Vikas Project Ability Aids
DIY Children’s PVC Walker
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Make your own walker out of PVC with little mechanical skill required. It costs less than buying one pre-made, and you can tailor the size to your specific needs and build in other features. Here are build instructions for the walker above that I made for Babu, a 3-year-old in Pushkar, India who has disabilities and is learning to walk. Several requirements guided the design:
- Large wheels to work in sand. Babu lives on sand. These wheels are 7 inches and can be swapped out for other wheels. Most walker wheels are tiny, 2-3 inches.
- Strength and durability. It has to last. This is achieved through 1″ PVC as opposed to smaller diameter, and large stainless steel hardware for the wheel assembly.
- Adjustable height to grow with Babu, via interchangeable leg segments, just the last short piece that includes the wheels. They can be swapped out for longer segments, raising the height of the whole walker. I made two sets, one is three inches taller. The rear wheel sections can also be swapped out for posts without wheels, like some walkers have, for braking.
- A removable arm so his parents can walk behind and help guide it, and control the speed.
- Simplicity of design. Using the fewest possible PVC pieces to achieve a sufficiently rigid design. The key to this is the 4-way side-outlet tees (see below).
The cost is about $75. I got extra parts to give Babu’s family – the hardware, some of the PVC sections and connectors, and extra wheels, which brought it to about $120.
Various lengths of 1-inch PVC straight piping
Your lengths will differ from mine. Mine totaled three 8-foot pipes, cut to pieces.
- 8 short pieces (vertical segments)
- 4 equal-length long pieces (horizontal length segments)
- 3 equal-length medium pieces (horizontal width segments)
- 1 medium piece and 2 very short pieces for the rear handle
- (2) 1″ PCV 3-way elbows*
- (2) 1″ PVC 4-way side-outlet tees* (NOT 4-way cross)
- (3) 1″ PVC tees
- (2) 1″ PVC elbows
- (3) 1″ PCV snap tees*
- (2) 1″ Rounded PVC caps for the handle, not threaded
*These cannot be purchased at a store like Home Depot, but they can all be purchased on Amazon.
- (4) 7″ plastic lawn mower wheels. This brand is popular and has a 1/2″ inch hub opening that will work harmoniously with the hardware below.
- (4) 1/2″ Stainless steel bolts
- (4) 1/2″ Stainless steel jam thin lock nuts
- (4) 1/2″ Stainless steel lock nuts
- (16) 1/2″ Stainless steel washers
Tools for Assembly
- PVC glue
- Two wrenches (not pliers) for wheel assembly
- 1/2″ drill bit with starter tip
- 1/8″ or 1/4″ drill bit for starting holes
- Clean and prep the PVC parts with PVC glue
- Assemble the PVC frame in any order you want. Don’t glue the wheel segments. They need to remain interchangeable to be able to easily adjust the height of the walker, and to swap out the rear wheels for posts without wheels.
- Tap the pieces tight with a mallet
- Drill 1/2″ holes into the four wheel posts. This takes some time and you must be careful not to split the PVC. First drill a smaller hole. Then with the larger bit, set the drill to its highest speed and go very slowly. If you have access to a drill press this is better than doing it with a hand drill. I used a hand drill and it was fine, but it requires a careful approach.
- Bolt the wheels, tightening the lock nuts with the two wrenches. You need a nut on either side of the PVC. The order from the outside is bolt/washer/wheel/washer/first nut (jam thin nut)/washer/PVC/washer/second nut (large lock nut). This arrangement is necessary to lock the PCV in place while allowing a bit of slack so the wheel can turn freely. Leave a little play around the wheel.
The clip-on tees are used for two purposes:
1. To provide a removable handle in the back that an adult can use to help push and steer the walker as if you were pushing a stroller. It also allows an adult to help control the speed. Using a clip tee here is a much better solution than splitting the back rail into two pieces and using a conventional tee.
2. To provide a removable bar placed at the midway point along the top bars, so that Babu can turn 180 degrees, step back from the walker, and use it for anterior support as opposed to posterior.
All of the pieces
Base configuration. It will be a few inches shorter than this when all the pieces are made snug.
With simple posts instead of wheels on one end
With the removable handle for adults to push/steer
With the removable crossbar (using the snap tees) to enable anterior support usage. In this configuration Babu will stand at the left edge facing to the right, and grab the bar with his arms outstretched, as if he was pushing a shopping cart. The bar can be moved to any position along the two top bars.
An example of moving the top bar to a new position
Connectors in use
Construction of the handle for the adult to push/steer, including the crossbar that if affixes to
The handle assembled. The snap tee enables it to be removed
4-way side-outlet tees are not readily available at retail stores, but they greatly simplify the construction and are worth getting. They’re only about $2.50 a piece and can be ordered through big online retailers like Amazon. Link
Snap tees (left) are used in sprinkler systems, not in traditional plumbing applications. They have to be custom ordered, but it’s worth it since they’re so useful. Link. Regular tee (right).
Other Vikas Project Ability Aids
See our tablet stand for people with limited use of their arms and hands.
Contact Brett at firstname.lastname@example.org