Dependent Mobility: When Inclusion Is the Goal

Butterfly Playground at Morgan’s Wonderland

PLAYGROUND: COURTESY MORGAN’S WONDERLAND

The accessible Butterfly Playground at Morgan’s Wonderland, San Antonio, Texas.

While independent mobility is not the best fit for every child, participation and inclusion in family, school and community activities can still be a top goal… one that depends on mobility devices designed with both child and caregiver in mind.

Josh Tucker is the National Sales Manager for Leggero, which offers stroller-style wheelchairs with an array of positioning options. But a mobility system that encourages participation, Tucker acknowledged, also must be easy to transport.

“For a long time, vehicles were getting larger, with many families driving SUV’s and vans,” he said. “Lately, we have seen that begin to reverse, and families are going back to the smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles.

“With smaller vehicles come smaller trunks and storage space. So size and folding capability are important to many families. Obviously, when you are folding a stroller and picking it up to put in the rear of the vehicle, weight too becomes an issue. We don’t want Mom and Dad throwing their backs out trying to lift a mobility base multiple times a day.”

And if the family uses public transportation? “You want to make sure your mobility base is WC19 compliant with proper transportation tie-downs,” Tucker said. “Once the family is out in the community, then the seating and positioning become the focus.”

Day-Long Adventures

Tucker acknowledged that stroller-style wheelchairs need to meet the needs not just of the child, but also the family… even on longer outings.

“Depending on the child’s needs and the time they are going to spend in the adaptive stroller, we want to make sure they have everything on the seating system to make them as comfortable and properly positioned as possible,” he said. “This may include tilt for pressure relief, recline for comfort, and a combination of the two for diaper changes, naps, etc. The longer a child sits, the more they begin to get impatient and move around, so we want to make sure the stroller can support that.”

And for caregivers, Tucker said, “We all need extra storage in our everyday lives. Many bases are now including, or offering, an under-seat storage bag to hold diaper bags or purses. Often these can be replaced with a solid equipment tray for pumps, vents or other medical accessories to sit on. Having some adjustment in the push handles is always a plus, due to us all being different heights. One thing I feel that gets overlooked are the sunshade canopies. These can add shade from the sun, bright interior lights when you’re in public and your child is napping, and of course, the outside elements, such as rain.”

While factors such as storage or canopies may seem much less important than positioning options, Tucker said the details absolutely matter to families. “When adaptive strollers first came to the market, they looked like a medical stroller,” he noted. “Not much color and very mechanical looking, but they were lighter than a wheelchair and less expensive. As time went on, and we as an industry started getting more feedback from parents, we realized that Mom and Dad want their child to be in something that looks as much like a store-bought stroller as possible.

“That means we had to start giving color options. We needed to make the frame look more like a stroller base and less like a piece of hospital equipment. We added a sunshade canopy and a place for storage. Some strollers have zip compartments on the back for small items, such as wallets and sunshades. The goal is to create a mobility base that is part of the child’s lifestyle, not make the child part of the stroller.”

Educated Consumers

And while parents might be much less knowledgeable about postural support vs. clinicians and suppliers, Tucker said today’s families are better educated about their equipment choices.

“When we move into adaptive strollers, there is a lot of give and take,” he said. “Parents these days have a world of information and research at their fingertips, so it’s easy for them to narrow down what style they want and what seating and positioning components need to be on the chair. These days, parents contact us and have already done their due diligence. We just work on getting them a demo unit to try as quick as possible. Thankfully, we have a lot of great ATPs in the field that know how to properly size and fit each individual child and help Mom and Dad move in the right direction.”

This article originally appeared in the Jan/Feb 2022 issue of Mobility Management.

Referrals and Prescriptions podcast