Mobility Devices for People Who Have Lower-Limb Paralysis are Flawed, Online Survey Reveals

Mobility Devices for People Who Have Lower-Limb Paralysis are Flawed, Online Survey Reveals

More investment and new technological developments are needed to assist people who have limited mobility because of lower-limb paralysis.

That was the major conclusion of an international study undertaken by ComRes on behalf of the Toyota Mobility Foundation.

Around the world, millions of people have lower-limb paralysis. In the majority of cases it is due to spinal cord injury, stroke, and multiple sclerosis.

Researchers at ComRes conducted an online survey March 9-26 that targeted people who currently use a wheelchair or mobility device, or have used one in the past five years for at least six months. A total of 575 individuals in the United States, United Kingdom, Brazil, India, and Japan participated in the study.

Results of the questionnaire revealed that 89% of the respondents experienced pain and discomfort caused by their mobility devices. Indeed, 45% said they experienced back pain at least once a day, and 22% said they have constant back pain. Also, 31% reported shoulder pain, and 29% neck pain, at least once a day.

The study also revealed that 29% of wheelchair users had repetitive strain injuries and 22% had pressure sores.

“This research expresses the urgent need for innovation in this area,” Ryan Klem, director of programs for Toyota Mobility Foundation, said in a press release “It’s surprising that with all of the technology we have today, we still have people in constant pain as a result of their mobility devices.

While it should be expected that assistance devices would make people’s lives easier, the reality revealed by this study is quite different.

About 49% of wheelchair users said they still need assistance when travelling. Also, 31% said they have to wait for multiple buses or trains to pass before they can enter one that has space to accommodate them. Nearly a quarter of the respondents (23%) say they have been declined entry on to public transport.

Furthermore, the use of a restroom was pointed to as a common challenge faced by wheelchair users, with 43% of the participants reporting difficulties finding accessible toilets when needed.

The survey showed that 30% of the respondents felt frustrated with their mobility device because it had an outdated design.

To have a better grasp of the needs of this population, the researchers asked what could be done to improve their daily lives. About 41% suggested the devices should move faster, and 37% said that they should facilitate daily tasks.

The respondents indicated the devices should have a design that should feel more natural, almost like an extension of their bodies, which could help them feel more confident and able to socialize, while also providing them the sensation of freedom and independence they need.

The results of this survey demonstrate there is still much to be done to improve the quality of life of this population. In line with this need, the Toyota Mobility Foundation, in collaboration with Nesta’s Challenge Prize Centre, launched the global Mobility Unlimited Challenge late last year.

The Mobility Unlimited Challenge wants to improve life for people with lower-limb paralysis by granting $4 million to innovative solutions for personal mobility devices.

“The comments we are receiving through social media show the kinds of developments that people want to see and we hope the Challenge will result in genuinely life-changing technologies,” Klem said.

Innovative devices that incorporate intelligent systems and novel solutions can enter the Challenge until August 15. The winners will be announced in Tokyo in 2020.

The Challenge also was designed to encourage a user-centered approach, and invites people with lower-limb paralysis across the world to take part in a global conversation about the types of mobility innovations they would like to see.

With the hashtag #MyMobilityUnlimited, participants will be able to have access to the views of wheelchair users and incorporate them in their projects.

“While the focus of this Challenge is lower-limb paralysis, we absolutely do expect that the technology developed as a result will be transferable and have the potential to improve the lives of a much wider group of people. This Challenge is about achieving impact, and for that reason, we needed to narrow the focus. However we recognize that people have a wide range of mobility needs and hope to be able to help them too,” said Charlotte Macken, program manager in the Centre for Challenge Prize.

8 comments

  1. Carol says:

    Hi – My husband has MS and has been confined to a wheelchair for some years now. He is unable to bear weight on his legs at all, and cannot sit up without something to hold him. When he uses the bathroom, he needs my help to transfer him from the wheelchair to his bed so that he may lie down so that I can pull up his trousers by rolling him from side to side. It is impossible for him to use public washrooms because of course there is no place for him to lie down. I have always wondered what other wheelchair users do in this situation.

    • Md Abdur Rauf says:

      you are really doing a noble job for your husband.This should be the message for al ms patient.They will respect each other and help their best irrespective of race,tribe or country.

  2. Rhonda Danielson says:

    Handicapped accessible (which is ADA compliant) does not, and never has, meant wheelchair accessible.

    For those who are living in the USA, READ the ADA. The only buildings that must be in compliance with the ADA are government buildings. That means all privately owned buildings (shopping malls, office buildings, hotels, apartment buildings, etc.) do not have to comply with the ADA-it is strictly voluntary. Retro fitting a building to be “handicapped accessible”, if it ts cost prohibitive-as determined by the building owner-also does not have to be done per the ADA.

    Two things need to happen. 1st, the ADA needs to be rewritten to accommodate wheelchairs of all types and enforced. 2nd the Toyota Mobility Challenge, along with its underlying study, needs to be a permanent part of any conversation surrounding ALL disabled individuals.

  3. Wendy says:

    This is great that these issues are being thought about. My brother has secondary progressive ms. Since his chair has been changed he cannot get in and out of his home independently. His ms is rapidly changing atm. As for building regulations should all homes not be built with wider doors etc in the event of anybody finding themselves in this situation doesn’t have to consider changing home. He is struggling with pressure areas a lot.bottom and legs aching.. different cushions that could provide more comfort would help him. Maybe massaging or cooling/heated. I go and lift his legs straightening them out lighting up and down to try and relieve the aching. He doesn’t get very far these days it’s all about the comfort for him. He is at present still able to get from room to room room so the chair doesn’t have to be fast..

  4. Fredric Wictorinus says:

    I have bought a Genny (elektric wheelchair). It is very
    comfortable and fast. The backrest is much better than common wheelchars are provided with.
    Unfortunately a little expensive €15000. It is a converted
    Segway. http://www.gennymobility.com

  5. Harriet Eskildsen says:

    While not an adapted device issue, some common sense bathroom accommodations would be extremely helpful in navigating a public restroom. These are:
    1. Grab bars: seems like a good idea to mount them diagonally to accommodate all heights, but they don’t work. You can’t firmly grab the bar when it’s sliding. The grab bar must be mounted parallel to the floor.
    2. The soap dispenser, towel paper dispenser and the waste can are oftentimes unreachable from a wheelchair or scooter;many times the waste can lid is accessible only by stepping down on a foot depresser that flips open the lid.
    3. The sink is either too high to reach the levers and/or faucet, or you cannot get your wheelchair or scooter close enough to the sink to wash your hands. Oftentimes, paper towel dispensers need two hands to pull down and release the towel paper. How about automatic dispensers for the 21st century..
    4.Finally, oftentimes bathrooms are too small to accommodate a wheelchair or scooter. So it’s impossible to turn and lock the door, navigate seat protector, toilet, sink, soap, and paper towel dispenser .

    • Harriet Eskildsen says:

      While not an adapted device issue, some common sense bathroom accommodations would be extremely helpful in navigating a public restroom. These are:
      1. Grab bars: seems like a good idea to mount them diagonally to accommodate all heights, but they don’t work. You can’t firmly grab the bar when your hand cannot firmly grip the the bar because your hand is sliding on the grab bar. The grab bar must be mounted parallel to the floor, so if need be, not only does your hand grasp the bar, but your forearm can lean on it if necessary.
      2. The soap dispenser, towel paper dispenser and the waste can are oftentimes unreachable from a wheelchair or scooter;many times the waste can lid is accessible only by stepping down on a foot depresser that flips open the lid.
      2a.The sink is either too high to reach the faucet levers and/or faucet, or you cannot get your wheelchair or scooter close enough to the sink to wash your hands. Oftentimes, paper towel dispensers need two hands to pull down and release the towel paper. How about automatic dispensers for the 21st century..
      3.Finally, oftentimes bathrooms are too small to accommodate a wheelchair or scooter. It’s challenging, or even impossible impossible to turn and lock the door, navigate seat protector, toilet, sink, soap, and paper towel dispenser.

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