Before I started in my career in Community health care, I was pretty much ignorant of the many types of personal mobility aids that exist to make the lives of the physically disabled in our communities much more manageable. There is really no question that there now exists a wide variety of mobility aids and devices that serve to greatly empower the disabled and to increase the level of independence in the lives of physically disabled individuals both inside and outside the home.

During my more than ten years of employment as a Resident Care Aid, or RCA for short, I have been able to witness first hand how mobility challenged individuals cope with their restrictions inside their own homes. For starters, I have become aware of the existence of the motorized recliner lift chair for use inside the home. The basic principle behind the lift chair is that it enables the occupant of the chair to easily and safely occupy and exit the chair at their discretion and without any assistance. The way that standard lift chairs work, is that they are able to slowly and steadily raise up to meet the intended occupant at their standing level so that they can easily sit into the chair which would then be lowerd down into a comfortable seating position at the user's discretion by use of a hand-held remote that is connected to the arm of the chair by means of a reinforced cable or cord. Once the chair has been suitably reclined or descended, the occupant can choose from a variety of upright and laid back positions, limited only by the ability of the chair to be adjusted: some lift chair recliners are equipped with head rests and foot rests which are both able to be adjusted seperately from the main body of the chair, to suit the comfort needs of the occupant. Regardless of the particulars of any one lift chair model, most of them share similar safety features; to start with, making sure that the chair itself is a proper fit for the intended user is one of the basic safety tenets that one can start with since a properly fitting chair means that there is less likelihood of the user falling out of it while in motion. In addition, most models of lift chair come with some sort of battery backup feature to ensure that there is some sort of emergency power source available for the chair in the event that there is any unexpected loss of power in the household; with the battery backup, the occupant can still manipulate the chair during any power outage. One other safety feature of note is the design of the remote control unit on many models of lift chair recliner. With many of them, the remote is designed with a pressure switch which ceasses to operate unless pressed, that way if for whatever reason the user should drop the remote they will not be injured or stranded by an out of control chair.

Another home mobility device that I have become familiar with is the home chair lift for stairs. The basic concept behind the stair chair lift is that it acts as an enabler by allowing the user to get up and down between the floors of their home via their home staircase, employing the use of a motorized lift system. There are variations on the basic design of stair chair lifts when it comes to the seating position of the occupant of the lift as well as to whether or not the user requires the option of being able to bring their manual wheelchair into the lift with them.

In the bathroom, there are also a few mobility aids that I had no idea about before first using them in my occupation. One such device is the home shower lift which is designed to allow for the safe and comfortable transit to and from a bathtub. I also have had a chance to learn about the accessible shower and tub, which includes a swing door access design for those with mobility issues. One last bathroom mobility aid that I have come to be familiar with is the basic commode chair, which is basically a water-resistant manual wheelchair equipped with a rubberized seat and designed to fit over most standard toilets, allowing for the physically disabled individual to access both their toilet and shower with less difficulty and no concern for water or rust damage which might be a concern if using any other type of manual chair in the bathroom shower.

Finally, outside of the home, I have also learned about and come to appreciate the significance of a few other mobility aids. For those with minor mobility issues there is the personal walker which serves as a kind of personal support frame for someone who still is capable of walking with some minor support but that also needs to be able to rest at regular intervals. Now however, walkers have advanced to the point where you can even get a walker that converts into a makeshift seating surface for whenever necessary.

For those with greater mobility issues the medical mobility scooter has grown in popularity to the point where it is a prefered mode of transit for many mobility challenged individuals in my community. The basic design of the scooter makes it preferable for those who are still able to walk but are unable to carry themselves under their own power over extended distances, say on a trip to the local park or the shopping mall, for example. The mobility scooter's design is very reminiscent of the traditional scooter with a driver seat located over a center running board and with a handlebar array located in front of the occupant. The design of the scooter reflects the fact that the occupant is not necessarily expected to stay onboard the vehicle once they have arrived at their destination, with the swivel seat design allowing for an easy mounting and dismounting of the vehicle passenger area. Finally, there is of course the electric or motorized wheelchair. The motorized wheel chair is a truly enabling mobility device for those physically disabled individuals who would be facing a serious challenge if they had to operate a manual chair over longer distances, especially inthe more uneven terrains that they might come across in the local community. Before working in healthcare I had some appreciation for the utility of the electric wheelchair, however I did not realize the finer points of such chairs abilities: many powered wheelchairs are equipped with the ability to tilt right back putting the occupant in an almost supine position, which is helpful in reducing pressure on the lower buttocks area (something very important to anyone dealing with pressure sore issues). As well, powered chairs can be equipped with the ability to be completely operated through only the use of a puff straw, empowering a severely disabled operator with a greater level of control over their own chair. After working with a number of quadriplegics, I have really come to appreciate just how much of a difference such enhanced mobility can make in their lives.

Clearly my work in the Community health care field has exposed me to a number of empowering personal mobility devices both inside and outside of the home. From the chair lift for stairs to the motorized wheel chair I have been privy to the everyday use of many personal mobility devices. When all is said and done, I would have to say that I consider myself fortunate to have ended up in a field which has given me the chance to increase my own awareness of the daily challenges facing many in my own community.