ALS - mobility and assistive technology needs

ALS digram cropped

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a progressive neuromuscular disease that causes neurodegeneration of the motor neurons in the brain and spinal cord.

When the motor neurons die, the ability of the brain to initiate and control the body’s muscle movements is lost.

Due to the documented sudden decline in function, a person with ALS can go from using a walker to needing a power mobility device like a powerchair very quickly.

Lou Gehrig’s disease is progressive, becoming more severe over time.

The disease receives its name from the hall of fame baseball player Lou Gehrig, who was diagnosed with the condition in 1939 at age 36.

Stephen Hawking

Mobility and assistive technology needs

People with ALS often require power mobility assistance very quickly due to the rapidly progressive nature of the disease.

In the beginning stages of ALS, a client may need a power chair with high-back support to assist with positioning and performance of mobility-related activities of daily living (MRADLs).

A joystick should be used if the individual has adequate hand movement for controlling the power chair since it provides the most direct control for driving a power base.

Giving a client a hand controller with switch jacks is often advised. As the user’s ability changes, switches can be added to operate on/off and mode operations.

As the disease progresses, the individual may find they have a limited time during the day when a joystick can be operated.

More advanced electronics, such as a mini-proportional joystick, head array or chin control, may need to be considered to operate the powerchair.

The individual will most likely require the use of postural support components and power positioning functions to assist in pressure relief, postural realignment and process.

These components may also help with transfers, sitting tolerance and comfort.

The power positioning options for consideration include power tilt and recline systems, power-adjustable seat height, power articulating leg rests or a power articulating foot platform.

Providing a power base that can accept oxygen and eventually a ventilator is also critical.

LED fender lights on the Q6 Edge 2 and Q6 Edge HD (standard on the iLevel Q6 Edge Z and Q6 Edge 3) help clients see and be seen when out and about outside the home.

ICON Rehab Powerchair UK
ICON Rehab Powerchair
Quantum Q6 Edge 2 Powerchair profile
Quantum Q6 Edge 2 Powerchair


Based on the mobility needs of an individual with ALS, they may benefit from a power base with the ability to accept full seating and positioning options, various drive controls, and power positioning.

They can accommodate a vent tray and oxygen holder. The Q6 Edge 3, Q6 Edge 2, the narrow Q6 Edge 3 Stretto, and Q6 Edge Z fit this criterion and have the options for a person in the beginning stages of ALS.

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