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My day using a stationary walker; uncovering insights through empathic research

I spent a day using a stationary walker to develop empathy with the end user of this assistive device.

Photo of Dawn Feldthouse
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I spent a day using a stationary walker to  develop true empathy with the end user of this assistive device. My other team members used different assistive devices and we consolidated out findings after our day-long exploration. I learned so many things that I wouldn't have even considered if I had not had this experience; my team members felt the same way. 

The insight that stood out most while using a stationary walker was that they can be very painful to use, even when used correctly. After a while, having to lean forward (even slightly) caused strain in my neck and my palms ached from resting on the hard foam handles. Dining out with my cumbersome walker felt embarrassing. Navigating the crowd in the entryway of the restaurant, fitting between tables to get to my seat, and finding a place to rest my walker while we dined were all challenges I had to overcome. I felt badly to be a "bother," or an "inconvenience" to those around me. 

For the most part, people around me were polite and even helpful at times by opening doors or pulling out chairs, etc. However, I did have a few people who grew inpatient with my slow pace. These interactions were stressful and put pressure on me to hurry up or get out of the way. I imagine this would create a dangerous situation for someone who is already unstable on their feet. 

I found this empathic research exercise to be profoundly helpful. I would recommend trying out an assistive device for anyone interested in learning more about the lives of those facing challenges with physical mobility. 


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Photo of Kate Rushton

Hi Dawn!

Thank you for your post. I think it is interesting that the restaurant was not really designed for walkers. I wonder if spaces that are designed for wheelchair users and mothers with pushchairs would be better equipped for people with walkers.

Photo of Dawn Feldthouse

Hi Kate,

I have found that even mothers with strollers have challenges dining out. Thank you for the thoughtful feedback.

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