About David Hart and the Hart Walker
David Hart was born into a family of inventors and therefore it was probably likely he would walk the same path. He is a trained medical engineer in the United Kingdom, and started working for a large medical company which was on contract to the Ministry of Health. He worked his way up the ladder to eventually take charge of the company’s manufacturing unit and their research and development unit. His true interests lay within the creation of new and improved products and so, while in his twenties, he decided to dedicate all of his time to research.
David set up his own research and development company in Keighley, Yorkshire. He was asked to help a little boy with cerebral palsy and on meeting the child David knew that his plans for the future had been rewritten.
The original walker was designed in 1989 but after a great deal more research the MKII Walker was ready for trial in 1993. He discovered the hidden potential of the children he was working with and it soon became apparent that they deserved a much better-thought-out piece of equipment – equipment that could be appropriately adjusted so as to provide only what was needed at any stage of their progress, equipment that would help and encourage each child to reach his/her true potential.
David’s motto is: “May every child walk with pride, for it is their right.”
Although the Hart Walker looks simple, it has up to 1,000 working components. It combines a bracing system used to promote proper body alignment with a walking base. It is designed to encourage the correct walking gait – north/south steps instead of uncontrolled movement. Elastic cords are added to achieve an alternating walking pattern and can be adjusted to address unbalanced muscle abilities. The walker has many adjustments in the bracing system as well as in the walking base, enabling it to “grow” with the child. The base has four wheels to start, but can be changed to a two wheeled base, to no base at all, as balance and function improve.
The Hart Walker is the only hands-free walker available and allows children the opportunity to experience walking, often for the first time in their lives. It supports the body but leaves the child’s hands free for touching and interacting. All other walkers require the child to hold onto the frame.
Health benefits can include improved circulation, respiration, digestive system, muscle control and improved balance and co-ordination. Social benefits include a positive personality change, increased self-esteem, better interaction with others and better social communication. Once a child is used to the walker, it can become very manoeuvrable.
The difference a Hart Walker makes in the life of a child with cerebral palsy can hardly be imagined. They are transformed from dependent to independent, in a flash; from a life spent mainly indoors to something more closely resembling a “normal” childhood.