A special lift raises a wheelchair and its occupant in a bus
Wheelchair user entering a bus in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

A mobility aid is a device that helps individuals with mobility impairments to walk or improve their overall mobility.[1]

These aids range from walking aids, which assist those with limited walking capabilities, to wheelchairs and mobility scooters, which are used for severe disabilities or longer distances that would typically be covered on foot. For individuals who are blind or visually impaired, white canes and guide dogs have been long-standing resources. Additional aids are designed to facilitate mobility and transfers within buildings, including navigating between different floor levels.

The term "mobility aid" traditionally refers to technology mechanical devices and is commonly used in government documents such as documents related to tax concessions.[2] It refers to devices that provide a level of mobility comparable to unaided walking or standing from a seated position.

Advancements in technology are likely to expand the functionalities of these devices through the integration of sensors and the provision of audio or tactile feedback.[3][4]

Walking aids

a length adjustable forearm crutch with handgrip and forearm support
forearm crutch
A girl using a pair of underarm / axillary crutches

Walking aids are devices designed to assist individuals with mobility impairments in maintaining upright ambulation. These aids include assistive canes, crutches, walkers, and more specialized devices such as gait trainers, and upright walkers. Each type of aid is designed to support users in different ways, which include improving stability, reducing lower-limb loading, and facilitating movement.

Improving Stability
Walking aids enhance stability by providing additional points of contact, which expand the user's range of stable center of gravity positioning.
Reducing Lower-Limb Loading
By transferring the load to the arms, walking aids significantly reduce the impact and static forces exerted on the affected limbs, alleviating stress and potential pain. :
Facilitating Movement
By transferring the load to the arms, walking aids significantly reduce the impact and static forces exerted on the affected limbs, alleviating stress and potential pain.


The cane or walking stick is the simplest form of walking aid. It is held in the hand and transmits loads to the floor through a shaft. The load which can be applied through a cane is transmitted through the user's hands and wrists and limited by these.


A crutch also transmits loads to the ground through a shaft, but has two points of contact with the arm, at the hand and either below the elbow or below the armpit. This allows significantly greater loads to be exerted through a crutch in comparison with a cane.

Canes, Crutches, and forearm crutch combinations

Devices on the market today include a number of combinations for canes, crutches, and forearm crutches. These crutches have bands that encircle the forearms and handles for the patient to hold and rest their hands on to support the body weight.[5] The forearm crutch typically gives a user the support of the cane but with additional forearm support to assist in mobility. The forearm portion helps increase balance, lateral stability and also reduces the load on the wrist.


A walker (also known as a Zimmer frame) is the most stable walking aid and consists of a freestanding metal framework with three or more points of contact which the user places in front of them and then grips during movement. The points of contact may be either fixed rubber ferrules as with crutches and canes, or wheels, or a combination of both. Wheeled walkers are also known as rollators. Many of these walkers also come with an inbuilt seat so that the user may rest during use and with metal pouches to carry personal belongings.

Walker cane hybrid

A Walker Cane Hybrid adjusted to four configurations.

A walker cane hybrid[6] was introduced in 2012 designed to bridge the gap between a cane and a walker. The hybrid has two legs which provide lateral (side-to-side) support which a cane does not. It can be used with two hands in front of the user, similar to a walker, and provides an increased level of support compared with a cane. It can be adjusted for use with either one or two hands, at the front and at the side, as well as a stair climbing assistant. The hybrid is not designed to replace a walker which normally has four legs and provides 4-way support using both hands.

Gait trainers

Another device to assist walking that has entered the market in recent years is the gait trainer. This is a mobility aid that is more supportive than the standard walker. It typically offers support that assists weight-bearing and balance. The accessories or product parts that attach to the product frame provide unweighting support and postural alignment to enable walking practice.

Seated walking scooter

Walking Aid Scooter

The Walk Aid Scooter allows a user with normal balance and foot, knee or hip conditions to unload the lower extremities. The two-wheeled scooter has a bicycle-type seat and handlebars, and is manually propelled with one or both feet like a balance bicycle. This walking aid scooter provides more support than a cane and is lighter, less bulky and easier to propel than a wheelchair.

Wheelchairs and scooters

Wheelchairs and mobility scooters substitute for walking by providing a wheeled device on which the user sits. Wheelchairs may be either manually propelled (by the user or by an aide) or electrically powered (commonly known as a "powerchair"). There are different types of wheelchair power add-ons that turn any manual wheelchair into a power assisted. Mobility scooters are electrically powered, as are motorized wheelchairs. Wheelchairs and Scooters are normally recommended for any individual due to significant mobility/balance impairment. A Registered Occupational Therapist or Physiotherapist (few cases) are able to provide object and clinical testing to ensure proper and safe device recommendations.

Stairlifts and similar devices

A stairlift is a mechanical device for lifting people and wheelchairs up and down stairs. Sometimes special purpose lifts are provided elsewhere to facilitate access for those with disabilities, for example at entrances to raised bus stops in Curitiba, Brazil. A wheelchair lift is specifically designed to carry the user and the wheelchair. This can either be through floor or utilizing the staircase.


Shopping trolley

Mobility aids may also include adaptive technology such as sling lifts or other patient transfer devices that help transfer users between beds and chairs or lift chairs (and other sit-to-stand devices), transfer or convertible chairs. Knee scooters help some users. As people start to live longer mobility is about for many reclaiming aspects of independence which before were denied to them.

See also


  1. ^ "Mobility Aids". MedlinePlus. Retrieved 2021-03-12.
  2. ^ "Reduced-rate VAT on mobility aids for older people". London: HM Revenue and Customs. Retrieved 25 September 2010.
  3. ^ Acerbi, A; Graffigna, J P; Polimeni, G; Fernández, H H (2007). "Mobility aid for blind figure skaters". Journal of Physics: Conference Series. 90 (1): 012098. Bibcode:2007JPhCS..90a2098A. doi:10.1088/1742-6596/90/1/012098.
  4. ^ Bostelman, R; Russo, P; Albus, J; Hong, T; Madhavan, R (2006). "Applications of a 3D Range Camera Towards Healthcare Mobility Aids". International Conference on Networking, Sensing and Control. Gaithersburg, MD: National Institute of Science and Technology. Retrieved 25 September 2010.
  5. ^ "Description of Forearm Crutch". Ceredigion, UK: SafetyNet Systems. Archived from the original on March 24, 2016. Retrieved 25 September 2010.
  6. ^ A Multi-configuration Walking Apparatus – US Patent Application 12/817,073[dead link].