There is a wide variety of conditions and impairments that may qualify a person for Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income benefits. What is important to understand is that the Social Security Administration (SSA) is not as concerned with the diagnosis itself as they are with the limitations that an impairment may impose on an individual’s ability to work. Certain impairments, like lower extremity joint disorders, require SSA to look at a person’s ability to “ambulate effectively” when assessing disability. SSA defines effective ambulation in specific terms.
In order to ambulate or walk effectively, an individual must be able to walk without a hand-held device that would otherwise prevent an individual from using at least one upper extremity to carry items. For example, a person must use his/her hands to operate a walker or a manual wheelchair. Thus, a person using a manual wheelchair or walker would have difficulty with ambulation because such devices require the use of both hands to be operational. Conversely, a person who relies on a cane to walk has an available hand to carry items.
Furthermore, to ambulate effectively, SSA also indicates that a person must be able to walk at a reasonable pace over sufficient distance to carry out activities of daily living. Effective ambulation further requires that a person be capable of walking at a reasonable pace on rough or uneven surfaces for a full block. A person must be capable of walking up a few steps at a reasonable pace with the use of a single hand rail to be considered ambulatory. Finally, a person must be able to use public transportation to carryout routine ambulatory activities like shopping to meet SSA’s requirements for effective ambulation.
For more information on SSA’s definition of “effective ambulation,” please see: https://www.ssa.gov/disability/professionals/bluebook/1.00-Musculoskeletal-Adult.htm .
By: Joyce Trudeau of Premier Disability Services, LLC®