Assistive Devices

This Insider Guide provides general information about Assistive Devices, and it is important to remember that this guide does not take into account personal circumstances. As every individual is unique, it important to seek advice tailored to your dependents specific needs - this can be done by speaking to an Occupational Therapist.

At certain times in our lives it becomes necessary to look for tools and devices that help to improve quality of life of those close to us. The term used to describe these tools is ‘Assistive Devices’ and it covers a multitude of aids to help your dependent remain independent in and around the home as well as improving outdoor mobility.

Assistive devices can be provided, sometimes free of charge, following an occupational therapy assessment or purchased independently.


In the majority of cases, an occupational therapy assessment will be required to help identify the tasks an individual will need assistance with. This is most commonly arranged either in hospital as part of the discharge procedure or in the community by the local social services department.

This assessment will help to determine which equipment and adaptations are required to promote the individual’s independence and ensure their own and their carer’s safety. It will also recommend the source of equipment/adaptations required.

Installation of equipment and training in its use should be overseen by the Occupational Therapist.

Occupational Therapy Assessments can also be arranged privately. To find an Occupational Therapist in your area, the Directory of Occupational Therapists in Independent Practice is a useful source of information.

Types of Assistive Devices

Assistive devices can include small items such as grab rails, special cutlery, walking sticks, walking frames and adapted shoe horns through to larger items such as riser/recliner chairs, bathseats, stairlifts, hoists, adjustable beds, ramps, motorised scooters and wheelchairs.

Certain “medical items” such as hospital beds or commodes are usually arranged via the Community Nursing Services.

In the past, equipment provision has been split between the NHS and social services. Since the end of 2004, there is a joint equipment service in place with clear criteria for assessment and access. Local initiatives for the implementation of this service may vary.

Paying for Assistive Devices

Since April 2003, the Government has removed charges for some items of community equipment such as handrails and hoists.

Adaptations to the home and some larger pieces of equipment may be paid for with a Disabled Facilities Grant. This grant is means-tested. If an individual does not qualify for a Disabled Facilities Grant, he or she will generally have to pay for adaptations or purchase the equipment privately.

There are a number of issues to address when purchasing an assistive device:

  • Use a quality manufacturer and distributor
  • Ensure the product is demonstrated prior to purchase
  • Ensure delivery and installation are included in the price
  • Consider the second-hand market
  • Check guarantees
  • Check after-sales service
  • Consider availability of Government assistance