bags while trying to operate a rollator can be a challenge at best and a disaster at worst. Hanging hooks are the best solution for safely maneuvering a rollator with shopping bags, handbags, grocery sacks and other items temporarily in tow. A Velcro strap on one end attaches to the rollator frame and the hook hangs in place below ready to carry a load.

It is important to use hanging hooks that are made of durable materials that won’t fail. The Velcro strap should be made of leather and the hook itself should be metal; avoid hanging hooks with any plastic parts as they are known to break unexpectedly during use.

These hanging hooks are actually marketed for use with baby strollers, but they almost perfectly transfer to rollator use.

Click here to see the highest recommended hanging hook strap for rollators.

Hanging Hook on Rollator HandleThe ideal place to attach hanging hooks to the frame depends on the user and the type of rollator. Typically the best placement for hanging hooks is on the rollator handle shaft immediately below the handle and brake control. The tubing here runs parallel with the ground and the handle acts as a backstop to help secure the hooks.

An alternative location for hanging hooks is at the point where the backrest attaches to the rollator frame.

For rollators with traditional metal bar backrests, the hanging hooks strap around the metal A-frame tubing. This cross-section of tubing keeps the hanging hooks from sliding down the frame. For rollators with flexible backrests, the hanging hooks strap around the joint that attaches the backrest to the rollator frame. The hooks are not very likely to move since they are hanging straight down in this position.

Hanging hook placement for metal backrest rollator
Hanging hook placement for flexible backrest rollator

Silicone Self-Fusing Tape on Tubing to Secure Hanging Hook

Silicone Self-Fusing Tape on Tubing to Secure Hanging Hook

In the event the hooks do exhibit some slippage, simply apply a layer of self-fusing silicone tape around the rollator frame, extending the tape about an inch beyond both sides of the hook straps.

Once the self-fusing tape is in place the hanging hooks will have a stronger grip and be much less likely to slip.

Click here to see the highest recommended self-fusing silicone tape.

There is one important caveat to take into consideration concerning hanging hooks. When hanging items from the hooks it is very important to keep the rollator evenly balanced; the rollator shouldn’t be heavily weighed down on one side.

Uneven weight distribution will require users to overcompensate on the heavier side and develop an unnatural walking pattern.

The only exception to this rule is when transporting items on very short trips such as bringing in groceries or moving an item from one part of the house to another. And remember that it is better to take more trips with lighter loads than to overexert oneself with too much weight.


Rollator seat – Manufacturers introduced the rollator seat to provide users with a makeshift chair that they could rest on during long walks. Rollators that include seats have become the status quo for the industry, but it is important that users know how to select rollators with seats that are the proper height and width.

Proper sitting postureThe first step is to take down the user’s unique seat measurements.

Have the user wear the shoes that will most likely be warn during rollator usage.

Next, have the user sit in a back chair with hips, knees, and ankles all bending at 90 degrees. To establish these 90 degree angles, the chair must be at just the right height for the user.

If such a chair is not available, consider using a pneumatic office chair and adjusting its height to make 90 degree angles. Otherwise, use a chair that is too tall and place something flat under the user’s feet to serve as an elevated floor.

Pneumatic office chair for measuring user's ideal seat dimensions

Adjust the height of a pneumatic office chair for correct sitting posture

Place feet on a prop for correct sitting posture

Place feet on a prop for correct sitting posture

Once the user is seated properly, record the following measurements:

How to measure seat height

Seat height (floor to bottom of thigh where it meets the knee at 90 degrees)

How to measure seat width

Seat width (outermost parts of back of butt)

Compare the user’s ideal seat measurements with the rollator seat dimensions. Although no rollator can adjust its seat width and the vast majority cannot adjust the seat height, the seat dimensions do not have to exactly match the user’s ideal seat measurements.

Most find that seat heights and widths that are within a few inches of their ideal measurements are more than suitable, especially considering that rollator seats are intended more for temporary breaks than extended sitting.

Users who are concerned about the size of a particular rollator seat should, as best as possible, simulate the dimensions of the seat and test it out for themselves.

A seat’s size and level of padding is usually directly related to the rollator’s weight-capacity rating. Lightweight rollators typically have thin, small seats since they are intended for smaller users. Likewise, bariatric rollators typically have thick, large seats to accommodate heavier users.

This is not a hard and fast rule, though, so always evaluate the seat padding and dimensions before selecting a rollator.

Click here to see the highest recommended standard height rollator.
Click here to see the highest recommended tall height rollator.
Click here to see the highest recommended petite height rollator.


Rollator backrest – There are two types of rollator backrests: one is a fixed metal bar with a padded cover and the other is a flexible fabric strap.

Rollator with metal tubing backrest
Rollator with flexible backrest

The fixed metal bar is the traditional backrest and, while it does provide sufficient support, it is not height adjustable. The flexible fabric strap is the latest type of backrest and usually its height can be adjusted within a certain range.

Click here to see the highest recommended rollator with a fixed metal bar backrest.
Click here to see the highest recommended rollator with a flexible fabric strap backrest.

As far as functionality goes, most backrest heights will be suitable for most users. Those with very short or long torsos would most benefit from being able to customize the height of the backrest.


Folded rollatorFolding feature – Users who intend on taking their rollators on car trips should verify that the rollator is able to fold up. Find out what the dimensions of the rollator are when folded and see if it fits inside the car trunk or back seat.

Also, learn how the rollator is made to fold and consider if the user could do so fairly easily. See if the basket or other parts must first be removed before the rollator can fully fold. Some rollators are able to still roll on their wheels after being folded, which makes it easier for users to move since the rollators can be rolled rather than carried.

It’s important to truly evaluate how cumbersome it would be for the user to fold up and transport the rollator before making a purchasing decision.

Click here to see the highest recommended folding rollator.


Rollator basket – Rollators come standard with baskets that attach to the frame. These baskets give users a convenient place to store and transport various items while operating their rollators.

Rollators either have metal wire-frame baskets or fabric/mesh baskets. Both basket types get the job done, but the fabric baskets are typically better for two reasons. First, items that may fall through the framework of metal wire baskets will stay inside fabric baskets. Second, fabric baskets can collapse when the rollator is folding up, while metal baskets often need to be removed first before the rollator can fold up.

Bariatric rollator

Rollator with metal wire-frame basket

Lightweight rollator

Rollator with fabric basket

Users who opt for fabric baskets should check to see if there are zippers or buttons to seal the top of the basket shut. Some rollators use the seats as covers for the baskets. Having a means to close the basket is good for privacy.

Lastly, make sure the basket attaches well enough to the rollator that any vibrations of the rollator in motion do not cause the basket to jostle loose.

For metal wire baskets, look for a rubber or vinyl coating on the portion of the basket that attaches to the rollator frame. This coating helps keep the basket in place and also prevents the basket from rattling. For fabric baskets, look for plastic locking mechanisms, Velcro straps, or ties that secure the basket to the rollator.


Bicycle flashlight for rollatorFlashlight – A bicycle flashlight that clamps onto the rollator frame is a great solution for providing visibility in the dark and at nighttime. Bicycle flashlights are very powerful and durable.

When shopping for a bicycle flashlight, make sure its clamp is compatible with the diameter of the rollator’s tubing. Also, look for a bicycle flashlight that is easy to operate with large buttons.

Click here to see the highest recommended bicycle flashlight for rollators.
Click here to see the highest recommended compatible bicycle flashlight mount holder for rollators.


Cane holder for rollatorCane holder – A cane holder that clamps onto the rollator frame is very handy for users who switch to a cane when negotiating stairs or entering particularly tight spaces where the rollator cannot fit.

The same hardware used to hold a bicycle flashlight can also function as a cane holder, but be sure to verify that the clamp can accommodate the diameter of the cane it must hold.

Click here to see the highest recommended cane holder for rollators.


Features to avoid

Rollator transport chairHybrid rollator transport chair – In an effort to help consumers consolidate equipment, the minds behind mobility aids came up with a new design: rollators that double as transport chairs.

If the user became fatigued while walking an especially far distance, then someone could actually safely push the user in the hybrid rollator to continue the walk as opposed to having to stop and wait for the user to regain strength. While conventional rollators do have seats, they are actually only meant for stationary sitting.

Furthermore, if the user’s needs were to change so that a transport chair became necessary, then there would be no need to purchase a new piece of equipment.

Although the theory behind the hybrid rollator transport chair is sound, the performance falls short. The biggest issue with these hybrid rollator models is how hard they are to push when users are sitting in the chair. Hybrid rollators’ wheels and their mechanical components simply are not of the same caliber as traditional transport chairs.

Also, some dual rollator transport chairs have foot rests next to the rear wheels that can get in the way of the user’s feet when walking.

Users may have to deviate from their walking patterns to avoid kicking the obtrusive foot rests and, consequently, develop a less-than-ideal gait.

The notion of having multiple unique pieces of equipment may seem unappealing, but the solutions that perform the best are those that specialize in addressing a specific set of problems. Avoid equipment that attempts to be a one-size-fits-all solution; stick to buying rollators that are meant to solely be rollators and transport chairs that are only meant to be transport chairs.


Three-wheel rollator – Manufacturers produced three-wheel rollators to offer consumers a lighter and narrower option than what was then available in the marketplace. Since the three-wheel rollator’s inception, though, manufacturers have developed streamlined four-wheel rollators that almost completely replace the benefits once only offered by three-wheel rollators. There are now four-wheel rollators that weigh less and have a narrower overall width than their three-wheel counterparts.

The one truly unique component that three-wheel rollators have is their shape. This triangular shape doesn’t necessarily give three-wheel rollators any advantage when it comes to fitting through doorways because the overall width is just as wide, or even wider, than four-wheel rollators.

Three wheeled rollator width
Four wheeled rollator width

Nonetheless, the three-wheel rollator shape does actually allow users to advance the front of the rollator into tight spaces where a four-wheel rollator would not have fit.

Unfortunately, any benefits that users could glean from the three-wheel rollator shape is completely negated by its instability. Three-wheel rollators are very prone to tipping for two reasons.

First, the single front wheel doesn’t provide enough weight to counterbalance the two rear wheels. Second, the handles are place at the rear of the rollator, which exacerbates this weight imbalance. As a result, the front of the rollator can easily raise off the ground when users apply weight on the handles. This creates a very unsafe situation that could result in users falling backward onto the ground or forward onto the rollator.

While the ability to slide the front of a three-wheel rollator into some narrow spots may be appealing, it simply isn’t worth the accompanying risk of tipping over. Users looking for lightweight and narrow-framed rollators should stick to the stable four-wheel rollators that meet those criteria.


What to know before buying

Buying a rollator that best fits the height of the user is of utmost importance. Some measurements will need to be taken to determine the proper rollator handle height for a user. Users should have a family member, friend, or some other assistant help take down these measurements.

Measuring rollator heightMake sure the user is wearing the shoes that will be worn while using the rollator. The user should stand up straight with arms hanging freely on each side. Measure the distance from the floor to the crease of the user’s wrist.

When shopping for a rollator, make sure this measurement falls within the handle height range for the rollator. The height increments for rollators are typically an inch apart, so keep in mind that the handles may ultimately be slightly shorter or slightly taller than the user’s ideal measurement. This minute level of difference generally will not have any impact on the user’s comfort.

If forced to choose between the rollator being slightly shorter or slightly taller, it’s always best to err on the side of taller. Handles that are too tall require more effort from the user to push the rollator, but handles that are too short may require the user to lean and can actually disrupt the gait of the user.


Unfortunately, there is no single rollator available that can work in all circumstances, so many users find it convenient to have multiple rollators that are interchanged based on the setting.

Lightweight rollator

Lightweight rollator

For example, lightweight rollators are generally ideal for everyday use at home because they are easy to maneuver. Heavy duty rollators, on the other hand, are more durable and can hold up well to long trips and traversing outdoors.

Using the light rollator at home can help reserve energy while subjecting the rollator to very little wear. Employing the heavy rollator outdoors and on trips can help users tackle difficult terrain more easily without reliability concerns.

If a light duty rollator were used primarily outside, then its lifespan would likely drop significantly simply because it isn’t built to withstand that kind of treatment.

Heavy-duty rollator

Heavy-duty rollator

Designating a heavy duty rollator as the default for inside the home may tire the user unnecessarily since its durability and additional weight aren’t needed.

Furthermore, the width of rollators is generally related to their strength, so lighter models can typically fit into spaces in the home that heavier models cannot.

Public spaces are required to meet A.D.A. standards, though, so even heavy duty rollators typically do not have any trouble navigating in public areas.

This is why light duty rollators are best for use at home and heavy duty rollators are best for use elsewhere.

Click here to see the highest recommended economy lightweight rollator.
Click here to see the highest recommended premium lightweight rollator.
Click here to see the highest recommended economy heavy-duty rollator.
Click here to see the highest recommended premium heavy-duty rollator.

Bariatric users should know that there is also a range of light to heavy duty bariatric rollators available, so this same principle of having a variety of rollators to suit each scenario applies to bariatric rollators as well.

Click here to see the highest recommended lightweight bariatric rollator.
Click here to see the highest recommended heavy-duty bariatric rollator.

Those who have multiple levels in their homes may want to consider placing a rollator at the landing of each stairway. This allows users to climb the stairs while using a cane and transferring to a rollator immediately upon reaching the new floor level.


ToolsAll rollators involve various degrees of assembly, some requiring significant hand strength. Users with low dexterity should arrange to have a helper assemble the rollator.

Although the assembly of many rollators are marketed as being “tool-free,” it is prudent to have a set of tools handy just in case.

Parts may have come loose during shipment, so verify that all the rollator components are securely in place before use.


It may be tempting to scoot around while sitting in the rollator seat by walking backward or forward, but resist the urge. First, rolling backward in this manner may result in bumping into something since the user cannot see what is directly behind. It is better to spend the extra effort it takes to stand up and properly use the rollator than risk knocking over a lamp or bumping the back of one’s head.

Second, the rollator wheels can actually roll into and over users’ feet when scooting forward. This can cause injury to the feet, especially when barefoot or only wearing socks.

Scooting forward in this fashion requires users to lean forward on the rollator seat. A moment of imbalance can actually result in the user falling forward out of the rollator seat.

Follow proper technique and guidelines when using rollators to stay safe.


How to use a rollator properly

Correct form when using a rollator is key for maintaining the proper walking gait, preventing trips and falls, and expediting recovery from an injury. Correct form includes an upright stance and a slight 20 to 30 degree bend in the elbows.

Users should push the rollator forward and the weak leg (if applicable) forward at the same time.

The strong leg then steps forward and propels the user’s body into the rollator between the two handles as much as possible without bumping into the seat.

Those who find it challenging to keep proper form should consider using a knee walker, manual wheelchair, or power wheelchair instead of a rollator.

How to use a rollator properly

Bend elbows at 20 to 30 degrees and lead with weak leg


Rollator users who need to navigate stairs should follow the protocols for ascending and descending stairs with the assistance of a cane and handrail. The combination of a cane for one hand and the handrail for the other is arguably the best method for navigating stairs.

To help learn proper technique, remember this helpful phrase: “up with the good, down with the bad.” While ascending the stairs, hold onto the stair railing with one hand and the cane in the other hand.

Ascending: With one hand holding the cane and the other hand holding the stair railing, lift the good, or unaffected, leg onto the first step. Establish balance and then lift the bad, or affected, leg onto the step while relying on the cane and stair railing for support. Finally, bring the cane up onto the same stair.
Ascend stairs with cane

Step up with the “good”

Descending: With one hand holding the cane and the other hand holding the stair railing, lower the bad, or affected, leg onto the first step while relying on the cane and stair railing for support. Establish balance and then lower the good, or unaffected, leg onto the step. Finally, bring the cane down onto the same stair.
Descend stairs with cane

And step down with the “bad”

Rollator users should have a rollator on each level of their homes at the landing of each set of stairs so they can easily transition from the cane back to a rollator.

Remember: in the event that one side of the body is weak or injured, cane and rollator users must be able to bear at least partial weight on the affected side. Those who are unable to bear any weight on a certain side need to use a knee walker, manual wheelchair, or power wheelchair. Instructions for how to navigate stairs with these other mobility aids are discussed in their respective sections.


Recommended supplementary products and home modifications


Knee Walker (aka Knee Scooter)


Purpose

A knee walker, or knee scooter, supports one non-weight-bearing leg and utilizes the walking motion of the other leg to provide mobility.

Knee scooters are ideal for those who are recovering from a broken foot, Achilles tendon rupture, bunion surgery, or some other condition affecting anywhere below the knee of one leg. The unaffected leg must be strong enough to propel the knee walker and keep the user balanced.

Compared to rollators, knee walkers provide much less stability because the user only has one leg in contact with the ground at any given moment.

Additionally, there is a greater risk of falling because a knee scooter is much more apt to get away from the user than a rollator. Knee walkers definitely offer users significant balance assistance, but not to the same level as walkers and rollators.

Those with serious balance issues, two non-weight-bearing legs, or an unaffected leg that isn’t able to safely operate a knee walker should look into getting a manual wheelchair or a power wheelchair.


Must-have Features

Adjustable-height handles – Correct knee walker handle height is necessary for proper posture, good balance, and maximum comfort. Therefore, height-adjustable handles is a must-have feature for customizing the knee walker to fit the user. There are two types of height-adjustable handles for knee walkers.

Tightening clamps compress onto the handle tubing and hold it in place. Tightening clamps fold down in one simple motion to securely lock the handle tubing. Some users may need help from a capable assistant with strong hands to lock the tightening clamp before using the knee walker.

Screw-through bolts insert through the handle tubing and use a tightening knob to lock the height setting. Screw-through bolts do require manual tightening, but very little torque is needed to adequately secure the bolt.

Adjustable height knee walker handle with tightening clamp

Adjustable height knee walker handle with tightening clamp

Adjustable height knee walker handle with screw-through bolt

Adjustable height knee walker handle with screw-through bolt

Screw-through bolts are easier to adjust than hand-tightened clamps, but users with poor dexterity may need assistance, nonetheless. Keep this in mind when planning the purchase and set-up of the knee walker.

Click here to see the highest recommended knee walker with adjustable height handles featuring a screw-through bolt.


Adjustable-height knee cushion – The ability to adjust the height of the knee pad is absolutely essential because a correctly positioned cushion brings proper posture, good balance, and maximum comfort.

Adjustable-height knee cushions have two types of locking mechanisms: lynch-pin with tightening clamp and screw-through bolt.

Adjustable height knee walker cushion with lynch-pin tightening clamp

Adjustable height knee walker cushion with lynch-pin tightening clamp

Lynch-pins with tightening clamps utilize a dual-lock method. First, a lynch-pin is inserted through the knee cushion’s metal tubing have a latch that folds down to cinch around the metal tubing of the knee cushion and hold the knee cushion in place. Folding and unfolding the tightening clamp may be challenging for those with weak hands, so consider having a helper when initially setting the height of the knee cushion.

Adjustable height knee walker cushion with screw-through bolt

Adjustable height knee walker cushion with screw-through bolt

Screw-through bolts thread into the metal tubing of the knee cushion to secure the knee cushion. Users must twist the handle of the bolt until tight to ensure that the knee cushion is locked. Those who may have trouble with the twisting wrist motion should arrange for a capable assistant to set the height of the knee cushion before use.

Click here to see the highest recommended knee walker with an adjustable height knee cushion featuring a lynch-pin tightening clamp.
Click here to see the highest recommended knee walker with an adjustable height knee cushion featuring a screw-through bolt.


Hand brakes with park brake function – Since knee walkers are completely on wheels, it is absolutely necessary that they feature a set of hand brakes to help users stay in control. Knee scooters can feature one hand brake or two.

Models with a single hand brake utilize a mechanism that clamps down on a wheel disc, similar to how a car’s disc brakes operate. Stopping this disc consequently stops both wheels that share the disc, so only one hand brake is needed.

Knee walkers with two hand brakes operate independently of each other, so both hand brakes should be engaged at the same time to stop the wheels on both sides.

Knee walker with disc brake

Knee walker with one disc brake. One hand brake operates both rear wheels.

Knee walker with direct brakes

Knee walker with two direct brakes. One hand brake for each rear wheel.

If one hand has diminished function, then knee scooters with a single hand brake is a great solution to allow the user to still operate the knee scooter safely. The side that the hand brake is on can be adjusted to fit the user’s needs.

Some users may prefer dual hand brakes because it feels more natural to apply both hand brakes rather than just one. Choose whatever best suits the user.

Hand brakes can be engaged to reduce speed when descending a ramp or maneuvering through a tight space.

Click here to see the highest recommended knee walker with a single hand brake.
Click here to see the highest recommended knee walker with dual hand brakes.


In addition to slowing speed, the hand brakes should also be able to stay locked so users can park the knee walker. Knee walker brakes lock in one of two ways: pull-down hand brakes or push-button lock.

Knee walker with pull-down parking brake handles

Pull the hand brakes down to lock the wheels and safely park the knee walker

Knee walker with push-button parking brake handle

While holding the hand brake, push the small lock button to park the knee walker wheels

With the hand brakes locked, users can transfer onto and off of the knee cushion without the scooter moving out from under them. When transferring onto or off of the knee cushion, always park the knee scooter on a smooth, level surface.

Please note that even with the hand brakes locked, most, if not all, knee walkers still exhibit some movement as users lower onto and lift off of the cushion. Usually any such movement is too minor to be of serious concern, however, it is important to know that under certain conditions knee walkers with locked brakes can actually move significantly enough to pose a real safety hazard.

The brakes work best when users place their weight down onto the knee cushion. With weight pushing down onto the knee walker, the wheels are more fully pressed into the ground. As a result, the wheels are tightly locked in place by virtue of being sandwiched between the brakes and the ground.

When the brakes are locked and little to no weight is applied downward onto the cushion, any slight force that pushes forward or sideways can cause the knee scooter to skid.

The weight of the knee walker itself also plays a part in how easily it can be moved when the brakes are locked. The heavier the knee walker, the less prone to skidding. Users should be aware of this when shopping for knee scooters.

Click here to see the highest recommended knee walker with pull-down handle parking brakes.
Click here to see the highest recommended knee walker with push-button parking brakes.


Features to consider

All-terrain knee walker – All-terrain knee walkers are meant to be used when traveling outside. The bigger pneumatic set of wheels is what makes all-terrain knee walkers capable to handle the unpredictable bumps and debris that litter outdoor terrain.

Standard knee walkers have wheels that are 6 to 8 inches in diameter; all-terrain knee walkers have wheels that are 10 to 12 inches in diameter.

Conventional knee walkers are actually very dangerous to use outside because they don’t have the necessary stability. A sidewalk joint, loose pebble, and bumpy lawn can jar hands free from the grips and send users for a spill.

All-terrain outdoor knee walker

All-terrain outdoor knee walker with large, pneumatic tires

All-terrain knee walkers absorb these potential hazards more readily and help keep users safely in control. So, those who intend on frequently leaving the home and traveling on various surfaces outside should seriously consider acquiring an all-terrain knee scooter.

Click here to see the highest recommended all-terrain knee walker.

While all-terrain knee walkers can certainly be used indoors, this is not recommended.

Conventional knee walkers typically are narrower, lighter, and easier to maneuver than all-terrain knee walkers, so they are better suited for navigating through a home’s rooms and doorways.

Not to mention, the larger wheels of all-terrain knee scooters can really drag in a lot of muck from outside.

Reserve the standard knee walker for indoor use and utilize the all-terrain knee walker when outdoors.

Click here to see the highest recommended indoor knee walker.

Indoor knee walker

Indoor knee walker with smaller, solid tires


Bicycling gloves – Bicycle gloves are ideal for protecting hands and increasing grip on the handles. The pressure of supporting body weight and the friction from holding the handles can debilitate users’ hands. Bicycle gloves can benefit all users, but those with thin skin and weak hands should make it a priority to wear bicycle gloves while operating a knee walker.

When selecting a pair, look for half-finger gloves made of a lightweight, breathable material with padded palms.

Bicycling gloves with breathable top material
Bicycling gloves with padded palms

Heavily-padded gloves can be too bulky and make it difficult to keep a strong grip on the handles. On the other hand, gloves that are extremely lightweight may not have enough padding to offer adequate protection. Try to strike a good balance between padding and weight.

Click here to see the highest recommended bicycle gloves for knee walker use.


Knee cushion cover – Using a knee walker requires that a large portion of bodyweight be placed on the affected leg’s knee and shin.

While all knee scooter cushions are padded, some users may still find the cushions to be lacking in comfort. Covers are available to wrap over the knee pad to offer extra support and relieve pressure on the leg.

There are two kinds of knee cushion covers: memory foam and synthetic sheepskin.

Memory foam knee walker cushion cover
Covers made with memory foam mold around the user’s leg and add to the overall thickness of the knee cushion.

The memory foam is sewn into a fabric lining, so the texture may be a little more abrasive than the vinyl exterior of knee cushions.

Faux sheepskin knee walker cushion coverSynthetic sheepskin covers offer users a softer, plusher knee pad, but the overall support remains mostly unimproved.

Faux woolette covers are best for those seeking a change in the texture of the knee pad while memory foam covers are best for those wanting additional support.

Users who want both the softer texture and the extra support can actually use the covers together at the same time.

Before purchasing a cover, though, be sure verify that the cover size is compatible with the knee walker’s existing knee cushion. Buying a cover made by the same manufacturer of the knee walker is generally safe, but it is always worth double-checking.

And if buying a cover from a different company, then it is especially important to compare the dimensions of the cover to the dimensions of the knee walker cushion to confirm a good fit.

Click here to see the highest recommended memory foam knee walker cushion cover.
Click here to see the highest recommended synthetic sheepskin knee walker cushion cover.


Knee walker with basketBasket – A knee walker wire-frame basket allows users to carry important items with them wherever they go. Things like a phone, e-reader, medications, books, and more can be kept on-hand at all times.

In fact, a basket is the best way to transport drinks while operating a knee walker. The steering column and handles of a knee scooter twist and move too quickly for a typical cup holder to manage; drinks can easily be sent to the floor while maneuvering the knee walker. A basket, however, is tall enough to keep drinks from falling.

Click here to see the highest recommended knee walker with a basket.
Click here to see the highest recommended replacement knee walker basket.

There are two important caveats to heed when carrying drinks in a knee walker basket.

Water bottle for knee walker basketFirst, the movement of the steering column and handles can toss cups around within the basket. Prevent spills by only using closed, unbreakable containers such as plastic water bottles and stainless steel thermoses.

Second, drinks can be secured with a little modification to the basket. Rubber shelf lining placed at the bottom of the basket can increase traction.

Cup holder for knee scooter wire basketAnd a simple metal wire cup holder can sit inside the basket to keep bottles in place. The wire cup holder can hook onto the basket frame or users can zip-tie the cup holder to the basket for a tight fit.

Click here to see the highest recommended metal wire cup holder for knee walkers.

Users who want a basket should look for knee scooters that already include a basket. Those who need to purchase a basket separately should check to see if the manufacturer of the particular knee walker also makes baskets that are compatible with its knee walker.

Typically knee walker frames are designed to support the hardware needed to mount baskets.

Knee scooter hanging basketFor knee scooters that do not support baskets, consider purchasing a bicycle basket that uses its own mounting brackets to hang from the knee walker handles and strap onto the steering column.

Click here to see the highest recommended bicycle basket for knee walkers.

There are fabric bags that use Velcro straps to hang from the handlebars, but these have a tendency to break unexpectedly. The Velcro straps of these hanging bags simply do not have enough strength to keep the bag securely attached.

Unfortunately, the walker bags that hang over the front walker frame cannot work in this application because the bag extends too far and obstructs the handles and handbrakes. Avoid the fabric bags and choose a metal wire-frame basket instead.

Finally, do not weigh down the basket too much because this can create a top-heavy scenario that increases the risk of the knee walker tipping over.


Features to avoid

Seated knee walkerSeated “knee” walker – Users who are unable to bend or bear weight on the affected leg cannot use knee walkers. To make accommodations for this circumstance, manufacturers developed the seated “knee” walker that allows users to sit down and rest the injured leg on a front support bar.

While the changes in design successfully overcome the inability to bend and place weight on one’s knee, they also introduce new problems that make these seated walkers potentially dangerous to use.

With true knee walkers, the user’s weight constantly shifts back and forth from the knee of the affected leg to the unaffected leg. Shifting balance in this fashion actually helps users remain stable; this is, after all, the normal way to walk. With seated walkers, however, the user’s weight always remains on the chair.

How weight shifts when using a knee walker

With each step, the user’s weight shifts from the peddling leg to the affected leg

How weight is distributed on a seated knee walker

All the weight is concentrated on the bottom of the affected leg

When pushing the seated walker forward with the unaffected leg, users must take care to transfer very little weight and balance onto the unaffected leg because otherwise the user may lean too far, lose balance, and fall off the seat.

Therefore, users must balance all of their weight on the seat without the benefit of transferring that weight onto their unaffected leg. When sitting still, it is easier to remain balanced while seated than it is standing on one knee or leg. During movement, though, it is easier to remain balanced while alternating briefly between one knee and the other leg than it is sitting upright for an extended period of time.

Riders have a higher risk of tipping and falling on a seated walker than on a true knee walker.

Another concern with seated walkers is the inability to stay in control. Because users are seated, it can be easy to accidentally coast and gather too much speed to safely handle. Conventional knee walkers are much safer because it is relatively easy to eliminate coasting; users place their weight down with each step, and the unaffected leg is basically acting as a sort of speed governor. As long as users do not intentionally withhold stepping down with the unaffected leg, users can remain in control with knee walkers.

When choosing between a knee walker and a seated “knee walker,” stick with the former. But, as mentioned earlier, those who must keep their affected legs straight cannot use standard knee walkers. Instead, these users must turn to manual wheelchairs or power wheelchairs to meet their needs.


What to know before buying

Buying a knee walker that best fits the height of the user is of utmost importance. Some measurements will need to be taken to determine the proper handle and knee cushion heights for a user. Users should have a family member, friend, or some other assistant help take down these measurements.

Measuring knee walker heightMake sure the user is wearing the shoes that will be worn while using the knee walker. The user should stand up straight with arms hanging freely on each side. Measure the distance from the floor to the crease of the user’s wrist.

When shopping for a knee scooter, make sure this measurement falls within the handle height range for the knee scooter. For some knee walkers, the handle height increments are an inch apart, so keep in mind that the handles may ultimately be slightly shorter or slightly taller than the user’s ideal measurement. This minute level of difference will not have any impact on the user’s comfort.

If forced to choose between the handles being slightly shorter or slightly taller, it’s always best to err on the side of taller. Slightly taller handles require more effort from the user to push the knee walker, but slightly shorter handles may require the user to lean and can actually disrupt the gait of the user.


Measuring knee walker cushion heightTo measure the ideal knee cushion height, have the user wear the shoes that will be worn while using the knee walker and stand next to a table or desk to hold onto with one hand for support. While holding onto the nearby table, have the user bend the affected leg at the knee at a 90 degree angle. Measure the distance from the floor to the bottom of the user’s bent knee: this is the user’s ideal knee pad height.

Adjustment increments for knee cushions are almost always an inch apart, so once again, keep in mind that the cushion may ultimately be slightly shorter or slightly taller than the user’s ideal measurement. As with the handles, an inch difference between the user’s ideal cushion height and the actual height typically isn’t enough to have any real impact on comfort.

If forced to choose between the cushion being slightly shorter or slightly taller, in this case it’s actually better to err on the side of shorter.

A slightly taller cushion may require the user to lift the foot of the unaffected leg off the ground so that the affected leg can reach the cushion. This weakens the user’s only direct contact point with the floor and makes operating the knee scooter more difficult and less safe.

A slightly shorter cushion, on the other hand, may require the user to partially bend the unaffected, standing leg. Users may find this to be less than ideal, but there is no loss in safety or function.

Click here to see the highest recommended small adult knee walker.
Click here to see the highest recommended tall adult knee walker.


Those using a knee walker have one leg that is non-weight-bearing and, therefore, cannot use a cane to walk upstairs. Instead, knee walker users must use ramps, vertical platform lifts, or stair lifts at floor level changes.

When shopping for a knee walker, consider the home modifications that must be made to the living environment so that the user has necessary access. If all of the above listed solutions for stairs are too time-consuming and/or expensive to implement, then consider moving the rooms and items from the upper floors down to the first floor.

Keep in mind, though, that users must always have access to at least one entrance and exit in the home.


When traveling outside, only operate the knee walker with both hands on the handles. Do not attempt to carry something with one hand and operate the knee walker with the other because outdoor terrain is simply too unpredictable. A brief moment of unpreparedness could mean a fall and potentially a serious injury.

When using the knee walker inside, though, it is okay to use one hand to carry a plate or other small item, albeit only for a very brief moment. This is only recommended for users who are capable of maneuvering the knee walker safely with one hand and who do not need to hold both handles to stay balanced.

Users who are unable to carry a plate of food while operating the knee walker with the other hand should consider using a manual wheelchair or a power wheelchair instead.


ToolsKnee walkers have more moving parts and components than canes, walkers, and rollators, so it is important to periodically check for any loosening that may have occurred. Keep these parts tightened to maintain the longevity and safety of the knee walker.

Tightening these parts may require strong hands and a set of tools, so those who need assistance should make arrangements for a capable assistant to evaluate the knee walker on a regular basis.


Avoid wearing loose clothing that dangles down and could possibly get caught in the wheels when operating a knee walker. Should a piece of clothing get caught, the knee walker could halt abruptly and cause the user to fall.


How to use a knee walker properly

How to properly use a knee walkerAlways lock the parking brakes before transferring onto and off of a knee walker. Hold both handles to steady the knee scooter and place the affected leg’s knee onto the knee cushion.

When doing this, do not put any significant body weight on the handles. Placing too much weight on the front handles before the knee is pressing down on the cushion can cause the knee walker to tip because of the weight imbalance.

Establish balance on the knee walker, release the hand brakes, and begin maneuvering.

Always come to a complete stop on a level surface before transferring on and off the knee walker.


To propel the knee walker, push against the ground with the unaffected foot and step forward.

When first learning how to navigate, start by taking small steps straight ahead; don’t push the knee walker with too much force and don’t try to turn. After becoming comfortable with small steps, experiment with taking larger steps forward.

Next, incorporate making small turns when taking a step and graduate to sharper turns. Tighter turns may require users to perform a multi-point turn, which involves alternating forward and backward passes in order to make the turn. When moving in reverse, it is important not to lean backwards and lose balance; take small steps and go slowly.

Even for less capable users, the learning curve is fairly short and it won’t take long to master the skills necessary to safely maneuver a knee walker.


Floor area rugCarrying items in one hand while operating the knee walker with the other should only be done when using the knee walker inside on a smooth, level floor. Do not travel over throw rugs, doorway thresholds, or flooring transition pieces when a single hand is being used to maneuver the knee walker.

These obstacles on the floor can cause enough of a bump that the handle is jarred loose and the user can lose control of the knee walker. Also, when carrying a plate of food or some other small item, keep the trip very short to mitigate risk.


Keep speed to a minimum when operating a knee walker. When travelling too fast the knee walker can get out of control and get away from users. Be cautious when going up and down hills and ramps so that the knee walker doesn’t tip forward or backward.

Exercise care at the bottom of inclinesDepending on the size of the wheels, the angle of the incline, and the speed the user is traveling, the intersection of the bottom of an incline and level ground can be a sticking point for the wheels.

This can be especially dangerous when descending because if the wheels stick then the knee walker can abruptly stop and send the rider forward.


To slow down and stop, apply gradually increasing pressure to the hand brakes until reaching the desired speed or stopping completely.

Tightening the brakes fully will stop the wheels and, if moving quickly, could stop the knee walker immediately while the momentum sends the user forward.


Recommended supplementary products and home modifications


Manual Wheelchair


Purpose

Manual wheelchairs give mobility to those who are unable to walk due to significant balance issues, two non-weight-bearing legs, a recent surgical procedure, severe fatigue, or the inability to safely operate other mobility aids that require greater strength and control. Manual wheelchairs provide the most stability of all mobility aids because users are able to sit.

To correctly operate a manual wheelchair users must have enough upper body strength to propel the wheelchair and enough coordination to maneuver turns. Users can also move in the wheelchair by pedaling their feet against the ground.

Those who need the support of a manual wheelchair, but do not have the physical ability to operate it, should consider a power wheelchair.


Must-have Features

Wheelchair hand brakeAccessible hand brakes – Both wheels of the wheelchair absolutely must have hand brakes that the user can easily access and operate. These brakes lock the wheels in place and keep the chair from moving. As a matter of safety, users should always engage the hand brakes when they transfer onto and off of the wheelchair.

Before using a new wheelchair, users should first inspect the hand brake tension by trying to lock the brakes. If the tension is too tight, then users will find it difficult to muster up enough strength to engage the brakes.

If the tension is too loose, then the brakes won’t lock the wheels well enough to keep the chair from moving. Users should enlist the help of a family member or friend to adjust the tension accordingly.

Also, the hand brake may be just beyond the reach of some users or far enough away that operating the brake is challenging.

If such is the case, consider replacing the stock hand brake with an extended handle.

Wheelchair brake extension

Be aware, though, that an extended handle may stick out on both sides and increase the overall width of the wheelchair.

Contact the manufacturer or retailer before purchasing the extended handle to determine approximately how much extra width it might add to the wheelchair. Compare this new overall width to doorway and hallway clearances and verify that adding the extended handle won’t block access to certain rooms and areas of the house.

Click here to see the highest recommended wheelchair hand brake extension handle.


Full-length armrests – A wheelchair with full-length armrests ensures that users have enough room to comfortably relax their arms while sitting.

Furthermore, full-length armrests offer the most support during transfers. Users need the armrests to be close so they can push off of them when standing up and grab hold of them when sitting down.

Only select a wheelchair with full-length armrests.

Wheelchair with full-length armrests

Click here to see the highest recommended wheelchair with full-length armrests (16 inch seat).
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Click here to see the highest recommended wheelchair with full-length armrests (20 inch seat).


Flip-back or removable armrests – Full-length armrests may prevent users from scooting up close enough to tables to work and eat. Therefore, the wheelchair armrests must be able to swing backwards out of the way or be removed altogether.

Wheelchair with flip-back armrests
Make sure the armrests employ a tool-free, push-button system so users can easily remove or flip the armrests backwards independently.

Swing-away and removable armrests are also useful for making lateral transfers easier. Without the armrests blocking access, users can transition to and from a bed, chair, or other seated position quickly and safely.

Click here to see the highest recommended wheelchair with flip-back armrests (16 inch seat).
Click here to see the highest recommended wheelchair with flip-back armrests (18 inch seat).
Click here to see the highest recommended wheelchair with flip-back armrests (20 inch seat).


Swing-away, removable front riggings – Front riggings on a wheelchair offer users a place to rest their feet and legs. When lowering onto and rising up from the wheelchair, these front riggings can block access.

Therefore, all front riggings should be able to swing out of the way to give users a clear approach to sitting and standing.

Wheelchair with swing-away footrests

Front riggings should also be removable so that those who use their feet to roll the wheelchair can push off the floor.

Users who intend to propel the wheelchair by pedaling their feet against the ground should, nonetheless, purchase a wheelchair with front riggings. Though a user may not initially have need for the front riggings, it is prudent to have the corresponding front riggings available should the need arise. Users may experience times when resting their feet and legs would provide needed relief, so it is important to have a wheelchair’s particular front riggings available during those moments.

Click here to see the highest recommended wheelchair with swing-away front riggings (16 inch seat).
Click here to see the highest recommended wheelchair with swing-away front riggings (18 inch seat).
Click here to see the highest recommended wheelchair with swing-away front riggings (20 inch seat).


Wheelchair with adjustable length front riggingsAdjustable-length front riggings – A wheelchair’s front riggings should be adjustable to customize the foot or leg rests to the user’s body.

If the front riggings are too long, then the user’s feet won’t reach the rests and cause strain on the pelvis and abdomen. If the front riggings are too short, then too much of the user’s body weight will force down painfully on the user’s bottom.

Positioning the front riggings correctly is essential for maintaining good health and avoiding fatigue.

While there are certain measurements that users can take to help them find the best-fitting wheelchair, the correct front riggings length is simply too difficult to determine in advance without the user sitting in the wheelchair itself. Therefore, it is necessary that the front riggings be adjustable to match to the length of the user’s legs.

Click here to see the highest recommended wheelchair with adjustable-length front riggings (16 inch seat).
Click here to see the highest recommended wheelchair with adjustable-length front riggings (18 inch seat).
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Note that many wheelchairs, especially bariatric models, do not include a set of front riggings, so users must purchase the compatible front riggings separately. Be aware of whether or not a particular wheelchair includes a set of front riggings before ordering.

Click here to see the highest recommended replacement front riggings.


Full-height backrest – A full-height backrest helps stabilize wheelchair users and delivers relief to muscles in the back and abdomen. Wheelchairs with half-height backrests require users to sustain an upright seated position with their own strength, which can cause users to fatigue much more quickly than they would in a chair with a full-height backrest.

Some users may not have the core strength to sit upright while operating a wheelchair even for short trips. Choose a wheelchair with a full-height backrest to ensure it offers adequate support.

Wheelchair with full-height backrest


Features to consider

Adjustable-height armrests – Of all the features to consider, adjustable-height armrests are the closest to being a must-have feature. Adjustable-height armrests can be very useful in ensuring that users have accessible armrests to push off of and grab onto when standing and sitting.

Also, correct armrest height helps users maintain proper sitting posture; too high causes hunching and too low offers no support.

Many users will find that wheelchairs with fixed-height armrests are satisfactory and do not disrupt their posture. Users with unusually long or short arms, though, may find that they are better off customizing the armrest height to fit their bodies.

Click here to see the highest recommended wheelchair with adjustable-height armrests (16 inch seat).
Click here to see the highest recommended wheelchair with adjustable-height armrests (18 inch seat).
Click here to see the highest recommended wheelchair with adjustable-height armrests (20 inch seat).


Lightweight wheelchair – Wheelchairs that are made to be particularly lightweight compared to other models can make it easier for users to push and maneuver the wheelchair. Lightweight models make loading the wheelchair into the car easier, too.

To cut down on wheelchair weight, manufacturers typically use lightweight materials and a streamlined construction method with fewer total materials. These changes to the wheelchair can reduce its weight capacity, so be sure to verify that a particular lightweight wheelchair can support the user’s weight.

In some cases, manufacturers decrease the size of the seat to help drop a wheelchair’s weight. Always check the seat width, depth, and height of a wheelchair before ordering.

Click here to see the highest recommended lightweight wheelchair.


Bariatric wheelchair – Bariatric wheelchairs are capable of supporting significantly more weight than standard wheelchairs. The weight capacity of a conventional wheelchair is typically between 200 to 300 pounds while the weight capacity of a bariatric wheelchair can range from 300 to 700 or more pounds.

Bariatric wheelchairs usually weigh more than standard wheelchairs because they are made of heavy materials and more materials are required for adequate reinforcement. For this reason, bariatric wheelchairs can be harder to roll and carry.

Click here to see the highest recommended bariatric wheelchair (20 inch seat).
Click here to see the highest recommended bariatric wheelchair (22 inch seat).
Click here to see the highest recommended bariatric wheelchair (24 inch seat).

Bariatric wheelchair
The seat dimensions of bariatric wheelchairs are generally proportional to the weight capacity; as the maximum weight capacity increases, the seat size also increases.

Be careful to find a wheelchair that not only accommodates the user’s weight but body size as well.

With that being said, many bariatric wheelchairs may be too large to fit through doors and corridors in users’ homes. Compare the measurements of the wheelchair to the doorway and hallway clearances throughout the home to see if the wheelchair is too large to fit. If the wheelchair is too large, consider expanding the doorways to make the home more accessible.

In some instances, though, it may not be feasible or even possible to widen doorways and corridors. As an alternative, consider relocating certain rooms to parts of the home that are already accessible or can more easily be changed to be accessible.

The key takeaway here is to be mindful of the impact that wheelchair size on access within the home.

Click here to see the highest recommended bariatric wheelchair with extra-wide seat (26 inch seat).
Click here to see the highest recommended bariatric wheelchair with extra-wide seat (28 inch seat).
Click here to see the highest recommended bariatric wheelchair with extra-wide seat (30 inch seat).


Hemi wheelchair kit
Hemi kit – Users of shorter stature may find that they need a lower seat height that is only available with wheelchairs that are outfitted with a hemi kit.

A hemi kit is basically smaller front casters and rear wheels that effectively drop the wheelchair seat height.

Standard wheelchairs with adjustable-height seats typically have a seat height range from about 17 to 19 inches. Hemi wheelchairs drop the seat height range to about 15 to 17 inches.

Some manufacturers and retailers sell wheelchairs that have already been shortened with a hemi kit. Others sell the hemi kit separately and users must modify their wheelchairs themselves.

Users should take seat measurements (see below) before making a purchase to determine what wheelchair height is best.

Click here to see the highest recommended hemi wheelchair conversion kit.
Click here to see the highest recommended hemi wheelchair footrests.


Seat cushion – Wheelchair seat cushions can increase users’ comfort, improve posture, and provide pressure relief. When it comes to cushion material, there is no shortage of options. When shopping for a cushion, make sure that its measurements match the wheelchair seat measurements.

It is important that the cushion fit properly on the seat to avoid bunching and insufficient coverage, both of which can be uncomfortable and disrupt a user’s posture.

Seat cushions can be made of foam, gel, liquid, air, or any combination of these four materials. Furthermore, seat cushions can be flat or contoured.

Flat wheelchair seat cushion
Contoured wheelchair seat cushion

Each person’s needs and preferences are unique, so there isn’t a single type of seat cushion that works for all users in all cases. Whatever the cushion, it is vital that its bottom have either Velcro strips to attach to the wheelchair seat or straps to tie to the wheelchair frame.

Wheelchair cushion with ties and strap
Hook and loop tape

If a particular cushion has neither Velcro nor straps, then purchase a cushion cover of a compatible size that has a fastening system or apply corresponding adhesive Velcro strips to the bottom of the cushion and the top of the wheelchair seat. A cushion should be secured onto the seat to prevent it from falling and to avoid any accidents that may occur from a user misjudging where the seat is due to an askew cushion.

Each type of cushion has its advantages and disadvantages that users should take into consideration when deciding which one is best for them.


Foam cushions tend to provide the firmest support; be careful to only purchase a high end foam cushion, though, because cheaper foam can gradually lose its elasticity until it becomes nothing more than a squashed shape.

Foam cushion for wheelchair seat
Foam cushions come in a very wide range of 2 to 6 inches in thickness, which is very helpful to users who need a cushion to increase the wheelchair seat height.

Foam cushions of good quality are very durable and require little to no maintenance.

Those who are unable to find a wheelchair with a tall enough seat can strategically use a foam cushion to set the wheelchair seat at the proper height.

Click here to see the highest recommended 2.5 inch high foam wheelchair seat cushion.
Click here to see the highest recommended 4 inch high foam wheelchair seat cushion.
Click here to see the highest recommended 6 inch high foam wheelchair seat cushion.


Cushions filled with gel, liquid, and air do not offer as firm of a surface as foam cushions, but they do provide superior relief at points of pressure where users can develop skin breakdown from sitting for extended periods of time.

Gel-filled cushion for wheelchair

Gel-filled cushion

Liquid-filled cushion for wheelchair

Liquid-filled cushion

Air-filled cushion for wheelchair

Air-filled cushion

Liquid and air cushions are less durable than foam and gel cushions, though, because punctures can render them useless.

Air-filled cushions also must be constantly monitored for incidental air loss and refilled when needed.

Air cushion inflation pump

Inflation pump for air cushions

Liquid, gel, and air cushions have a thickness range of about 2 to 4 inches, which doesn’t reach as thick as some foam cushions. Those who decide on a liquid, gel, or air cushion but need a taller wheelchair seat can actually place a foam cushion directly below to raise the seat height.

Click here to see the highest recommended gel-filled wheelchair seat cushion.
Click here to see the highest recommended liquid-filled wheelchair seat cushion.
Click here to see the highest recommended air-filled wheelchair seat cushion.
Click here to see the highest recommended air pump for air-filled wheelchair seat cushions.
Click here to see the highest recommended multi-fill wheelchair seat cushion.

Just make sure that both cushions are fastened to the chair in some way to keep them from shifting around. One possible solution to keep the top cushion attached to the bottom cushion is to apply corresponding heavy duty Velcro adhesive strips to top and bottom cushions.

Click here to see the highest recommended Velcro adhesive strips.

Some wheelchair seats experience sagging after prolonged use and can make sitting in the wheelchair very uncomfortable. For those who need to fix a sinking wheelchair seat, consider adding a convex wheelchair seat cushion to make the seat flat and firm again. Any other seat cushion can then be placed on top just as it normally would be positioned.

Click here to see the highest recommended convex wheelchair seat support cushion.

Finally, pay attention to the cushion’s maximum weight capacity to verify that it can support the user. Choosing a cushion that isn’t strong enough for the user may cause it to flatten or puncture.


Elevating, articulating leg rests – Most, but not all, wheelchairs include front riggings of either foot rests or leg rests. Leg rests have cushions along their entire length, which give users more support than just the bottom plates of foot rests.

Manual wheelchair with foot rests

Foot rests

Manual wheelchair with leg rests

Leg rests

Those who tire very easily or have weak leg muscles may find leg rests serve their needs better than foot rests.

Wheelchair with elevating & articulating legrests
Furthermore, some leg rests have hinges that enable them to lift up and elevate a user’s legs.

This elevating feature can be of huge benefit to those recovering from a knee surgery or broken leg who need to regularly raise their legs to prevent swelling or alleviate discomfort.

Elevating leg rests should also articulate, which means the overall length of the leg rest extends when elevated. A bended knee actually shortens the lower half of the leg, so an extended leg is longer and needs the leg rest to lengthen with it.

Click here to see the highest recommended wheelchair with elevating leg rests (16 inch seat).
Click here to see the highest recommended wheelchair with elevating leg rests (18 inch seat).
Click here to see the highest recommended wheelchair with elevating leg rests (20 inch seat).

Elevating leg rests are also available with bariatric wheelchairs:

Click here to see the highest recommended bariatric wheelchair with elevating leg rests (20 inch seat).
Click here to see the highest recommended bariatric wheelchair with elevating leg rests (22 inch seat).
Click here to see the highest recommended bariatric wheelchair with elevating leg rests (24 inch seat).

The stock leg rests that come with wheelchairs do not always articulate, so a compatible set of articulating, elevating leg rests may need to be purchased separately.


Adjustable seat height and depth – Before ordering a wheelchair, users should first determine their optimum seat height (see below) so they can be sure that the wheelchair fits them properly. Nonetheless, some users may like their wheelchairs to have adjustable seat height and depth settings to account for any possible margin of error.

When it comes to maintaining proper posture, seat depth isn’t as important of a setting as seat height, but it can still have an impact on a user’s comfort. Those who want to create as close to a custom-fitting wheelchair as possible should find a model with an adjustable seat height and depth.


Adjustable backrest height and angle – A standard wheelchair backrest is 16 inches tall and is perpendicular to the ground, forming a 90 degree angle with the seat.

Adjustable backrests can range from 15 to 19 inches tall and can usually tilt back as far as 20 or even 30 degrees.

The majority of users will find that the stock backrest height and angle suit their needs just fine. Those with particularly long or short torsos, though, may benefit from an adjustable-height backrest that can raise or lower to offer more comfort.

Wheelchair with adjustable angle backrest

Click here to see the highest recommended wheelchair with an adjustable backrest (16 inch seat).
Click here to see the highest recommended wheelchair with an adjustable backrest (18 inch seat).
Click here to see the highest recommended wheelchair with an adjustable backrest (20 inch seat).

Also, those who are at a higher risk of experiencing skin breakdown may find that periodically adjusting the backrest angle can redistribute their body weight and alleviate pressure that develops from sitting in the same position for extended periods of time.

Users should consider if a backrest with an adjustable height and angle is right for them.


Lever propulsion – Manually rolling a wheelchair can be difficult for some users, especially those with poor dexterity and upper body strength. One way to make moving the wheelchair easier is by attaching a lever to each wheel that propels the wheelchair when cranked. Cranking levers is much more ergonomic and easier on the shoulders and wrists compared to propelling the wheelchair by pushing the handrims.

These levers must be bought separately from the wheelchair and attached by the user. Note well that some lever drives cannot move the wheelchair backwards, so users must still be able to push the handrims or kick their feet against the ground to go in reverse.

Finally, not all wheelchairs can accept lever propulsion systems; users who plan to use this add-on feature must be sure to verify compatibility before ordering a particular wheelchair.

Click here to see one lever propulsion system available for wheelchairs.


Back cushion – Back cushions can offer users added comfort and much needed support to keep an upright seated posture. There are two different types of back cushions available: standard and lateral.

Users who are simply looking for some extra padding should opt for a standard back cushion. Whereas, those who slouch and favor one side should turn to lateral back cushions to help with sitting up straight and tall.

Standard back cushion for wheelchair

Standard back cushion

Lateral cushion for wheelchair

Lateral cushion

Be sure to verify that a cushion is compatible with the user’s wheelchair before ordering. Consider the cushion’s thickness and how much space it will take up on the seat. Make sure there is enough room for the user to comfortably fit in the seat with the addition of the cushion.

Finally, always check to see that the back cushion’s weight capacity rating is adequate for its user.

Unlike seat cushions, which are made from a several kinds of materials, back cushions are only made out of foam. Back cushions tend to last longer than seat cushions since there is less concentrated weight bearing down on them.

Click here to see the highest recommended standard wheelchair back cushion.
Click here to see the highest recommended lateral wheelchair back cushion.
Click here to see the highest recommended lateral positioning wheelchair back cushion.


Cane holder for wheelchairCane holder – Wheelchair users who are capable of walking with a cane should consider purchasing a cane holder that clamps onto the wheelchair frame. When users need to negotiate stairs or enter particularly tight spaces where the wheelchair cannot fit, they can seamlessly switch to the cane that is attached to the chair.

Manufacturers in the industry have produced cane holders for wheelchairs, but a better solution may be the clamps that bicyclists use to attach flashlights to their bike frames.

Although not their intended purposes, these flashlight clamps perform very well as cane holders; just be sure to verify that the clamp can accommodate the diameter of the cane it must hold before ordering.

Click here to see the highest recommended cane holder for wheelchairs.


Cup holder – A cup holder that attaches to the wheelchair allows users to keep a drink on hand wherever they go. Some wheelchair lap trays feature cup slots to help with carrying drinks to the dining table, but it would be burdensome for users to lug around a tray until they finish the drink. Trays are great for temporary uses, but users who like to have a drink with them are better off with a permanent cup holder that attaches to the wheelchair.

Winner Cup Holder for WheelchairThere are plenty of options when it comes to wheelchair cup holders, but only three are worth considering. First, for wheelchairs that have round tubing with an outside diameter of 1 inch or less, the Winner® drink holder is the best option available.

The Winner® drink holder features a platform on which cups can rest along with an adjustable-width stabilizer that helps hold cups in place.

Folded Winner Cup Holder for WheelchairMost cups, even those with extremely wide diameters and bases, are compatible with the Winner® drink holder. Finally, the Winner® drink holder folds up when not in use, which is a great feature for reducing its obtrusiveness.

Click here to see the highest recommended cup holder for manual wheelchairs.


Cuda's Customs Cup HolderThe second-best option for wheelchair cup holders is the Cuda’s Customs universal cup holder. Although most wheelchairs are made of round tubing with an outside diameter of 1 inch or less, there are some models with square tubing and/or tubing that is wider than 1 inch.

This “universal” application feature is what really makes the Cuda’s Customs cup holder so useful; it can attach to round or square tubing up to 1¼ inches thick.

Users who have wheelchairs with tubing that is less than 1 inch in diameter can simply build up the diameter to an acceptable width by wrapping self-fusing silicone tape around the tubing; this solution works for both of the cup holders mentioned.

The major drawback of Cuda’s Customs universal cup holder is its inability to keep drinks snuggly in place. The Cuda’s Customs cup holder has a double-cylindrical base rather than a flat base (like the Winner® drink holder base). The inner base has a diameter of 2 ⅝ inches and the outer base that sits above has a diameter of 3 ½ inches.

Applying Silicone Self-Fusing Tape to Build up Tubing Diameter

Applying Silicone Self-Fusing Tape to Build up Tubing Diameter

Cuda's Customs Cup Holder Parts
Cuda's Customs Cup Holder Assembly

Although many sizes of cups can fit into the Cuda’s Customs cup holder, only cups of a certain diameter will fit tightly enough not to rattle around or tip while the wheelchair is in use. It’s recommended to those using the Cuda’s Customs cup holder to purchase glasses and cups that properly fit inside the cup holder; not doing so may result in spills and drops.

Click here to see the Cuda’s Customs cup holder for wheelchairs.


Think King Cup HolderFor wheelchairs with tubing that is rectangular and/or larger than 1 ¼ inches it is best to use Think King®’s soft buggy cup holder. Think King®’s cup holder attaches to the wheelchair with two Velcro straps.

Think King Cup Holder Attachment StrapsThe straps make the cup holder more universal in application because it can fit wheelchair frames of various sizes and shapes, but the Velcro isn’t as secure as the fastening methods offered by the previous two cup holder options.

Also, because Think King®’s cup holder is soft-shell, drinks are less likely to stay upright while on the go. Therefore, it’s best to use water bottles, tumblers, or thermoses with lids to prevent any type of spilling that may occur if the drink jostles about.

Click here to see the Think King cup holder for wheelchairs.

Finding a cup holder that’s compatible with the wheelchair is more important than finding a cup holder that accommodates the drinking glasses already in the cupboard. Spending a little effort on tracking down drinking glasses that fit the cup holder well is worth the benefits of no spills or broken glasses.

Whichever cup holder is used, it’s important to be thoughtful about where to attach it to the wheelchair. Those who use a lever hand drive to propel the wheelchair should make sure the cup holder does not inhibit the use of the lever. Likewise, do not attach the cup holder in a place that blocks the user’s access to manually push the handrims.

Finally, consider purchasing durable Tervis tumblers and thermoses with spill-proof lids for an added layer of insurance against potential accidents (just be sure to verify that the tumblers and thermoses fit correctly in the cup holder!).


Lap tray – A lap tray gives users a flat surface for carrying plates of food, drinks, and other items. Lap trays can even function as a makeshift table for eating, using a laptop, or writing when a more suitable work surface isn’t available.

When choosing a wheelchair tray it is most important that users are able to set up and remove the tray without requiring assistance from a helper or fussing with tools.

The only tool-free trays available in the marketplace fasten to the armrests using Velcro. Unfortunately, this method of attachment is neither user-friendly nor particularly secure.

The Velcro attaches to the very back of the armrests, which can be a difficult place for a seated user to apply the Velcro.

Wheelchair lap board with Velcro straps

Since the tray fastens around the armrest, the Velcro can get snagged on the user’s hand, clothing, or something else and unexpectedly come loose. Furthermore, the Velcro straps can detach as a result of too much weight being placed on the tray.

Wheelchair lap boardAs counterintuitive as it may seem, wheelchair trays that simply rest on a user’s lap are better than those that Velcro onto the armrests.

These lap trays should be completely made of a non-slip material so that it stays on the user’s lap and also holds items on top. Lap trays free up a user’s hands to push the handrims.

Those who propel the wheelchair by pedaling their feet against the ground only need to hold onto the tray to keep it level while moving.

With lap trays, there’s no need to wrestle with attaching and detaching like with other trays.

Click here to see the highest recommended wheelchair lap tray.
Click here to see the compatible lap tray mug holder.
Click here to see the compatible lap tray drink holder.


Tote bag – Tote bags are helpful for keeping certain items handy for wheelchair users wherever they go. Avoid tote bags that take up seat and armrest space; these areas must remain clear for the comfort and stability of the user. Instead, find a tote bag that fastens to the back of the wheelchair frame.

Wheelchair with tote bag

Shallow pockets give maximum accessibility

Wheelchair tote bag access

Position the tote so users can reach items while sitting

The tote bag should not be so high or low on the back of the wheelchair that it is difficult to access.

Use a shallow tote bag, so that items that rest on the bottom are still within reach.

Finally, the tote bag should have an open top. With the tote bag being on the back of the wheelchair, trying to unzip or unbutton the bag will be extremely difficult, if not impossible.

Before purchasing a tote bag, compare the overall measurements with the wheelchair dimensions to make sure that it stretches far enough to fasten across the frame.

Click here to see the highest recommended wheelchair tote bag.


Folded wheelchairFoldable – Those who intend on using their wheelchairs on trips outside of the home should consider finding a model that is foldable. Wheelchairs that can fold up are much more likely to fit into a car’s trunk or back seat than those that cannot.

Additionally, lifting a folded wheelchair is much easier than lifting one that is open.

In most cases, the users themselves won’t be the ones to do the carrying. Even still, the family members, friends, and neighbors who will be doing the heavy lifting will appreciate a foldable wheelchair.

Most chairs in the marketplace are foldable, so it should be easy to find this feature.

Click here to see the highest recommended foldable wheelchair with 16 inch seat.
Click here to see the highest recommended foldable wheelchair with 18 inch seat.
Click here to see the highest recommended foldable wheelchair with 20 inch seat.
Click here to see the highest recommended bariatric foldable wheelchair with 20 inch seat.
Click here to see the highest recommended bariatric foldable wheelchair with 22 inch seat.
Click here to see the highest recommended bariatric foldable wheelchair with 24 inch seat.


Vehicle lift – As an alternative to the arduous task of personally loading up a wheelchair into a car, consider installing a vehicle lift. Vehicle lifts can reduce, or even completely eliminate, the effort it takes to transport a wheelchair by vehicle.

There are two kinds of vehicle lifts: manual and power.


Manual vehicle lifts mount onto a car trailer hitch, so users with cars that do not have a trailer hitch must first purchase and install one.

A manual vehicle lift requires the user to tilt the wheelchair platform to form a ramp, roll the wheelchair onto the tilted platform, lift the platform back up into a level position, and tighten the top fastening clamp to secure the wheelchair.

Manual Vehicle Wheelchair Lift
Manual Vehicle Lift Carrying Wheelchair

These tasks may be too much for many users to handle on their own, so a helper may be needed to load up the wheelchair for a trip.

 

Click here to see the highest recommended manual vehicle lift for wheelchairs.


A power vehicle lift also mounts to a car’s trailer hitch but involves hardly any physical effort at all. The power lift lowers at the push of a button, and users need only to roll the wheelchair onto the platform once it is flush with the ground. Many users will be capable enough to load up their manual wheelchairs onto a power vehicle lift independently.

Always check the width and length of the vehicle lift platform to make sure it can accommodate the user’s wheelchair. Also, be sure to verify that the weight rating for the vehicle lift is high enough for the wheelchair.

Power Vehicle Wheelchair Lift

Click here to see the highest recommended power vehicle lift for wheelchairs.


One thing to bear in mind before purchasing a vehicle lift: the wheelchair must be able to fold up for it to properly load onto the lift. Therefore, users who intend to use the lift without any outside help must be able to fold up the wheelchair.


Features to avoid

Desk length armrests – Desk length armrests are supposed to allow users to roll up closer to a table than would be possible with full length armrests. While desk length armrests may accomplish this goal of getting closer to tables, many users may find that “closer” still isn’t close enough.

When users want to truly roll up close to a table, the best option is to use flip-away or removable armrests.

Wheelchair with desk-length armrests

The bigger issue with desk length armrests, though, is that they do not offer users a long enough surface to push off and grab hold of when rising from and lowering onto the wheelchair. It is very important that armrests are near the edge of the wheelchair seat as this is where users need the most support when sitting and standing.

For most users, desk length armrests are so far behind them that they have to start lowering onto the seat before they can grab hold of the armrests. Instead of gradually lowering onto the seat, users basically fall into the chair and risk injury from the force and jolt of the fall.

Desk length armrests fail to give users adequate support when standing up and can cause users to flounder when trying to rise.

In this circumstance, users typically reach for other parts of the wheelchair frame or nearby furniture to hoist themselves up. Unfortunately, these other surfaces are not intended to act as armrests and can move or give way without warning.

Furthermore, a user’s hands are more prone to slipping off of these surfaces since they are not positioned to properly give support.

A hand slip and an unsteady surface can lead to falls and potentially serious injuries. Avoid desk length armrests and opt for flip-away or removable full length armrests.


Footboard – The front riggings on some wheelchairs is a footboard rather than two independent foot or leg rests. While a footboard performs the same basic function as foot and leg rests, it is less flexible because it doesn’t allow users to adjust the settings for a single leg. Any changes in the footboard’s height or length impacts both legs whereas adjustments made to a foot or leg rest’s height and length can be made independently of the other foot or leg rest.
Wheelchair with foot board

This is important for users who need to raise only one leg such as in the case of a broken leg in a cast. This degree of customization may not be necessary for a user initially, but it is wise to have such foot or leg rests in place should the need arise.


Low backrest – Wheelchairs with half-height backrests are intended for highly active users with excellent trunk strength and stability. Wheelchairs with low backrests do not provide adequate support to users who need to rely on the backrest to maintain good sitting posture and provide relief.

Stick with wheelchairs that have high backrests.

Wheelchair with low backrest


What to know before buying

Proper sitting postureThe first step before shopping for a wheelchair is to determine the seat size that the user needs.

Have the user wear the shoes that will most likely be warn during wheelchair usage.

Next, have the user sit in a back chair with hips, knees, and ankles all bending at 90 degrees. To establish these 90 degree angles, the chair must be at just the right height for the user.

If such a chair is not available, consider using a pneumatic office chair and adjusting its height to make 90 degree angles. Otherwise, use a chair that is too tall and place something flat under the user’s feet to serve as an elevated floor.

Pneumatic office chair for measuring user's ideal seat dimensions

Adjust the height of a pneumatic office chair for correct sitting posture

Place feet on a prop for correct sitting posture

Place feet on a prop for correct sitting posture

Once the user is seated properly, record the following measurements:

How to measure seat height

Seat height (floor to bottom of thigh where it meets the knee at 90 degrees)

How to measure seat width

Seat width (outermost parts of back of butt)

Compare the user’s ideal seat measurements with the wheelchair seat dimensions. The seat dimensions do not have to exactly match the user’s ideal seat measurements, but they should be close. Users who are concerned about the size of a particular wheelchair seat should, as best as possible, simulate the dimensions of the seat and test it out for themselves.

A seat’s size and level of padding is usually directly related to the wheelchair’s weight-capacity rating. Lightweight wheelchairs typically have thin, small seats since they are intended for smaller users. Likewise, bariatric wheelchairs typically have thick, large seats to accommodate heavier users. This is not a hard and fast rule, though, so always evaluate the seat padding and dimensions before selecting a wheelchair.

Also, keep in mind that some wheelchairs have adjustable settings for the seat height and depth. Those who are more comfortable buying a wheelchair with some built in flexibility should find a model that allows for seat adjustments.


Wheelchair users need the help of ramps, vertical platform lifts, or stair lifts at floor level changes. When shopping for a wheelchair, keep in mind the home modifications that must be made to the living environment so that the user has necessary access.

If all of the above listed solutions for stairs are too time-consuming and/or expensive to implement, then consider moving the rooms and items from the upper floors down to the first floor.

Keep in mind, though, that an entrance and exit to the home is absolutely necessary. One of the aforementioned solutions must be used to circumvent step-ups and stairs at the entrance and exit of the house.


Avoid wearing loose clothing that dangles down and could possibly get caught in the wheels when operating a wheelchair. The wheels could get stuck on a piece of clothing and take away the user’s ability to move the wheelchair until the clothing is removed.


ToolsPeriodically check the wheelchair for any parts that may have loosened from use. Keep these parts tightened to maintain the longevity and safety of the wheelchair. Tightening these parts may require strong hands and a set of tools, so those who need assistance should make arrangements for a capable assistant to evaluate the wheelchair on a regular basis.


How to use a manual wheelchair properly

The first thing to learn before using a wheelchair is how to transfer safely onto and off of the seat.

Ensure the wheelchair is on a flat, level surface and that both hand brakes are locked.

Back up until the back of both legs touch the edge of the wheelchair seat and reach back to grab hold of the armrests.

Slowly lower onto the seat while keeping an upright posture with a neutral neck position.

After getting comfortable in the seat, users only need to release both wheel brakes and they are ready to go.

How to properly use a manual wheelchair

To rise up from a wheelchair, come to a complete stop on a smooth, level surface and engage both wheel brakes. Scoot up to the middle of the seat and place both hands on the armrests.

While maintaining an upright posture, push off of the armrests with both hands and rise into a standing position. Leave the wheels locked so the wheelchair is prepared for safely transferring back onto the seat.


There are three ways to propel a wheelchair.

The traditional method of moving a wheelchair is by pushing the handrims in the direction the user wishes to travel.

Rotating the handrims in different directions spins the wheelchair in place.

Pushing only one handrim turns the wheelchair in the opposite direction.

A second way to propel a wheelchair is with aftermarket lever hand drives.

These levers attach to the wheelchair axle and move the wheels when they are cranked. The way the wheelchair moves is the same, but cranking the levers replaces pushing the handrims. The levers are more ergonomic and easier on users’ wrists and shoulders.

Furthermore, users can generate much more power with levers than with conventional handrims.

If propelling a wheelchair with the handrims is troublesome, then consider using lever hand drives instead.

Not all levers can propel the wheelchair in reverse, though. Those who use lever hand drives should be able to push the handrims or kick their feet against the ground to go backwards. Many users rely on a wheelchair because of some condition that affects their legs and the ability to walk. Some, however, are still able to move their legs with enough force to propel the wheelchair by pushing their feet against the ground.

Finally, users with a weak upper body who are unable to push the handrims or crank lever hand drives may be able to pedal their feet instead. Furthermore, pushing the wheelchair by pedaling gives those who normally use handrims or lever hand drives an opportunity to rest their chest, shoulders, arms, and wrists. Be careful not to lean too far forward and accidentally fall out of the seat when pedaling, though.

To help remain in the wheelchair seat, hold onto the armrests for stability while pedaling.


Floor area rugPushing a wheelchair over area rugs, doorway thresholds, and floor transition pieces can require more strength than some users can muster. If such is the case, consider doing away with area rugs, installing low-profile doorway thresholds, and lowering floor transition pieces to make traveling throughout the home easier.


Be cautious when going up and down hills and ramps so that the wheelchair doesn’t tip forward or backward. Avoid particularly steep inclines that are too difficult to climb and can cause the wheelchair to dangerously careen out of control during descent.

If steeper hills are unavoidable, consider installing anti-tippers to guard against falling forward and backward. Also, consider only tackling these hills with the assistance of a helper to control the speed of the wheelchair.

Wheelchair with anti-tippers


Slowing down and stopping a wheelchair is all about controlling momentum. Users can slow down simply by reducing the force and frequency of pushing the handrims and, as the wheelchair speed slows, stopping is just a matter of grabbing hold of the handrims and applying some resistance.

Bicycling gloves with padded palmsWheelchair gloves can help protect users’ hands when grabbing onto the handrims.

The hand brakes that lock the wheels are not to be used for dropping speed or bringing the wheelchair to a halt. Misusing the hand brakes in this way can cause damage to the wheelchair and possibly injuring.

Those who use lever hand drives actually have a brake built into the levers; by applying inward pressure, the levers press a brake against the wheels to slow them down and eventually bring the wheelchair to a stop.

Click here to see the highest recommended wheelchair gloves.


Recommended supplementary products and home modifications


Power Wheelchair


Purpose

Power wheelchairs give mobility to those who are unable to walk due to significant balance issues, two non-weight-bearing legs, a recent surgical procedure, severe fatigue, or the inability to safely operate other mobility aids that require greater strength and control, including manual wheelchairs.

Power wheelchairs provide the same superior stability as manual wheelchairs with an added benefit: they require almost no effort to operate. All that’s needed to successfully operate a power wheelchair is the ability to use a control panel of push buttons and a joystick to direct the movement of the wheelchair.


Must-have Features

Mid-wheel drive – There are three kinds of drives for power wheelchairs: front-wheel, rear-wheel, and mid-wheel.

Power Wheelchair with Mid-Wheel DrivePower wheelchairs with mid-wheel drive offer the smallest turning radius, which is very important when it comes to navigating in tight spaces throughout the home. Furthermore, a mid-wheel drive power wheelchair is the easiest of the three to drive as it mostly resembles how users actually walk: with their feet centered below their body.

Navigating a front- and rear-wheel drive power wheelchair is more challenging because users must account for the back and front of the chair, respectively, when trying to make a turn through a door or hallway clearance.

In the past, mid-wheel drive power wheelchairs struggled to perform well in outdoor settings with uneven terrain. Significant improvements have been made since then, though; so much so that handling inclines and bumpy surfaces is essentially a non-issue for mid-wheel drive models.

Power wheelchairs with mid-wheel drive are the most versatile, navigable, and user-friendly option available.


Flip-up armrests – Flip-up armrests allow users to raise the wheelchair armrests and push them backwards so that they are no longer blocking the sides of the chair.

For users who are able to make a lateral transfer from the power wheelchair onto a bed, chair, or toilet, the armrests must first flip back to give them access. But even those who are not able to perform a lateral seated transfer need to ensure their power wheelchair has flip-up armrests.

Power Wheelchair with Flip-Up Armrest

When approaching a table or counter, the armrests may bump into the edge of the surface and keep users from sitting as close as needed.

Approaching Table with Power WheelchairIn such a case, users must be able to move the armrests out of the way in order to have access to tables and counters.

Since the control panel that operates the power wheelchair is mounted onto one armrest, this particular armrest must remain down to keep the controls within reach.

The way to keep this armrest down and still get close to a table is by lining up the power wheelchair so that the control panel is just beyond the side of the table.

Then flip up the other armrest and advance the power wheelchair to as close to the counter as is desired.

Be aware of legs, base cabinets, or other supports positioned in the corner of tables and counters that may prevent users from rolling up close to the surface.

If the existing table has legs that block the user’s chair, consider replacing it with some kind of pedestal table in which the support is centered under the table rather than placed at the corners.

Bottom line: make sure the power wheelchair has flip-up armrests that will enable users to sit as close to tables and counters as possible.


Power Wheelchair ControllerControls on side of functional hand – The control panel and joystick that operate the power wheelchair must be placed on the armrest of the user’s most capable hand.

Users can denote on which armrest the controls should be mounted when ordering the power wheelchair.


Power Wheelchair Manual Flip-Up Footrest

Flip-Up Footrest

Unobtrusive riggings – Users must have clear floor space directly in front of the power wheelchair in order to safely lower onto and rise up from the seat.

Some power wheelchairs feature a fold-up foot rest that can move out of the way when users are sitting down and standing up.

The problem with this type of foot rest is that it requires users to bend down very low to fold it up and down. And users cannot stand on fold-up footrests because they are suspended above the ground to give the wheelchair clearance over thresholds and uneven terrain.

Power Wheelchair Footrest Ground Clearance

Ground clearance

Standing on a fold-up footrest would break it, therefore, each time users sit and stand they must manually fold the foot rest.

Unfortunately, the majority of those who need to use a power wheelchair are not able to safely bend down in this fashion. So, while a folding foot rest satisfies the need to be unobtrusive, it is not at all user-friendly.

As alternatives to a folding foot rest, there are two other kinds of front riggings that are better-suited to meet users’ needs.

Power Wheelchair with Manual Swing-Away FootrestsFirst, consider swing-away leg rests that users can push to the sides when sitting and standing.

Swing-away leg rests still require the user to bend and reach slightly forward, but they are significantly more accessible than folding foot rests.

Second, consider power elevating leg rests that can completely lower to be flush with the ground.

Power Wheelchair with power elevating legrests

Lower the legrests until flush with the ground

With power elevating leg rests, users simply use the control panel to lower the leg rests until they are flush with the ground and then place their feet onto the foot plates when sitting and standing.

Since the foot plates are supported by the floor underneath, placing weight directly onto them while sitting and standing does not cause any damage.

If users were to place their weight onto the leg rests while they were still elevated above the floor, though, the leg rests would break since they are not made to bear the full weight of users.

Be aware that some power wheelchairs may include swing-away or power elevating leg rests and some may not. For those models that include neither swing-away nor power elevating leg rests, users must purchase the preferred front riggings option separately as an add-on item. Pay close attention when shopping to ensure that the wheelchair will have the right kind of unobtrusive front riggings.


Adjustable-length front riggings – The length of a power wheelchair’s front riggings should be adjustable to customize to the user’s legs. If the front riggings are too long, then the user’s feet won’t reach the rests and cause strain on the pelvis and abdomen. If the front riggings are too short, then too much of the user’s body weight will force down painfully on the user’s bottom.

Positioning the front riggings correctly is essential for maintaining good health and avoiding fatigue. While there are certain measurements that users can take to help them find the best-fitting power wheelchair (see below), the correct front riggings length is simply too difficult to determine in advance without the user sitting in the chair itself. Therefore, it is necessary that the front riggings be adjustable to match to the length of the user’s legs.

Power Wheelchair with manual adjustable-length front riggings

Adjustable-length leg rests that feature manual tightening bolts

The process for customizing the front riggings to the user depends on the type of front riggings. Swing-away leg rests use a manual process. The leg rests telescope in and out of the front riggings and are held in place by tightening bolts. These bolts must be loosened to allow the leg rests to slide up and down. While sitting in the chair, users should employ the assistance of a relative or friend to set the length of swing-away leg rests and tighten them in place with the bolts.

Any future adjustments to the length of the swing-away leg rests will again require outside assistance. For example, if a user switches to a thicker seat cushion that effectively raises the seat height, then a helper will be needed to shorten the length of the swing-away leg rests accordingly.

Power Wheelchair with power adjustable length front riggings

Adjustable-length leg rests that are powered by the wheelchair controls

Power elevating leg rests, on the other hand, use an automatic process. While sitting in the chair, users adjust the leg rests at the push of a button without any external assistance.

If a user needs to change the length later, it’s as simple as operating those same controls to make the necessary adjustments.

Once all of the chair settings are established, the length of the leg rests basically remains unchanged. Therefore, both types of front riggings can work, although power elevating leg rests are slightly more advantageous.

Be aware that some power wheelchairs may come with basic leg rests but are also compatible with swing-away and/or power elevating leg rests. For those models, users must upgrade the wheelchair to included the preferred front riggings option at an additional expense.


Features to consider

Swing-away controls – Consider selecting a power wheelchair with swing-away controls so users do not have to worry about properly lining up the wheelchair controls when sitting at a table or counter.

Power Wheelchair with Swing-Away ControlsAlso, the swing-away feature can place the controls in a more comfortable, accessible location for the user.

Swing-away controls use a hinged arm to rotate to the inside or outside of the armrest.

By rotating the controls out of the way, users can approach table surfaces without concern as to whether or not the controls will block access. Users who prefer the controls positioned to the right or left of the armrest can swing the controls onto whichever side suits them best.


Power Wheelchair with Power Tilt-in-SpaceTilt-in-space chair – Those with poor circulation and weak skin should look into power wheelchairs that can tilt in space. The tilt-in-space feature allows users to drastically change the angle of the chair, which helps improve blood flow and provide pressure relief.

Since the tilt-in-space function is power-operated from the control panel, users can tilt the wheelchair whenever necessary without any outside assistance.


Power seat lift – Power seat lifts raise the height of the wheelchair by several inches to allow users to access tall areas, see from a higher vantage point, and speak at eye level with others who are standing.

Users operate the power seat lift at the push of a button from the wheelchair control panel.

A wheelchair with a power seat lift can serve a user in many practical ways at home: accessing upper cabinets, utilizing the top portion of the refrigerator, working at tall counters and tables, reaching closet rods and shelves, etc.


Elevating leg rests – Elevating leg rests allow users to straighten the front riggings so that one or both legs can stretch out in a raised position. Users may need to elevate their legs to relieve swelling or promote blood circulation. Post-surgery care for any part of the leg often dictates to elevate the leg.

Consider the user’s current and known future needs when deciding if elevating leg rests are necessary.

Power Wheelchair with Power Elevating Legrest


Headrest – A headrest can offer users added comfort while also providing support for the head and neck. Headrests are either adjustable-height or fixed-height.

Power Wheelchair with Adjustable Height HeadrestAlthough fixed-height headrests are suitable in most cases, some may prefer the freedom to adjust the height to their liking. Users with unusually tall upper bodies should consider finding a power wheelchair with an adjustable-height headrest since a fixed-height headrest may not be high enough to provide enough support.

Take note that headrests do not necessarily come standard; be sure to verify that the wheelchair includes the correct kind of headrest before making a purchasing decision. This reminder may seem unnecessary, but with as many potential features a user may want out of a power wheelchair, it can be easy to overlook something even as seemingly obvious as a headrest.


Power Wheelchair with adjustable-angle backrestAdjustable-angle backrest – A backrest with an adjustable reclining angle allows users to customize the backrest for greater comfort and pressure relief. Although a fixed-angle backrest is likely suitable for most users, an adjustable-angle backrest offers more assurance that users will be able to find a comfortable sitting position on the wheelchair.

Furthermore, those who are at a higher risk of experiencing skin breakdown may find that periodically adjusting the backrest angle can redistribute their body weight and alleviate pressure that develops from sitting in the same position for extended periods of time.

Consider the user’s needs to determine if a power wheelchair with an adjustable-angle backrest would be most appropriate.


Power Wheelchair with Adjustable Height ArmrestsAdjustable-height armrests – Of all the features to consider, adjustable-height armrests are the closest to being a must-have feature. Adjustable-height armrests can be very useful in ensuring that users have accessible armrests to push off of and grab onto when standing and sitting.

Also, correct armrest height helps users maintain proper sitting posture; too high causes hunching and too low offers no support.

Many users will find that wheelchairs with fixed-height armrests are satisfactory and do not disrupt their posture. Users with unusually long or short arms, though, may find that they are better off customizing the armrest height to fit their bodies.


Seat cushion – Power wheelchairs come with either an integrated seating system or a solid pan seating system. The seat is a permanent part of the wheelchair with integrated seating systems, so the seat cushion that comes with the chair must always remain and cannot be swapped out for something different. Power wheelchairs with an integrated seating system are typically entry-level models, and as such, they almost always have the more basic manual fold-up footrest (as opposed to swing-away and power elevating footrests).

Power Wheelchair with Solid Pan Seating SystemSince users need either swing-away or power elevating footrests to ensure safe transfers, any power wheelchair with an integrated seating system (and a manual fold-up footrest) is not a viable option. Thus, a power wheelchair that has a swing-away or power elevating footrest almost always includes a solid pan seating system as well.

With a solid pan seating system, the chair itself is simply a frame to which users can attach their own custom backrest and seat cushions.

Contoured, lateral, and straight backrests are all available for power wheelchairs with pan seating systems.

Users have the freedom to try different combinations of backrests and seat cushions until they find a set-up that suits them best. And those with certain medical conditions that require special seating can receive customized instructions from a licensed therapist as to which backrest and seat cushion best meet their needs.

If the seat or backrest ever needs to be replaced, users can use the opportunity to try out different cushions if they so desire.


Bariatric power wheelchair – Bariatric power wheelchairs are capable of supporting significantly more weight than standard power wheelchairs. The weight capacity of a conventional power wheelchair is typically between 200 to 400 pounds while the weight capacity of a bariatric power wheelchair can range from 400 to 600 or more pounds.

Bariatric Power WheelchairBariatric power wheelchairs typically weigh significantly more than standard power wheelchairs because they are made of heavy materials, more materials are required for adequate reinforcement, and the chairs are bigger to accommodate larger-bodied users.

The seat dimensions of bariatric power wheelchairs are generally proportional to the weight capacity; as the maximum weight capacity increases, the seat size also increases. Be careful to find a power wheelchair that not only accommodates the user’s weight but body size as well.

With that being said, many bariatric power wheelchairs may be too large to fit through doors and corridors in users’ homes. Compare the measurements of the power wheelchair to the doorway and hallway clearances throughout the home to see if it’s too large to fit. If the power wheelchair is too large, consider expanding the doorways to make the home more accessible.

Additionally, some bariatric power wheelchairs use a front-wheel drive-train, which typically has a larger turning radius than a mid-wheel drive model. Normally a front-wheel drive power wheelchair would take second place to a mid-wheel drive chair, but if spaces within the home must already be enlarged to accommodate the bariatric power chair, then users can also take into account the slightly larger turning radius when making the home accessible.

In some instances, though, it may not be feasible or even possible to widen doorways and corridors. As an alternative, consider relocating certain rooms to parts of the home that are already accessible or can more easily be changed to be accessible.

The key takeaway here is to be mindful of the impact that power wheelchair size on access within the home.


Cup holder – A cup holder that attaches to the power wheelchair allows users to keep a drink on hand wherever they go. Some power wheelchair lap trays feature cup slots to help with carrying drinks to the dining table, but it would be burdensome for users to lug around a tray until they finish the drink. Trays are great for temporary uses, but users who like to have a drink with them are better off with a permanent cup holder that attaches to the power wheelchair.

Due to differences in the construction methods and materials of various manufacturers, no one cup holder will work for all power wheelchair brands and models. Therefore, users must evaluate the compatibility of a cup holder with their particular power wheelchair.

While a cup holder that is designed and produced by the power wheelchair’s manufacturer is sure to properly attach to the chair, it does not necessarily mean that the cup holder is ideal.

Power wheelchair cup holder - front armrestThe number one rule when it comes to purchasing a cup holder is that it is unobtrusive and does not impede users when they hold onto the armrests while sitting and standing. Most cup holders extend beyond the edge of the armrest where users can mistakenly grab onto during transfers. Placing weight onto a cup holder in this fashion will not only break the cup holder, but it will also most likely result in a fall and possible injury to the user.

Flexible, Swing-Away Drink Holder for Power WheelchairOnly use a cup holder that is positioned on the outside portion of the armrest, out of the way of both the seat and the front of the armrest.

Or find a cup holder that can swing close to the user when needed and then rotate out of the way when the user transfers into and out of the seat.


Lap tray – A lap tray gives users a flat surface for carrying plates of food, drinks, and other items. Lap trays can even function as a makeshift table for eating, using a laptop, or writing when a more suitable work surface isn’t available.

When choosing a power wheelchair tray it is most important that users are able to set up and remove the tray without requiring assistance from a helper or fussing with tools.

The only tool-free trays available in the marketplace fasten to the armrests using Velcro. Unfortunately, this method of attachment is neither user-friendly nor particularly secure.

The Velcro straps onto the very back of the armrests, which can be a difficult place for a seated user to apply the Velcro.

Wheelchair lap board with Velcro straps

Since the tray fastens around the armrest, the Velcro can get snagged on the user’s hand, clothing, or something else and unexpectedly come loose. Furthermore, the Velcro straps can detach as a result of too much weight being placed on the tray.

Wheelchair lap boardAs counterintuitive as it may seem, power wheelchair trays that simply rest on a user’s lap are better than those that Velcro onto the armrests.

These lap trays should be completely made of a non-slip material so that it stays on the user’s lap and also holds items on top.

With lap trays, there’s no need to wrestle with attaching and detaching like with other trays.

Click here to see the highest recommended power wheelchair lap tray.
Click here to see the compatible lap tray mug holder.
Click here to see the compatible lap tray drink holder.


Tote bag – Some power wheelchairs have a pouch on the backrest to store items. If this pouch doesn’t offer enough space or isn’t accessible, consider purchasing a tote bag that straps onto one of the armrests.

Power Wheelchair Tote BagSince power wheelchairs do not have a manual handrim for users to propel the chair, these tote bags that hang off of the armrest do not interfere with the function of the chair.

Furthermore, the armrest is the most accessible location on a chair to have a tote bag. Just be sure to find a tote bag that doesn’t disrupt the comfort that the padded armrest offers to the user.


Vehicle lift – Anyone who intends to use a power wheelchair on trips outside of the home should install a vehicle lift to make transporting the chair possible. There are two kinds of vehicle lifts: manual and power.


Manual Vehicle Lift for Power WheelchairA manual vehicle lift requires the user to lower the vertical portion of the wheelchair lift to form a ramp and raise the vertical part back up into a locked position once the power wheelchair is set on the platform.

Keep in mind this means that the user must be able to navigate the power wheelchair from a standing position rather than a riding position. It is never recommended to ride the power wheelchair up onto the lift platform

Click here to see the highest recommended manual vehicle lift for power wheelchairs.


A power vehicle lift, on the other hand, lowers and raises at the push of a button.

Once users lower the power vehicle lift platform until it is flush with the ground, they need only to ride the power wheelchair onto the platform and apply straps or a bracket to secure the wheelchair.

Power Vehicle Lift for Power Wheelchair - Lowered
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Power Vehicle Lift Carrying Power Wheelchair

Many users will be capable enough to load up their power wheelchairs onto a power vehicle lift independently.

Always check the width and length of the vehicle lift platform to make sure it can accommodate the user’s power wheelchair. Also, be sure to verify that the weight rating for the vehicle lift is high enough for the power wheelchair.

Click here to see the highest recommended power vehicle lift for power wheelchairs.


One final thing to bear in mind before purchasing a vehicle lift: power vehicle lifts can tow power wheelchairs either inside of the vehicle or outside of the vehicle, while manual vehicle lifts can only tow outside of the vehicle.

Power vehicle lifts that tow inside of the car may need to mount to the floor or seats in the vehicle. Truck applications mount the lift to the bed.

Click here to see the highest recommended power vehicle boom lift for power wheelchairs.

Inside Power Vehicle Lift for Power Wheelchairs
Inside Power Vehicle Lift for Power Wheelchair - Truck

Also, power vehicle lifts may require the user to fold up the power wheelchair in order to fit the chair into the vehicle.

If a power wheelchair must first be broken down with tools before it can fit inside of a car, then opt for an outside vehicle lift instead.

The time and assistance needed to disassemble a power wheelchair simply to use an inside vehicle lift doesn’t warrant the hassle.


Features to avoid

Collapsible models – In an effort to make power wheelchairs easier to transport and store, some manufacturers developed models that collapse into a more compact shape.

Foldable Power Wheelchair
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Folded Power Wheelchair

To make them more manageable to carry, these collapsible power wheelchairs weigh significantly less than conventional models. Unfortunately, this produces a chair that lacks the heavy duty materials and reinforcements necessary for quality durability standards. And the stripped down construction also makes collapsible power wheelchairs less comfortable than their standard counterparts.

Perhaps the biggest hiccup is that collapsible power wheelchairs still weigh in at 50 pounds or more and can be unruly when trying to fold/unfold. Therefore, it still requires the assistance of a very capable person to load and unload the chair for taking the chair on trips.

Although transporting a conventional power wheelchair requires purchasing a vehicle lift, the additional expense is worth the greater independence it provides.


Power Wheelchair with Front-Wheel DriveFront-wheel drive – Front-wheel drive power wheelchairs are especially capable of handling inclines and bumpy ground, but they have a larger turning radius compared to mid-wheel drive models. Despite the advantages in outdoor use, this extra turning radius is too much of a drawback since access within the home is of the highest priority.

Those who must regularly traverse particularly challenging terrain outside may consider using a front-wheel drive power wheelchair when going outdoors and using a mid-wheel drive model when inside.

This would obviously require a very significant financial outlay to purchase both pieces of mobility equipment.


Power Wheelchair with Rear-Wheel DriveRear-wheel drive – Rear-wheel drive power wheelchairs are the least stable of all the drive types because all of the weight is unevenly positioned at the back of the chair. With the drive-train components sitting at the rear of the wheelchair, the chair is more prone to tipping backwards on steep inclines. Anti-tipper wheels prevent the chair from falling backwards, but the sensation of leaning back can still be unnerving for users.

Rear-wheel drive chairs also have the largest turning radius, which can be a huge problem when trying to maneuver through doorways and corridors within the home.

Avoid rear-wheel drive power wheelchairs and stick to mid-wheel drive models.


Mobility ScooterMobility scooters – Because they perform the same basic function, mobility scooters are often mistaken to be suitable alternatives to power wheelchairs.

Compared to power wheelchairs, mobility scooters have a much larger footprint and turning radius; so much so, that mobility scooters are typically too big for indoor use. Furthermore, the smaller models that may actually fit inside a home are lacking in durability and are not rugged enough for outdoor use.

Go with a power wheelchair that can navigate within the home and has the wherewithal to take on outdoor excursions.


What to know before buying

Proper sitting postureThe first step before shopping for a power wheelchair is to determine the seat size that the user needs.

Have the user wear the shoes that will most likely be warn during power wheelchair usage.

Next, have the user sit in a back chair with hips, knees, and ankles all bending at 90 degrees. To establish these 90 degree angles, the chair must be at just the right height for the user.

If such a chair is not available, consider using a pneumatic office chair and adjusting its height to make 90 degree angles. Otherwise, use a chair that is too tall and place something flat under the user’s feet to serve as an elevated floor.

Pneumatic office chair for measuring user's ideal seat dimensions

Adjust the height of a pneumatic office chair for correct sitting posture

Place feet on a prop for correct sitting posture

Place feet on a prop for correct sitting posture

Once the user is seated properly, record the following measurements:

How to measure seat height

Seat height (floor to bottom of thigh where it meets the knee at 90 degrees)

How to measure seat width

Seat width (outermost parts of back of butt)

Compare the user’s ideal seat measurements with the power wheelchair seat dimensions. The seat dimensions do not have to exactly match the user’s ideal seat measurements, but they should be close. Users who are concerned about the size of a particular power wheelchair seat should, as best as possible, simulate the dimensions of the seat and test it out for themselves.

A seat’s size and level of padding is usually directly related to the power wheelchair’s weight-capacity rating. Bariatric power wheelchairs typically have thicker, larger seats to accommodate heavier users. This is not a hard and fast rule, though, so always evaluate the seat padding and dimensions before selecting a power wheelchair.

Also, keep in mind that some power wheelchairs have adjustable settings for the seat height and depth. Those who are more comfortable buying a power wheelchair with some built in flexibility should find a model that allows for seat adjustments.


Power wheelchair users need the help of ramps, vertical platform lifts, or stair lifts at floor level changes. When shopping for a power wheelchair, keep in mind the home modifications that must be made to the living environment so that the user has necessary access.

If all of the above listed solutions for stairs are too time-consuming and/or expensive to implement, then consider moving the rooms and items from the upper floors down to the first floor.

Keep in mind, though, that an entrance and exit to the home is absolutely necessary. One of the aforementioned solutions must be used to circumvent step-ups and stairs at the entrance and exit of the house.


Avoid wearing loose clothing that dangles down and could possibly get caught in the wheels when operating a power wheelchair. The clothing could get stuck under a wheel and cause the user to get tangled while riding or during a transfer.


ToolsPower wheelchairs usually come in about three or four main parts that the user must assemble together. Therefore, be sure to have a set of tools and a helper available to assist with setting up the power wheelchair.

The parts of the power wheelchair that come already assembled should be inspected by a mechanically-minded person ensure that they are all securely fastened and operating correctly.


How to use a power wheelchair properly

Power Wheelchair ControllerThe first step in learning how to use a power wheelchair is to understand the control panel. Read the instruction manual to determine what each of the buttons do and how to operate the power wheelchair. Also, learn how to charge the power wheelchair and be vigilant about keeping the battery charged to avoid losing power when the chair is needed most.

After becoming familiar with the control panel buttons, the next thing to learn is how to transfer safely onto and off of the seat. While walking alongside the power chair, use the control panel to roll the wheelchair onto a flat, level surface.

Those who cannot safely move the power wheelchair and walk next to it at the same time should enlist the help of an assistant to place the chair in an ideal position. Once the chair is in a safe place for transferring, move the front leg riggings out of the way so they do not block the user. Push swing-away leg rests to the side or use the control panel to lower power elevating leg rests until they are flush with the ground.

With the front of the power wheelchair clear, be sure to turn off the power to prevent the chair from moving should the user accidentally bump the control panel when getting on or off the seat. Back up until the back of both legs touch the edge of the power chair seat and reach back to grab hold of the armrests.

Slowly lower onto the seat while keeping an upright posture with a neutral neck position.

After getting comfortable in the seat, users only need to turn on the power button and they are ready to go.

To rise up from a power wheelchair, come to a complete stop on a smooth, level surface and clear the leg rests out of the way. Turn the power off and scoot up to the middle of the seat with both hands on the armrests. While maintaining an upright posture, push off of the armrests with both hands and rise into a standing position.


Always think about how to transfer back onto the power wheelchair before transferring off of it. It’s very important that users ensure they leave the power wheelchair in a position where they can transfer back onto the chair safely.


Floor area rugMost power wheelchairs will have no problem rolling over area rugs, doorway thresholds, and floor transition pieces. In the event that any of these do prove troublesome, though, then consider doing away with area rugs, installing low-profile doorway thresholds, and lowering floor transition pieces to make traveling throughout the home easier.


Avoid particularly steep inclines so that the user doesn’t fall forward out of the seat and the power wheelchair doesn’t tip backwards. Always take on hills at a moderate speed to keep control of the power chair.


Recommended supplementary products and home modifications


Install offset door hinges


Purpose

Swing clear door hingesOffset door hinges increase the effective clear opening width of a doorway.

With traditional hinges, doors do not swing completely out of the way when opened at 90 degrees and the door slab takes up valuable space in the path.

Offset door hinges change the swing pivot point of the door and push the door out of the passageway when opened at 90 degrees.

Depending on the thickness of the current door slab, the size of the door stop trim, and the throw of the existing hinges, replacing conventional hinges with offset hinges could result in a 1.5 inch to 2.5 inch increase in the effective doorway width.

For some mobility aid users, this small additional clearance can actually be the determining factor for whether or not the doorway is accessible.

Click here to see the highest recommended offset, swing-clear door hinges.


What to know before installing

Offset door hinges detail 3 inchesBecause standard doorknobs project out from the door, offset door hinges can only work if there is at least 3 inches between the inside of the door jam and the adjoining wall.

Recessed door leverThere are special door handles available, though, that are designed to be less obtrusive. These streamlined door handles can enable offset hinges to be used on doors that would otherwise cause the doorknob to bang up against the wall.

Click here to see the highest recommended low-profile door handle.


Before spending any time and money swapping out the existing door hinges for offset hinges, verify that the offset hinges are able to provide the additional space that the user needs to access the room. Open the door at a 90 degree angle and measure the distance from the hinge side door stop trim to the outside edge of the door slab.

Add this measurement to the existing effective doorway width and see if the new resulting clearance would be wide enough to accommodate the user while operating the mobility aid.


Recommended supplementary products and home modifications


Lever door handle


Purpose

Lever door handleLever door handles allow users to open the door by a simple pushing motion as opposed to the turning motion required by traditional door knobs. The twisting action to open standard door knobs can strain the hand and wrist.

A hand, elbow, or even a finger can operate a door with a lever. Lever handles are much more user-friendly than door knobs.


Features to consider

Lever door handle push lockPush button lock – Users should consider whether they’d like lever door handles with privacy locks for bathrooms, bedrooms, or any other room.

Privacy locks allow the user to lock the door while inside the room by simply depressing a button.

To unlock the door, the user only needs to engage the lever handle.


Features to avoid

Door knob grip attachmentDoor knob grip attachments – As an alternative to lever door handles, manufacturers have created door knob grip attachments.

While it may be easy to attach these grips to any existing traditional door knobs, this solution is not ideal. Unfortunately, door knob grips are made of such soft materials that they give way under pressure, making them useless.

Furthermore, the material is not very durable; door knob grips are susceptible to tears and outdoor elements make quick work of them. Perhaps most frustrating of all, though, is that the grips often slide around on the door knob, even to the point of slipping off.

Avoid the hassle and inadequacies of a door knob grip; choose a lever handle instead.


What to know before buying

Installing lever door handles is a very easy do-it-yourself project that a capable neighbor or relative could tackle with ease. Arrange to have a helper ready to replace the existing door knobs with the new lever handles.


Recommended supplementary products and home modifications


Expand doorways


Purpose

Expanding doorways increases accessibility by providing additional space to navigate through different rooms and areas within the home. Extra clearance may very well be a necessity for those with mobility aids that are too wide to fit through the existing doorways.

Before buying a mobility device, verify that it fits in the spaces in the home where the user will take it. Sometimes certain doorways are simply too tight for even the narrowest of mobility aids to fit. In such instances, the ability to expand doorways could mean the difference between successfully aging in place and making the hard decision to move into a more accessible home.


What to know before renovating

Before setting plans in motion to widen any doorways, there are two critical prerequisites that must be verified. First, there must be enough space in the adjoining corridor for the user to approach and maneuver into the doorway while operating the mobility aid. Second, the home’s structure must permit a doorway expansion wide enough to fit the user and the mobility aid. These two conditions hinge on the following variables:

  • The direction of approach to the doorway
  • The width and depth of the mobility aid
  • The turning radius of the mobility aid
  • The user’s ability to maneuver adeptly with the mobility aid

Understanding the cumulative impact these factors have on the minimum hallway and doorway clearances that a particular user needs for proper accessibility is extremely difficult. The good news is that a nationally-accepted set of accessibility design standards exists: the Americans with Disabilities Act (A.D.A.) Accessibility Guidelines (A.D.A.A.G.).

Legislators passed A.D.A.A.G. so that public buildings would reasonably accommodate individuals with disabilities. Although the accessibility standards set forth in the A.D.A.A.G. apply to commercial and public settings, they can still prove valuable in a private residence. Take care when applying A.D.A.A.G. in a home, though. The A.D.A.A.G. standards address the accessibility needs of most, but not all, mobility aid users. Therefore, perfunctory adherence to the A.D.A.A.G. does not guarantee accessible hallways and doorways for a particular user.

For example, bariatric-sized home medical equipment may be too large even for hallways and doorways that meet the A.D.A.A.G. standards. Those who use such equipment simply cannot rely on the specifications in the A.D.A.A.G. to ensure an accessible space. When it comes to a person’s home, custom-tailor the measurements outlined within the A.D.A.A.G. to match the user.

All portions of the A.D.A.A.G. pertaining to necessary clearance assumes a mobility aid with an overall width of 30 inches and an overall length of 48 inches.

Therefore, these dimensions are a starting place for extrapolating reasonable accessibility standards for mobility aids of various widths and lengths.

ADA Accessible Route - Clear floor space

Below are all of the A.D.A.A.G. details concerning hallways and doorways assuming a 30 by 48 inch wheelchair user:


ADA Accessible Route - Clear hallway width
ADA Accessible Route - Doorway clear width

Hallways should have a minimum clearance of 36 inches, and doorways should have a minimum clearance of 32 inches. Be sure to include any protrusions, such as the door stop trim and the space an open door occupies, when calculating the clearance.


ADA Accessible Route - Turning Radius

A standard-sized wheelchair (30 by 48 inches) needs at least a 60 inch diameter circle of clear floor space to make a 180-degree, about-face turn without having to navigate backwards.


ADA Accessible Route - 3-point Turn

Another way wheelchair users can make a 180-degree turn is by executing a three-point turnaround at a hallway junction.

First, the hallways must have the minimum width of 36 inches. Second, the intersecting hallway that users turn into must be at least 24 inches deep, effectively creating a total depth of 60 inches (36 inch-wide hallway plus 24 inches equals 60 inches). Finally, the main hallway must have at least 12 inches of depth on either side of the intersecting hallway, effectively creating a total depth of 60 inches (36 inch-wide hallway plus 12 inches plus 12 inches equals 60 inches).

A three-point turnaround allows users to change direction in a more confined area, but it does require users to navigate backwards in the wheelchair.


ADA Accessible Route - U-turn 48 & greaterTo successfully make a u-turn in a hallway, the corridor needs only to meet the 36-inch minimum width standard as long as the distance between the two parts of the hallway is at least 48 inches. Basically, the connecting portion of the hallway must be long enough to accommodate the full length of the wheelchair (in this case, 48 inches).


ADA Accessible Route - U-turn less than 48If the connecting portion of a u-turn hallway is less than the length of the wheelchair (48 inches), then the two parallel hallways must be at least 42 inches wide and the connecting hallway must be at least 48 inches wide.


To enter through a doorway, wheelchair users need an adequate amount of space for approaching the door and operating handle. The space requirements depend on whether users approach the doorway straight ahead (front approach) or from the side (hinge approach) and whether users are on the swing-in side of the doorway (push side) or the swing-out side of the doorway (pull side).

ADA Accessible Route - Hinge Approach on Push Side

Hinge approach on the push side of the door

ADA Accessible Route - Front Approach on Push Side

Front approach on the push side of the door

Assuming A.D.A.A.G. standards for the wheelchair dimensions (30 inches by 48 inches) and the minimum doorway width (32 inches), wheelchair users need at least 22 inches on the hinge side of the door and at least 42 inches in front of the door to be able to enter through the push side of a doorway.

When approaching from the front on the push side of a door, wheelchair users need at least 48 inches in front of the door and at least 12 inches on the handle side of the door.

ADA Accessible Route - Hinge Approach on Pull Side

Hinge approach on the pull side of the door

ADA Accessible Route - Front Approach on Pull Side

Front approach on the pull side of the door

Again, with the same standard dimensions in mind (30 inch-wide by 48 inch-long wheelchair and 32 inch-wide door opening), wheelchair users need at least 42 inches on the handle side of the door and at least 54 inches in front of the door to be able to enter through the pull side of a doorway when approaching from the hinge side.

When approaching from the front on the pull side of a door, wheelchair users need at least 60 inches in front of the door and at least 18 inches on the handle side of the door.

The approach and operating space requirements are much smaller when pushing the door open because the door moves out of the user’s way. Pulling the door open requires the user to back up out of the way of the door’s swing. With this in mind, sometimes an inaccessible doorway can become accessible simply by reversing the direction of the door swing.


DoorwayRenovations may be in order for homes with doorways that are not large enough to accommodate users’ mobility aids. Before starting any kind of demolition, though, it is very important to consider the full potential scope of work since this will dictate the project’s timeline and expense. Those with a handy friend or relative may find that completing some of the basic labor can help save costs.

The first step is to determine how wide the doorways in the home must be to accommodate the user’s mobility device. There is no door width that can accommodate all users in all circumstances, but the Americans with Disabilities Act (A.D.A.) Accessibility Guidelines (A.D.A.A.G.) offers a set of standards worth following, if possible.

The diagrams above all use the standard A.D.A.A.G. clearance recommendations based on a wheelchair that is 30 inches wide by 48 inches long. Users with larger mobility aids can try to extrapolate the A.D.A.A.G. clearance recommendations based on the overall width and length of the particular mobility aid. Keep in mind that this method of inference is only an estimation of the doorway requirements. As a means of verification, consider building a mock-up of the proposed expanded doorway with cardboard to see if it provides enough space for the user to navigate through with the mobility aid.

This simple experiment can quickly reveal whether or not expanding a doorway makes sense. The minimum clearance a user needs may very well be impossible to achieve. If such is the case, then the user may need to expand the hallway or find a smaller mobility aid.

But if the expanded doorway size is reasonable, then it may make sense to investigate the scope of the renovation.

Draw an outline on the wall next to the doorway of the expanded opening according to the A.D.A.A.G. recommendation or the measurement taken from the cardboard replica experimentation. To minimize carpentry and drywall labor, extend only one side of the wall and leave the other side alone, if possible.

floor planUse a stud-finder to locate an empty space in the wall cavity within the new doorway area, and use a jab saw to cut a small examination hole to look for plumbing, electrical, and H.V.A.C. components in the wall.

In the event there are obstacles in the wall, bring in the appropriate tradespersons to determine if moving the components is feasible.

Plumbing lines and electrical wiring can typically relocate fairly easily; moving H.V.A.C. components is less straightforward. Sometimes H.V.A.C. can relocate without too much trouble, but in other cases, moving H.V.A.C. may be infeasible.

Finally, those who intend to hire out the labor for expanding the doorway must also get an estimate from a carpenter.


HallwayThere are a few possible courses of action to take if a home’s hallways aren’t wide enough.

First, move the contents of the inaccessible rooms to rooms that are already accessible. If a tight hallway is keeping a user from the master bed and bath, then repurpose the guest bath and office into the new master bed and bath.

Second, consider replacing the existing mobility aid with a smaller model. Is there an alternative mobility aid that takes up less space that is still suitable for the user?

Third, expand the hallway. Widening corridors is much more complicated than widening doorways. A licensed structural engineer must assess if moving the hallway walls is possible and determine how to maintain the structural integrity of the home.

For these reasons, detailing the step-by-step process of expanding hallways is beyond both the scope and expertise of this guide. Those who decide to explore the possibility of widening hallways should know that the project’s expense can easily cost upwards of $10,000. Consult with a licensed structural engineer to see if the project is possible and what kind of budget it will require.

After resolving any potential hiccups with tight corridors, the process of widening doorways can begin.


In some instances, the planning process may reveal that expanding a doorway to its maximum width possible would still be just shy of the clearance the user needs to navigate into the room. But before discounting the door expansion project altogether, consider combining the expanded doorway with offset door hinges. The additional clearance realized from the offset door hinges may offer just enough extra width to make the expanded doorway accessible.


It is important to keep in mind that expanding doorways may require patching or even replacing the existing floor. When a doorway is expanded, a part of the wall that once occupied floor space is removed. Replacing this portion of the wall with the expanded doorway may reveal unfinished flooring.

If the finished flooring is carpet, then users may be able to patch the floor with a piece of remnant carpeting. In some cases, a skilled carpenter can even patch hardwood floors.

Those who are expanding several doorways may prefer to simply replace the existing flooring altogether due to the amount of patchwork involved. Be sure to factor in this potential expense when budgeting for expanding doorways.


Recommended supplementary products and home modifications


Replace carpet with hard, non-slip flooring surface


Purpose

Replacing carpet with hard, non-slip flooring increases mobility and safety. The wheels of rolling mobility aids can sink into the carpet, making the device especially difficult to propel. Furthermore, carpet can even be a tripping hazard when walking and using non-rolling mobility aids such as canes and walkers. Feet, toes, shoes, and the bottoms of walking assistance equipment can catch on the carpet and cause a fall.

It may seem counterintuitive that hard flooring would be safer, but a hard, non-slip surface helps prevent falls. Fewer falls on a hard flooring surface is better than more falls on carpet because carpet doesn’t effectively protect against injuries from falls. Carpet may be softer, but it isn’t soft enough to have a significant impact on safety.


Must-have Features

Non-slip – Whatever the flooring surface, it absolutely must be slip-resistant. In some cases, flooring materials may have a poor grip and require treatment with a non-slip finishing solution. Such coatings increase traction without significantly impacting appearance and work with both existing and newly installed floors. Other floor types might already offer high traction and do not need any kind of treatment. Flooring may naturally have a textured surface or manufacturers may alter the material to create a textured finish.

The tile industry has created a rating system that measures tiles’ dynamic coefficient of friction (D.C.O.F.). The chart below shows the spectrum of ratings:

D.C.O.F. Value
Slip Resistance
greater than 0.42
High – no need for traction enhancements
0.30 to 0.42
Moderate – traction enhancements recommended
less than 0.30
Low – traction enhancements necessary or replace floor

For the best gripping power, select a tile with a D.C.O.F. rating greater than 0.42.

Unfortunately, the rest of the flooring industry has not adopted D.C.O.F. testing, so be careful when purchasing other kinds of floor coverings. Ask for highly textured flooring options and order samples to verify. And of course, applying a non-slip surfacing agent is always an option after installing the floor.


Features to consider

Hardwood – Hardwood is a great alternative to carpet, but there are three major factors to take into account.

First, hardwood that is too soft is more susceptible to wear and scratches, especially from heavy mobility aids like wheelchairs. The Janka hardness test measures solid hardwood durability; the higher the rating, the harder the wood. Janka scores range from 22 (Cuipo wood) to 5,060 (Australian Buloke).

A general rule of thumb is to use a hardwood with a Janka rating of at least 1,290 (Red Oak) to avoid sustaining damage from the feet and casters of durable medical equipment. Those who would like to err on the side of caution may want to select a solid hardwood with a particularly high Janka rating.

Engineered hardwood does not undergo Janka hardness tests, so exercise caution when going this route. Look for construction quality, the wood veneer thickness, and the number of finishing coats to indicate the potential levels of durability and scratch-resistance.

Circle Sawn Hardwood Floor

Circle-sawn

Second, choose hardwood with a highly textured surface that will increase traction. Circular-sawn and wire-brushed are ideal non-slip textures.

Hand Scraped Hardwood Floor

Hand-scraped

Band-sawn and hand-scraped are the next best textures for hardwood.

Avoid any other textures as they do not provide significant traction for users. As an added bonus, highly-textured surfaces help disguise scratches and dents should the hardwood take on some blemishes.

Hardwood Floor with Matte Finish

Matte finish

Third, when selecting the finish for hardwood floors, it is better to go with a low-gloss or matte finish rather than a finish with high sheen.

Generally, satin-finished hardwoods provide more traction than hardwoods with a shiny finish. If the hardwood still isn’t slip-resistant enough after selecting the recommended textures and finish, then consider applying an anti-slip coating to increase traction.


Laminate FloorLaminate – Laminate is extremely durable, highly resistant to scratches and dents, and virtually stain-proof. Laminate takes the form of planks to mimic hardwood or comes as tiles.

Although laminate has a history of being slippery, manufacturers have been making recent strides to improve its slip-resistance. To help with traction, laminate surfaces can feature the same texturing as hardwood flooring. Furthermore, non-slip surfacing agents can increase laminate’s coefficient of friction.


Vinyl FlooringVinyl – Vinyl is very similar to laminate with a few exceptions. Vinyl boasts the same durability and resistance to stains, scratches, and dents. Just like laminate, vinyl is available in both planks and tiles. Vinyl is also making improvements in slip-resistance and can include a textured surface.

As far as differences go, vinyl is much more resistant to water than laminate, making vinyl ideal for bathrooms. Since this section is dealing with replacing carpet, it’s very unlikely that the bathroom applies, although it is possible.

Laminate is typically more comfortable underfoot and offers better resale value than vinyl, so take this into consideration as well. If greater traction is need, vinyl accepts non-slip coating applications.


Tile – As mentioned earlier, the ideal non-slip tile features a D.C.O.F. rating greater than 0.42. To provide additional traction, look for a tile with a textured surface rather than a smooth surface.

Travertine Tile

Travertine Tile

Travertine, limestone, and slate can all have high D.C.O.F. ratings and textured surfaces. These natural stones can offer good traction, even when wet, but it is important that the sealer not cause the tile to become slippery. Travertine, limestone, and slate are all very absorbent, so it is part of good maintenance to seal the tiles to protect against water damage and staining. Typically natural stone tiles are treated with a surface sealant, but a penetrating sealant can serve as a great alternative that offers adequate protection without reducing traction.

Porcelain Tile

Porcelain Tile

Through-body porcelain is arguably the best option for tile because it can have a high D.C.O.F., a textured surface that mimics natural stone, and doesn’t require any sealing. Other than normal cleaning, porcelain doesn’t require routine evaluation and sealing like natural stone.

Sealed or not, it’s important to immediately clean up spills on natural stone tiles to avoid discoloration and damage. Porcelain, on the other hand, is literally classified as an impervious tile that absorbs very little, if anything.

Avoid all other tiles (glass, ceramic, terrazzo, granite, quartzite, onyx, marble, and pebbles/stones) because they do not offer appropriate slip-resistance. So, whether it’s travertine, limestone, slate, or porcelain, be sure to verify that its D.C.O.F. rating and surface texture offer good grip. And remember: always order samples.


Rubber flooringRubber flooring – Rubber flooring shares the same durability and water resistance as vinyl flooring but is actually much softer. Of all the available flooring options, rubber offers the most cushioning with enough rigidity for safe mobility aid use. Choose rubber flooring that has a textured surface and a matte finish to increase traction. Rubber flooring is available in a variety of colors, patterns, and even marbling.

While rubber is generally pretty stain-resistant, abrasive cleaners and cooking oil can cause serious discoloring. Just be sure to wipe up spills as quickly as possible and follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for regular cleaning.

Perhaps the biggest drawback of rubber flooring is its expensive price tag. But those who still decide on rubber flooring should opt for tiles rather than the roll-form for easier installation.


Features to avoid

Cork FlooringCork flooring – Many voices in the flooring industry market cork as appropriate for aging users because of it offers great padding. Unfortunately, it’s this same soft quality that makes it difficult for users to maneuver rolling mobility aids over cork; the surface resistance is simply too much.

While cork works for more able-bodied users, it most likely will not accommodate potential future needs. Rather than replacing carpet with cork and later replacing cork with another flooring type, simply replace carpet with one of the other flooring types mentioned above the first time.


What to know before renovating

Finding the right amount of texture on a flooring surface can be tricky. The texture should not be so irregular and raised that it makes rolling over the surface too difficult. On the other hand, the texture shouldn’t be so minimal that it fails to significantly improve traction.

The texture must strike a balance that improves grip underfoot while still allowing mobility aids, such as rollators and wheelchairs, to roll easily. Always order samples and feel the texture to verify that it is suitable before making a decision.


Floor area rugThe benefits of any non-slip floor are nullified if the floor is covered with area rugs. Transitioning from the floor to the area rug can be a fall hazard because a foot or wheel can catch on the edge of the rug. Furthermore, area rugs can bunch up and trip users.

Operating rolling mobility aids requires more effort on area rugs, especially high pile rugs. Those who intend on replacing carpet with a hard, non-slip flooring should also plan on removing all area rugs in the space.


Floor transitionIt is best to install the same flooring throughout the home as much as possible to limit the number of transitions from one flooring type to another. Floor transition pieces can be trip hazards and road blocks for rolling mobility aids.

Sometimes transitions are inevitable, though. In such cases, look for transition pieces with a low-profile and beveled edges. The low-profile feature reduces the risk of tripping and the beveled edges make it easier to roll over.


Recommended supplementary products and home modifications


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