Mobility Disability Resource Guide for Staff

Patients with Mobility Disabilities

People with mobility disabilities are not all the same - they use mobility devices of different types, sizes, and weight, transfer in different ways, and have varying levels of physical ability. If you are unsure, it is encouraged to ask questions. Understanding what assistance, if any, is needed and how to provide it, ensures safe and accessible health care for people with mobility disabilities.

Key Recommendations for Patients with Mobility Disabilities

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 Clear a path of access to the room

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Respect personal space, including wheelchair and assistive devices

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Do not examine patients while seated in their wheelchairs if the examination requires a person to lie down
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Do not lean against or hang on the patient’s wheelchair. Keep in mind that people with disabilities treat their chairs as extensions of their bodies

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Place yourself at eye level when speaking with someone in a wheelchair

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Room the patient in a room with an adjustable exam table. If an adjustable exam table is not available, room the patient in the largest room

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Additional Accommodations and Resources for Patients with Mobility Disabilities

Adjustable Exam Tables

Wheelchair users and patients with other activity limitations have difficulty may have difficulty getting onto a fixed-height examination table that is typically 32 inches tall. Adjustable height examination tables capable of achieving a low height in the range of 18 inches can remove barriers to access. 

In the absence of adjustable exam tables, a therapy table may be used. Wheelchair users and patients with other activity limitations should be lifted or assisted onto the exam table.

Assistance with Transfers and Using Transfer Equipment

Below are some videos on how to use various transfer equipment such as a Hoyer Lift and a transfer board.

Transfers Intro

Here is a quick video on some transfer techniques and steps to remember:

  • Make sure that the patient is comfortable before transferring the patient
  • Keep straight back in a neutral position and stay low with knees slightly bent
  • Stay close to the patient when assisting the patients

Transfer Options

Hoyer Lift Transfer

It is recommended that you watch this video prior to operating a Hoyer Lift even if you had a training before. When operating a Hoyer Lift, please remember to:

  • Check that the sling is appropriately sized – the harness should be large enough to wrap around the patient’s torso, but not too large that the patient will slip through
  • Check that the brakes are locked
  • Check that the bottom crease of the harness is all the way down to the bottom of the patient’s buttocks
  • When cross the two-leg straps, ensure that the patient’s bottom does not fall behind in the whole harness
  • When lacing the loop in the ring of the Hoyer, ensure that the cross position of the loop is maintained
  • Undo any straps or belts the patient may have attached to the wheelchair
  • Hold the boom, which is the long-angled bar at the top, while moving the patient to minimize the swing
Transfers Popover

Transfer Popover is used by patients who have good upper body strength but are not able to use their legs. Here is a video on some transfer popover techniques and steps to remember:

  • Have the patient lean forward to help put on the gait belt
  • Make sure the brakes are on
  • The patient will turn their hips and will use upper extremities to push through the arms and pop hips over to the surface
  • Stay in front of the patient in case the patient loses balance or needs help

In case the patient cannot perform popover transfers safely, use a sliding board:

  • Tuck the board underneath the patient’s thigh
  • Have the board at an angle with the endpoint on the surface
  • Stay in front of the patient while the patient scoots over to the surface
  • Make sure that the patient’s feet have moved along with the body
  • Once the patient is balanced, remove the board
  • Do not bend at your back when assisting the patient, use your knees
Transfers Sliding Board

Here is a video on how to operate transfers sliding board and some steps to remember:

  • Pull the brake on the patient’s chair
  • Have the patient lean forward to place the gait belt
  • The patient will twist in the chair and place the board under their thigh
  • Keep a hand on the patient’s shoulder and hold on to the patient’s leg
  • Make sure that the patient is balanced before removing the board or adjusting the patient’s legs onto the table
  • When moving the patient back to the chair, have the chair at a slight angle to the patient
  • Lift the patient’s leg and place one foot on the pedal
  • Ensure that both brakes are on
  • Place one end of the board under the patient’s thigh and the other end on the chair
  • Stay close to the patient with one hand over the patient’s shoulder and the other hand on the patient’s leg. The patient will scoot over to the chair
  • Take the gait belt off

Large Exam Rooms

Use the largest patient room with an adjustable exam table and remove extra chairs in the room.

Wheelchair Accessible Scales

A wheelchair-accessible scale should have a sloped platform large enough to fit a wheelchair with a high weight capacity to weigh a patient while he or she is seated in the wheelchair. There should be enough maneuvering space to pull onto and off the scale.

A Wheelchair accessible scale with man in wheelchair 

Exceptions to the COVID-19 Visitor Policy

Please see Michigan Medicine’s Visitor Guidelines During COVID-19, including the Guidelines for Supporting Adult Patients with Disabilities During the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (PDF). Questions regarding policy modifications should be referred to Patient Relations and Clinical Risk at 734-936-4330.

Questions or Concerns

For any questions or concerns around the patient rights, please reach out to the Patient Civil Rights Coordinator at MichMed_patients_rights@med.umich.edu. For additional guidance and support for identifying resources on topics such as accommodations, physical accessibility, service animals and disability inclusion and awareness, you can also reach out to Christina Kline, the ADA Coordinator and Director at cdtkline@umich.edu.