Helping Individuals Cope with Ataxia

Helping Individuals Cope with Ataxia

Over the weekend I participated in my first 5K.  I walked…and I made it the whole way! 

Helping people with severe mobility constraints due to neurological conditions is one of the pillars on which U-Step was founded. 

What is Ataxia?

It is a progressive disease that affects an individual’s ability to control one’s movements. According to the National Ataxia Foundation, more than 150,000 people in the United States currently suffer from this rare neurological disorder, whose name comes from the Greek, “a taxis,” meaning without order or lacking coordination. There are several neurological conditions that can cause ataxia, including (but not exclusively) brain and spinal cord injuries, multiple sclerosis and cerebral palsy.

Ataxia’s mobility challenges

As the condition progresses, a person with ataxia will experience many mobility challenges, including frequent stumbling, impaired coordination of their arms and legs, and an unsteady, staggering gait, known as ataxic gait. The loss of control also causes slurred speech, uncontrolled eye movements, and trouble with fine motor skills. Stability can be a major challenge for individuals with ataxia. To alleviate both mobility and stability issues, doctors prescribe the use of adaptive devices such as walkers, and often refer patients to U-Step, since our innovative walkers are specifically designed to manage these challenges.

Why do doctors like the U-Step Walker?

Stability is, in fact, the biggest reason doctors recommend the U-Step. Designed with a more solid base than traditional walkers, the signature U-shape base surrounds the user and braces them from falls in any direction. With 75% of the weight in the U-Step’s base, the walker has a very low center of gravity, making it substantially more stable than walkers whose weight is distributed proportionally from top to bottom. 

Control, Safety, and Maneuverability

Doctors recommend U-Step — particularly for patients with ataxia — for its control, safety and maneuverability features. For example, the walker is only activated when its user is moving and locks as soon as the person lets go. The U-Step has an adjustable speed which can be customized according to an individual’s own pace. The walker is easier to control and steer than traditional walkers because its turning wheels are placed toward the middle of the base, as opposed to the rear as in other rolling walkers. The U-Step can turn around in narrow indoor spaces, such as kitchens, hallways, and bathrooms, where most other advanced walkers cannot, simply because they’re too wide.

How is the U-Step walker helping individuals with ataxia? 

Perhaps the following heartwarming story from a customer will explain.  After she was diagnosed with ataxia, Emily* was experiencing trouble with her mobility, especially when going outside. Eventually, she just avoided any and all outdoor activities, missing out on spending time with family and friends simply because she had a difficult time getting around.  Emily knew she needed something that would help her overcome this challenge. She contacted us and we outfitted her with a customized U-Step walker, which helped her not only regain her mobility but her confidence to participate in routine – and not so routine — activities.

Now that I have the U-Step, I am more active outside,” writes Emily.  “Over the weekend I participated in my first 5K.  I walked…and I made it the whole way!   When I go mall walking and shopping, it is right there with me. I’ve noticed that when I’m out and about I have more confidence. The U-Step has had a profound impact on my outlook. Thank you so much for creating this amazing aid!

There is nothing more rewarding to me as a business owner than hearing stories of someone who thought their life of independent mobility was over, and after getting one of our products, is able to continue getting around, move, and walk. Anything becomes possible again – even participating in a 5K! 

Do you or a loved one suffer from Ataxia? We would love to hear from you; please contact us with your U-Step story to share.

*Name was changed for privacy