Veterans Affairs

Self-leveling walker

Stair capable assist feature greatly expands the utility of the common design

Medical & Biotechnology

Prototype

Researchers at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) are inventing medical devices that have strong potential for widespread use. The technologies, including this walker, are available via patent license agreement to companies that would make, use, or sell it commercially.

Walkers, comprising light-weight tubular frames which form pairs of opposed legs joined in parallel spaced relation are in widespread use to assist those in need of support to better maintain stability and balance while walking or standing. A user stands between the leg pairs and grips the tubular frame, placing weight on the legs while standing or pushing the walker.

SELF-LEVELING WALKER ON A 4” STEP. Photo: VA

Conventional walkers are suited for traversing level ground and have legs of substantially equal length. However, when climbing stairs, a curb, or an incline such walkers cannot provide reliable support to the user, who is thus vulnerable to injury from a fall due to loss of balance.

The VA has designed and built a self-leveling walker (SLW) that adjusts to a variable stair or curb height at the direction of the user. A cable and pulley system, completely enclosed within the tubular frame is actuated by thumb lever and controls the telescoping legs. A prototype has been extensively tested in a 74 patient trial. Trial results linked below. The VA team initially developed a hydraulic version as a proof of concept and then moved on to a non-hydraulic version actuated by the cable and pulley combination. The latter has a lower cost, lower maintenance concerns, and is lighter in weight.

The SLW, enables users to navigate a variety of environments utilizing a single assistive device, remain in their homes, engage in community activities, and avoid the inconvenience and economic burden of expensive architectural modifications.

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