Need and use of assistive devices for personal mobility by individuals with spinal cord injury

J Spinal Cord Med. 2016 Jul;39(4):461-70. doi: 10.1080/10790268.2015.1114228. Epub 2015 Dec 14.


Objective: To investigate the provision, use, and unmet need of assistive devices for personal mobility in the Swiss population with spinal cord injury (SCI).

Design: Community survey 2012 of the Swiss Spinal Cord Injury Cohort Study.

Participants: Individuals aged 16 or older with traumatic or non-traumatic SCI residing in Switzerland.

Interventions: Not applicable.

Outcome measures: Provision, frequency of use, and unmet need (i.e. perceiving the need of a device but it not being provided) of 11 mobility devices were assessed by self-report and analyzed descriptively. Provision of devices was further analyzed by sex, age, SCI etiology, SCI severity, and time since SCI.

Results: Devices reported highest for provision (N = 492; mean age 55.3 ± 15.1 years; 28.9% female) were adapted cars (78.2%) and manual wheelchairs (69.9%). Provision of various devices markedly varied with age and SCI severity (e.g. 34.6% of those aged 76+ had a walking frame compared to 3.1% of those aged 31-45; 50.0% of participants with complete tetraplegia had a power wheelchair compared to 7.6% of those with complete paraplegia). Many devices were mostly used daily (e.g. manual wheelchair) while others were mostly used less frequently (e.g. handbikes). Unmet need was highest for arm braces (53.2% of those in need) and power assisted wheelchairs (47.3%), and lowest for crutches (11.4%) and manual wheelchairs (4.8%).

Conclusion: The devices individuals have or use is largely dependent on their age and SCI severity. While most participants have access to basic mobility devices, there is still a considerable degree of unmet need for certain devices.

Keywords: Assistive devices; ICF; Mobility limitation; Needs; Spinal cord injuries.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Needs Assessment*
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / rehabilitation*
  • Switzerland
  • Wheelchairs / supply & distribution*