Demographics of Wheeled Mobility - Mitchell P LaPlante.doc

Demographics of Wheeled Mobility - Mitchell P LaPlante.doc...

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Demographics of Wheeled Mobility Device Users By Mitchell P. LaPlante, Ph.D. Associate Adjunct Professor Dept. of Social and Behavioral Sciences Disability Statistics Center University of California 3333 California Street, Room 340 San Francisco, CA 94118 [email protected] October 7, 2003 Paper presented at the conference on Space Requirements for Wheeled Mobility An International Workshop October 9-11, 2003 Center for Inclusive Design and Environmental Access University at Buffalo , State University of New York Buffalo, New York 14214-3087 Sponsored by U.S. Access Board Mitch LaPlante Demographics of wheeled mobility Page 1 of 25
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Introduction Assistive mobility devices––including wheelchairs, scooters, canes, crutches, and walkers––are effective ways to alleviate the impact of mobility limitations for many people, permitting more efficient ambulation over long and short distances, increased independence and the promise of full participation in community life. The use of assistive devices increases with age, and because the U.S. population is aging, the use of assistive devices is of ever increasing importance. Increased use of assistive technology may have helped reduce disability at older ages (Manton, Corder, and Stallard, 1993), based on data from the National Long Term Care Survey. However, a recent review of national surveys does not corroborate a decline in ADL level disability at the older ages (Freedman, Martin and Schoeni, 2002), but does conclude that the rate of functional limitations, such as walking a quarter mile, has declined in the older population. Although mobility device users represent only a relatively small minority of the population with disabilities, their importance transcends their numbers. Mobility devices, especially wheelchairs, are visible signs of disability and have become symbols in themselves of the very idea of disability. Understanding the magnitude and characteristics of the population using assistive technologies is therefore of particular importance, as well as understanding how the technologies are used. For mobility devices to be used effectively, the environments in which they are used must be physically accessible. This paper focuses on the population using wheeled mobility devices—wheelchairs and scooters—and trends over time. It provides a profile of their demographic characteristics; health and disability status, including diagnoses and impairments and physical functioning, health insurance status, and unmet needs using the latest available published information supplemented with some original analysis. The accessibility of mobility device users’ homes and larger environments is also discussed, demonstrating that improvements in physical accessibility must remain a priority for millions of mobility device users who continue to experience accessibility barriers, as of 1997.
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