Spinal Cord Injury (SCI): Adaptive Equipment

Adaptive equipment means tools and devices that make daily living with SCI easier. They are also known as assistive devices. You will also hear them called durable medical equipment (DME). They help protect you from injury, improve your comfort and function, and let you live with more independence. Your SCI care team will help you determine what types of equipment will best suit your needs. And the team will work with you to acquire it.

Man with spinal cord injury in wheelchair at sink in an accessible bathroom.

Types of Equipment You May Need

There is a vast array of tools and devices for people with SCI. You may know of some items you would like to have now. You may realize a need for other devices or tools down the road. Work with your SCI care team to decide what tools will benefit you the most. Items may be purchased from DME suppliers. Some of the equipment you may find useful is listed below.

  • Mobility devices. These include wheelchairs, canes, crutches, walkers, and adapted shoes. There are also adaptive tools that can allow you to drive a vehicle. Your team will help you acquire the devices that give you the most appropriate mobility.

  • Hospital beds. These can make it easier for you to get in and out of bed. They also help with comfort and skin protection.

  • Transfer equipment. These tools help you and your caregivers move your body from one place to another. This includes transfer boards, benches, and lifts.

  • Positioning devices. These help keep your body comfortable and safe. They help to position you to get the best function. They help with stability and prevent muscle and skin problems. These include cushions, splints and braces, backrests, and more.

  • Respiratory equipment. This helps with breathing and suctioning. This includes ventilators, continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines, and other tools.

  • Self-care tools. These are devices that help you do your self-care tasks, such as bowel and bladder care, menstrual care, dressing, personal grooming, eating, and exercising. Tools can include a shower bench or shower commode, dressing stick, reaching devices, adapted silverware, and more.

  • Environmental control devices. These help you with things such as turning on lights, answering the phone, adjusting the home thermostat, and opening and closing doors and windows.

Paying for Equipment

DME may be covered by Medicare, Medicaid, or private health insurance. But not all tools and devices are covered. And some can be very expensive. Work with your insurance provider and SCI care team to find out what is covered and what you may have to pay for.

Maintaining Your Equipment

Keep your tools clean and in good working order. This will help ensure your safety. It will help you maintain independence. Check your tools daily or weekly for signs of wear or other problems. Keep owner’s manuals in a convenient place. If you have problems you can’t fix, contact the DME supplier. And clean your tools on a regular basis. This can help keep you from getting sick. Also, know that many tools have a limited lifespan. Replace your equipment as needed.

Changing Needs Over Time

Your needs for certain equipment may change with time. You may need more tools, fewer tools, or different tools for your daily routine. As your needs change, talk to your care providers about reassessing the devices that you use.


For more information about SCI, go to:

  • The National Spinal Cord Injury Foundation www.spinalcord.org

  • Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation www.christopherreeve.org

  • Paralyzed Veterans of America www.pva.org

  • National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) www.ncil.org

  • WheelchairNet www.wheelchairnet.org

  • AbleData www.abledata.com

  • Medicare Supplier Directory www.medicare.gov/supplier/home.asp