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Assistive Technology Guide - Four Wheeled Mobile Walking Frames

AT Guide
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For information contact AT Aust on 1300 452 679

Last updated: Nov 19 2021

Short Description

This Assistive Technology Guide is designed to assist you in considering your needs related to four wheeled walking frames. Four wheeled mobile walking frames (also known as rollators) are designed to improve balance and stability of the user both indoors and outdoors. They can support the weight of the user and enable the user to walk with a standard reciprocal walking pattern. Different styles are available to cater for different abilities, user sizes and location of walker use. It is strongly recommended that a physiotherapist be consulted to advise on the selection, fit and the correct use of any walking aid.

Specific information about products and suppliers can be accessed via the Assistive Technology Australia website www.at-aust.org. You can also contact the AT Australia Infoline for information and advice from allied health professionals by calling 1300 452 679 or by emailing help@at-aust.org

Additional Info

More Details

Features of mobile walking frames

Frame
* Can be folding or fixed/ rigid
* Some frames can be dismantled
* Available with / without a seat

Handgrips
* Padded foam or plastic handgrips with or without contouring to enhance finger grip

Seat
* A seat is a feature on some four wheeled frames. These enable the user to take a rest if they become tired whilst walking. Some have a small backrest for support when sitting
* Check the size and the height of the seat. It may be too narrow for some users. It may also be too high or low for safety when standing up from the seat or sitting down
* It is advisable to have brakes which will lock on, to ensure that the frame remains steady when standing up

Brakes
Most mobile frames feature a braking mechanism.
* It is important to trial equipment to see if the user can safely operate the brakes. Many of these brakes may not be effective on slopes or with heavy users
* Simultaneous use of both hands is necessary. Lockable brakes enable users to lock their brakes in the 'on' position so that they do not have to maintain their grip
* Lockable brakes are essential when using a walking device which incorporates a seat
* It is important to trial equipment as many of these brakes may not be effective on slopes or with heavy users.

The different styles of braking mechanisms include:
* Push down (or "stopper") brakes fitted between the rear castors. These are activated when the user pushes down on the handles or sits on the seat
* Hand brakes with a cable mechanism. The brakes are activated or locked by pulling on the cables or the hand brake levers. Gently squeezing the levers provides gradual braking. The brakes are "locked-on" by pushing down on the levers

Method of Folding (if relevant)
There are various folding mechanisms

* Walkers with seats generally have a strap beneath the seat. By pulling the strap the front and back of the walker fold together (It will be necessary to lift up the seat and remove any basket first).
* Some walkers without a seat have a single central button or dual buttons on the top front bar of the walker. Pressing these buttons (can use the palm or side of the hand) folds the sides of the walker inwards towards the front of the walker
* Sideways folding walkers may have a release knob at the side and a centrally located pull up strap. They fold side to side (scissor-style) and may be more compact than front to back folding walkers

Transporting
* Most folding walkers can be transported in a vehicle boot/hatch or possibly in the back seat.
* Check the ability of the user or carer to fold and safely lift the walker in/out of a vehicle.

Option Details
* The following may be suitable for some wheeled walkers. It is advisable to check the availability of options before purchasing

Walking stick holders
* A bracket can be fitted to most frames to allow a walking stick to be carried on the side of the frame

Carry Basket
* A canvas or wire framed carry basket can often be fitted at the front of the frame and / or underneath the seat to assist with carrying lightweight items

Tray
* A plastic tray can be fitted to the seat (or immediately above it) to assist carrying lightweight items

Oxygen bottle holders
* These carriers attach to the walking frame to allow a portable oxygen bottle to be carried

Glides
* Ski shaped or round glides can replace rubber ferrules on the rear legs of a walker with two front wheels. They enable smoother operation of the walker.

Considerations

* Assessment by a physiotherapist is recommended
* Some people may have difficulty controlling a walker with four wheels and would be safer with a two wheeled walker with two front wheels and rear glides or rubber ferrules (tips). In some cases, it may be advisable for the user not to have wheels but to use a static pick-up frame.
* Walkers for outdoor use have larger wheels for wheeling over various types of terrain
* Mobile (or "wheeled") walking frames provide bilateral stability when walking. Unlike static frames, these are pushed along by the user and a normal gait is possible. However, they do require better balance than static frames as well as greater strength and coordination of the upper limbs
* The walking frame should be fitted to the correct height to obtain maximum benefit and to maintain posture. If the seat is adjustable, this should also be adjusted to the correct height for ease of standing up and sitting down.
* The load capacity of the frame should be carefully considered as well as the weight of the frame, its strength and durability, ease of operation and folding.
* Wheeled walking frames cannot be used on standard stairs. If the home environment is suitable, wide platform steps with a deep tread and small rise can be built for walking frame use.
* Assess the environment where the frame will be used for slopes, obstacles such as door thresholds, steps, flooring surface, door widths. Remove loose rugs and clutter.
* Always check the load capacity of the frame. It needs to safely support the weight of the user.
* A mobile walking frame can significantly improve the ability for people with disability to mobilise within the community environment and participate in many daily activities.
* Enabling people to stand can enhance circulation, organ functioning, joint stability and range of motion.

Models And Options

Models

Wheeled Walking Frame / Rollators with two wheels
* Two wheeled rollators have two wheels or castors at the front and ferrules or glides at the rear
* They are available in various styles with a fixed or folding frame
* They are generally adjustable in height - either the legs or push handles adjust
* Most styles have small front wheels that make them more suitable for indoor use
* Fixed front wheels are more difficult to manoeuvre than swivel castors
* These rollators are not fitted with a seat
* Some models may be fitted with accessories, such as a front bag or basket

Wheeled Walking Frame / Rollators with four wheels
* These frames have a four-point wheel base and may or may not have a seat (some seats are adjustable in height)
* The castors and/or wheels are not always fixed in one direction and therefore they have a greater degree of manoeuvrability
* Handgrip styles vary between models
The design of the handle and the position of the extras such as baskets and seats will determine whether the frame is pushed in front or stepped into. If the frame is stepped into it will offer the user more support.

Three wheeled walkers
* Triangular shaped frame without a seat
* Generally have larger wheels, hand grip, cable brakes and a frame that folds together longitudinally
* Tend to be less stable than four wheeled frames
* May be more useful for manoeuvring through narrow doors and in smaller spaces

Mobile frames for one-handed use
* These frames are not very common. The tend to have a central handgrip that enables the frame to be held in one hand
* Care should be taken if using a one-handed frame as it does not offer as much support as gripping the frame with both hands
* Advice should be sought from a physiotherapist as using this sort of frame may have an adverse effect on some rehabilitation programmes

Reverse mobile walkers
* These are wheeled walkers in which the user stands and faces outwards. The cross bars of the walker are therefore behind the user as they move forwards
* Designed to offer support at the rear encouraging more upright walking

Forearm walkers - Wheeled
* Forearm walkers have forearm troughs or gutters and vertical handgrips which allow users to bear weight through their forearms rather than their hands
* The vertical handgrips may be adjustable in angle as well as height

Bariatric mobile frames
* These frames are wider and are reinforced to accommodate heavier/larger users

Knee Walker
* These are four wheeled walkers for people who unable to weight bear through their lower leg eg have had a lower leg injury
* They feature adjustable height bicycle style hand grips and a padded support to accommodate the lower leg
* The walker is used scooter-style with the user propelling along with their unaffected leg

Other Specialty Walkers
U Step II Walking Stabiliser
* A multi wheeled stable walker for people with Parkinsons Disease
* It will only move when the user squeezes the brake release lever

Setup And Maintenance

Maintenance

* It is important that walking devices are inspected regularly to maximise the safety of the equipment
* Particular attention should be paid to the screws, nuts, bolts and height adjustment mechanisms
* Wheels and castors should be checked to ensure they move freely

Requirements

Standards

Standards
Some assistive technology needs to meet Australian or other standards. Standards may relate to materials, manufacturing and installation. Products that meet Australian or international standards will have written certification. To find out if a product meets Australian Standards ask the supplier to show you the certificate. For more information about standards also see
http://at-aust.org/home/assistive_technology/standards.html

TGA
Many of the items on the Assistive Technology Australia website are categorised as a Medical Device. Medical devices that are approved for use in Australia have been entered into a national database called the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG), which is maintained by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). You can ask the supplier for the ARTG number for the device you wish to purchase and search the ARTG for the entry. To access information on the ARTG visit www.tga.gov.au

When buying a medical device it is advisable to only choose a medical device that is recommended by a healthcare professional and has been included on the ARTG.

Suppliers

Assistive Technology Australia (prev Independent Living Centre NSW)
Westpoint Shop 4019
17 Patrick St
Blacktown
NSW 2148
Australia
Sales: 1300 452 679 (Infoline)
Fax: 02 8814 9656
Contact Person: AT Australia Infoline Team
Email: help@at-aust.org
Website: http://www.at-aust.org

Disclaimer

Whilst all care is taken to provide accurate information with respect to the item described, the Independent Living Centre New South Wales (ILCNSW), operating as Assistive Technology Australia, is not involved in product design or manufacture, and therefore not in a position to guarantee the accuracy of the information provided. Selection of equipment, which is both suitable and appropriate for individual needs remains the responsibility of the person(s) considering requisition, and no responsibility is taken by the ILCNSW (Assistive Technology Australia) for any loss or injury caused through use of the equipment or alleged to have arisen through reliance upon information provided. As information is subject to change any enquiries should be directed to the manufacturer.