Walking and mobility aids

If you find it difficult to walk or get around or your sight is impaired, you may need a mobility aid when walking or to feel for obstacles. Your local Health and Social Care Trust is responsible for assessing your mobility and identifying a suitable mobility or walking aid.

Sensory Support team in Trusts

The Sensory Support Team in your area provides a specialist mobility assessment for people with visual impairments.

If your mobility is restricted because you’re partially sighted or losing your eyesight, you can ask to see the Sensory Support Team. A family member, healthcare professional or voluntary agency can also ask for a referral on your behalf. 

Mobility assessment

A rehabilitation worker in the Sensory Support Team:

  • will assess your indoor and outdoor mobility
  • provide information and training to help you get around safely
  • will  assess your suitability for a symbol, guide or long cane

Mobility aids provided by Sensory Support Team

Symbol cane

This is a short, folding cane which highlights the person has a visual impairment.  You cannot use the cane to support weight or detect obstacles on the ground.

Guide cane

You hold a guide cane diagonally across the upper body to detect obstacles and barriers. It is suitable for checking the depth of kerbs and steps.

The cane is for guidance only. You cannot use the cane as a walking stick to support body weight.

Long white cane

The cane has a roller ball at the end. You sweep the end from side to side when walking to detect  obstacles or barriers in  your way. The cane is for guidance only. You cannot use the cane as a walking stick to support body weight. 

Replacement cane

Your Sensory Support team give you a mobility cane permanently. They can replace your cane if it is broken or lost. To get a replacement cane, contact the Sensory Support team in your area. 

Walking assessment

If you require a walking aid, such as a walking frame, crutches  or a walking stick, a physiotherapist will assess you. 

Types of walking aids

After the assessment, an physiotherapist could recommend a personal walking aid such as:

  • a walking stick
  • a walking frame
  • a rollator
  • crutches
  • other walking equipment

Getting a walking aid

If they give you  a walking aid, they'll ask you to sign an equipment loan agreement. Trusts provide walking aids on permanent loan.  

You're responsible for looking after your walking aid and reporting any faults. Trusts replace broken walking aids.

Getting a temporary walking aid

When you need a temporary or permanent walking aid and aren’t visually impaired, a   physiotherapist can advise on the right equipment. For an appointment with a physiotherapist, you need a referral to your local Trust Physiotherapist service from any  healthcare professional, such as a GP or occupational therapist.

When you no longer need the walking aid, you should return this to the Trust.  You can contact the Community Care Appliances Department (CCA) who will arrange to collect the equipment from you.

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