Having had use of a power wheelchair for only a few years, I have found that it was often necessary to devise work arounds for my everyday needs. Allow me to expand on that statement. The majority of the time I have found that technology still* hasn’t caught up with some of us (or, most of us).
When I was first introduced to the world of powerchairs, I learned that some came equipped to the hilt with different functions (provided one had the financial means to acquire the latest gizmos) My own chair had a couple of interesting add ons, however, I found a few functions impossible to perform from a seated position. (I fortunately do have the use of my arms and hands). My primary difficulty lay in reaching for buttons, knobs, handles, fumbled items,and the like. Being of the seated and financially precarious persuasion, I was forever roaring in frustration at said knobs and buttons, until I began to carry my Stick-It (my unique invention for attacking knobs and buttons) It is a retractable stick with a rubberized hook, a magnet on one end (for small metal items) and a rubber tip (for things like elevator buttons etc). I thought I was pretty slick when I made this myself, after spending hours cruising the net searching for something that ostensibly could work at what seemed like at exorbitant cost (anything deemed assistive* or medical* implies great expense). Then, I began to interact with other seated folks…
I was soon to discover that among my people* were a plethora of makers and inventors who found themselves likewise frustrated by an Abled* world. I was having some difficulty in using the joystick on my chair for extended periods of time and when I did, my hand would become fatigued and spasm. I tried several adjustments to my chair, controller, and several joystick configurations, balls, goalposts etc. until one evening I was surfing the net and found a call out for a beta test of a new idea for a joystick from an engineer in Baltimore MD. I was at my wits end. I was losing the function in my hand overall and was not quite ready to go the head array route. Ergonomics! eureka! of course! I count myself as one of the disAbled stubborn Mules who could tough anything out… (until my hand and shoulder locked up for a few agonizing days) I contacted the person and agreed to test his product out. I now can’t imagine my life on wheels without it. Thanks Roll Geek*, you saved my sanity, and my hand.
In my journey on wheels I have found so many brilliant folks on and offline who have created devices and modifications that have made my life a happier place. Indeed, I have interacted with “assistive device dealers” and their ilk, but I must say, thus far it’s the other disAbled folk I encounter who are the finest source for adaptive ideas. We are a community of makers, we understand our own challenges better than anyone else out there. Not to discredit the professionals who do their work, (my joystick handle creator is an engineer) as some of them live with disAbilities and really get the picture.
One person I interact with has developed a retractable wheelchair canopy. I have seen safety lighting, durable wheelchair storage bags, positioning bolsters and seating, adaptive external electronics and lazer modifications, the list goes on. They say if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself. I have encountered such brilliance rolling along in my chair. People indeed are our greatest resource. My advice, if you see something brilliant, that someone else is using, ask them about it. You may be speaking to the inventor of the best adaptive device you ever imagined.