Late Effects of Poliomyelitis for Survivors and Physicians

Adaptive Equipment

Adaptive equipment enables people with disabilities and the elderly to accomplish life’s tasks independently and safely. Health care professionals, such as occupational therapists and physical therapists, can assess the functional abilities of the person with a disability, assist in selecting the appropriate equipment, and provide training with that device, if needed. Adaptive equipment may be acquired commercially and may need to be modified or customized. The term covers a whole gamut of appliances, gadgets, utensils, and implements that can be used in almost every area of daily living. Some are very simple and have been available for years, such as enlarged handles for an easier grip. Other adaptations, a result of new technology, are complex and expensive. 

Assistive technology exists for almost every functional deficit, such as weakness in the upper or lower extremities, the use of only one hand, or difficulty in reaching the feet. Many implements such as reachers, bath benches, raised toilet seats, as well as eating, hygiene, and dressing aids, used to be marketed only to people with disabilities but now are available from mainstream retail stores, pharmacies, and online retailers.

Voice-activated computers, zero-effort steering for automobiles, and automated home environmental controls are available for individuals with significant disabilities. State-of-the-art technologies such as these are expensive but are becoming less costly with the passage of time. The aging of the “baby boomer” generation bodes well for people with disabilities. More research time and money will be applied to developing improved methods of compensating for the functional deficits that will occur as this large population ages.

Each state has a federally-funded assistive technology project that can be found through an independent living center, a state’s vocational rehabilitation office, or other disability-related services. While the primary objective of most of these projects is advocacy for policy and system change related to assistive technology, they can be a good resource for locating, evaluating, and/or borrowing equipment. Although many assistive devices are not covered by Medicare and other insurances, they can sometimes be obtained from local charitable organizations’ equipment closets and funding help is often available from local organizations. A list of organizations offering assistance is available from PHI (https://post-polio.org/networking/directory/).