Smart Assistive Mobility Products

Accessories, devices and equipment that hold big promise

Keeping pace with the latest assistive mobility products is a tall order. The marketplace is so dynamic, so innovative, so accelerated; it can be impossible to stay on top of what’s new, what’s different, what’s covered by insurance or what will enhance your mobility and independence. This edition of “Innovation” catches up with some of the smartest assistive mobility products on the market now, as well as tips for selecting the right types to meet your needs. 

The must-haves

Diestco's cup holders

Often, it’s the simplest things that hold the biggest promise for impacting quality of life. And yet, many everyday convenience accessories are considered “extra” by insurance companies. Wheelchair cup and cellphone holders are two of the most in-demand accessories according to Danielle Lewis, an occupational therapist in the MDA Care Center at Children’s Medical Center of Dallas. “They do so much to foster independence,” Lewis says. But because their cost usually falls to the patient, “parents end up rigging a DIY version or buying a used or out-of-date one.”

Diestco’s cup holders include a version for power chairs with padded armrests ($25) and a choice of horizontal, vertical or front grip. Their cellphone holders ($20) feature a polyester wrap that attaches to a chair’s arm for horizontal grips. 

Mount n' Mover

Blue Sky Designs’ Mount n’ Mover ($1,595 to $1,695) satisfies the most simple of needs: to hold in place the everyday things people can’t hold for themselves. The long adjustable arm and flat mounting base attach to wheelchairs or bedside stands. Mount’ n Mover was revamped in September 2016 to offer twice the number of possible positions. Most use the mount to hold iPads and food trays, but anecdotes of less common uses show the applications are limitless. “We know of a sixth-grader who loves horns but doesn’t have the muscle tone to hold an instrument to his mouth,” says Mary Kay Walch of Blue Sky Designs. “He uses his mount plate to perch and play the trumpet in a band.” 

The cool factor

P-Pod

Looking “cool” is crucial to kids of all ages, regardless of their abilities. Some assistive mobility products that look cool actually go much farther than that by also helping kids with neuromuscular diseases stay connected to their peers. “Whenever it’s possible to make a product that’s both clinically sound and nonmedical looking, it’s our goal to make that happen,” says Matt Lawrence, vice president at Drive Medical. His company’s P-Pod ($1,595 to $1,995) is a bean-bag style activity positioning chair that allows children to sit in places and positions that might not be feasible otherwise. 

Lewis is intrigued by the chair’s design and specs. “This could be a great way to get a smaller child down on the floor with other kids, maybe in a school setting,” she says. 

Ergo 3D

Several new eating and drinking assistive products are managing to look cool and help facilitate everyday activities. The Ergo 3D ($50.92), a spoon made of malleable silicone, can be twisted to an individuals’ most effective ergonomic position. Suddenly, a person who needed feeding assistance may be able to feed themselves. “With the wrist weakness and decreased range of motion that occurs in some individuals with neuromuscular disease, utensils sometimes pair well with a universal cuff or wrist splint,” says Teri Krassen, an occupational therapist with the MDA ALS Care Center at Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Hospital in Allentown, Pa. 

Stoneware Dignity Mug

The Stoneware Dignity Mug ($40) also promotes independence at mealtime. This handcrafted version of the company’s classic two-handled mug is easier to grip and lift than traditional drink ware.

Ezpz’s Happy Mats ($24.99) and Happy Bowls ($19.99) are a perfect partner to assistive eating utensils. These tabletop accessories are made in a non-slip silicone that significantly reduces messy, frustrating spills. They come in bright colors, and Happy Mats feature a smiley-face shape to invite fun plating.

EzPz Happy Mats

EzPz Happy Bowls

Shaila Wunderlich is a freelance journalist in St. Louis who has worked for a variety of magazines, journals and newspapers for nearly 20 years.


Knowledge Source: Top Three Tips for Selecting Products

1. To navigate the question of insurance coverage, start with your doctor. If your prescription is denied, contact the manufacturer. Manufacturers have a good idea who usually covers the cost for their products (insurance companies vs. individuals) and may be able to guide you to sources for coupons, discounts or samples.

2. Therapy and seating sessions, when your child will be ‘trying on’ equipment and accessory options, make ideal opportunities for learning what’s out there, as well as what your child likes. “I’ve had friends or loved ones pull me aside during appointments to ask product questions,” says Kelli Reiling, an occupational therapist at the MDA Care Center at University of Kansas Medical Center.

3. Many products are customized to meet the individual’s needs, requiring extensive measurements and information just to place an order. Most manufacturers will guide purchasers through the types of specs needed, as well as creative ways to collect them. “We’ve had customers email us pictures of wheelchairs, which fills in a lot of the holes,” says Mary Kay Walch of Blue Sky Designs.

Knowledge Source: Toys for Every Ability

Does your holiday gift list include kids with special needs? Consider looking for toys that do double duty as playthings and developmental aids for children who have physical, cognitive or developmental disabilities with the Toys “R” Us Toy Guide for Differently-Abled Kids. The online guide features specially selected toys that are clearly labeled with the skills they help build, such as language, fine motor or social skills. Find it at toysrus.com/differentlyabled.

MDA Resource Center: We’re Here For You

Our trained specialists are here to provide one-on-one support for every part of your journey. Send a message below or call us at 800-572-1717. If you live outside the U.S., we may be able to connect you to muscular dystrophy groups in your area, but MDA services are only available in the U.S.