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Ability Superstore Blog

Welcome to our blog, your one-stop resource for news, features and resources for living life to the fullest. View our articles on the latest mobility products and features with disability bloggers.

What Do The Terms ‘Disability Aids’ And ‘Mobility Aids’ Mean?

Posted by Martin Hewitt on September 11, 2020


Photo from Canva website

It’s one of those questions that seems to open a can of worms — what do ‘disability aids’ and ‘mobility aids’ mean? More so, are the terms ‘disability aid’ and ‘mobility aid’ interchangeable, and are they even appropriate anymore given the weight the word ‘disability’ can carry?

First thing’s first; ‘mobility aid’ and ‘disability aid’ are not necessarily the same thing. A mobility aid refers to anything that directly improves mobility for someone with a condition that can restrict movement. Some obvious examples have been around for many years, such as walking sticks, which have been in use so long we’ve even written histories of them.

Traditionally, ‘mobility aids’ are relatively low-tech devices. However, the term can also refer to more complex products, like mobility scooters.

By comparison, a ‘disability aid’ is more problematic to define, not least because the term itself implies a lack of ability. It, therefore, raises the same issues that led to the Paralympics being called the Paralympics rather than Disabled People’s Games, and our choice of Ability Superstore as a name. Nevertheless, the term ‘disability aid’ is still regularly used, and it covers a lot of different products aimed at several different needs and conditions, including, but not limited to, mobility.

Our recent blog on autism and sensory aids is a good case in point. Focused on products that are designed to help with both the hyper and hypo-sensory conditions often associated with autism spectrum disorder, these could be considered examples of ‘disability aids’.

The blog looked at touchables that reduce anxiety and stress levels. Still, a ‘disability aid’ could also mean communication and expressive aids, which help individuals with outward communication, or act as visual cues to combat memory problems, improve information processing or a person’s ability to understand abstract phrases.

We also need to consider the sliding scale and the sometimes arbitrary lines on which disability is gauged. For example, visual impairments begin to have a detrimental impact on the quality of life, and our abilities, long before we are considered blind. Since around 1290, the solution has been eyeglasses, otherwise known as spectacles and most commonly called glasses – but we don’t consider glasses necessarily as disability aids.

However, glasses are disability aids, because, without them, people who suffer from even moderate long, or short-sightedness would be at a distinct disadvantage compared to the rest of the population who don’t need them.

Looking at things from this perspective, the overarching question, ‘what does the term disability aid mean?’ is suddenly easier to answer. It refers to any device that has been created to level the playing field, or at least try to reduce specific physical, mental and psychological disadvantages that impede a person’s capacity to function in situations the majority of people do not consider problematic.

Bathroom aids and washing aids can be seen to blur boundaries between these types of disability aids. There has been a lot of research published on the link between hygiene, emotional wellbeing and psychological state. To use a general example, just think how many people rushed to the barbers and hairdressers after they reopened following the COVID-19 lockdown. Humans may be cursed with narcissistic tendencies, but like so many other ‘animals’, grooming can also be an essential weapon in the defence against feeling miserable and self-doubt. It’s good for our self-worth, self-confidence and self-image.

Bathroom aids are primarily aimed at tackling physical obstacles faced by people with disabilities who have restricted movement. But their positive impact is also psychological, as we may well feel more positive after washing or bathing. So, by the same principle, all ‘disability aids’, whether they are mobility aids or expressive and communicative aids, have the potential to have this kind of psychological benefit.

Being unable to perform a task is frustrating for anyone, but our frustration peaks if the task is something we know many other people do fairly easily or we ourselves used to perform without any problems.

‘Disability aids’ can make the difference between overcoming a physical obstacle or not, directly impacting on our independence. Independence is extremely important when it comes to dealing with self-image, self-belief and self-confidence. With that in mind, the term ‘disability aid’ might not be that problematic after all, because it suggests increased ability, so long as we emphasise outcome, rather than need.

Ability Superstore stocks one of the largest selections of mobility aids and disability aids in the UK. If you find that you or a loved one can no longer perform a daily task you once found easy, why not give us a phone call on 0161 8500884 to see if there is a mobility aid which can help?