FAQs about Friedreich's ataxia mobility aids and adaptations

Mobility aids can include canes, walkers, rollators, and wheelchairs. All are designed to maintain mobility and independence in people with balance issues and weakened muscles, such as those that occur with Friedreich’s ataxia.

Assistive equipment can help a person with Friedreich’s ataxia when dealing with symptoms such as difficulty walking, balancing, and communicating. Adaptive devices  can also help reduce strain on the skeletal and cardiovascular systems, but will generally not reduce symptoms of the condition.

The Original Medicare does not cover home adaptations, and though some Medicare Advantage plans may help cover certain home safety equipment, the support is still limited. In some U.S. states, Medicaid may help pay for certain home improvements. Some expenses — such as the cost for ramps, grab bars, modified kitchen cabinets, and widened doorways — may be eligible for tax deductions. Check the IRS for tax deductible expenses or consult an accountant.

While there aren’t any wheelchairs designed specifically for people with Friedreich’s ataxia, plenty of options are available for both manual and power chairs that address the needs of someone with the condition. Patients should check with a healthcare professional, such as an occupational therapist, who can evaluate their needs and suggest options for wheelchairs and other mobility aids.

A walker either has no wheels, or it has a pair of wheels on the front of the frame. It is intended for a person with a slow gait and balance issues and is designed to bear the weight of the person as they step. A rollator, on the other hand, has three or four wheels, and is intended for use by a person who can still walk at a normal pace but needs some help with balance and posture. A rollator also has handbrakes and a seat for resting, and is designed for outdoor use, while a walker is generally used indoors.