UK charity Remap provides bespoke solution for independent control of wheelchair and tabletFollow article
Remap is a UK charity that provides bespoke engineered solutions to help people with disabilities to achieve greater independence and quality of life (Remap.org.uk). The charity has around 70 local groups across the UK, comprising volunteer engineers with a variety of skills and disciplines, to design, engineer and produce these bespoke solutions. We help around 4000 people every year, who in many cases are unable to find a suitable solution from NHS or from normal commercial sources. This is generally because the need is developed from a number of different problems, not just the direct issues derived from their disability. All equipment is provided to the beneficiary free of charge, so the charity is reliant on grants and donations to fund materials and equipment.
Solutions range from relatively straightforward carpentry or metalwork to more challenging equipment requirements encompassing electrical, mechanical and control. For many cases, we are approached by local occupational therapy staff to help people where NHS solutions are not available.
This particular case has been taken up by the Brighton & District local panel (brighton.remap.org.uk) which has around 20 volunteers all giving their free time to be involved with engineering, admin, organisation and finances or other activities.
Our client Kane is a 20-year-old full-time wheelchair user with cerebral palsy. He lives with his parents and currently requires their help for many of his daily tasks whether routine tasks or others. Like many young adults he wants to be able to do more activities under his own initiative, and hence Remap were contacted for potential help.
He drives his chair using a chin controller, which is mounted on a fixed arm on one side of his chair. He has a Daessy arm mounted on the other side for his Samsung tablet, which he uses with a mouth pointer. Both tablet and joystick arms need to be put in place for him as he is unable to use his hands in any way. The problem is that once he is using either the chin controller or his tablet, he is unable to swap between the two without assistance from someone else to move the arms. Once the tablet is in front of him, he is stuck in the position and unable to drive the chair, and likewise, once he has parked himself, he is unable to use his tablet.
He is looking to be moving out to live more independently within the next year, so would like to control his heating, lighting etc from his tablet. It will be life-changing to be able to do that independently from involvement of others.
Our expert volunteer engineer Noel has been working closely with the client and his parents and has built a Daessy arm system which he is refining, one each for drive function and one for tablet function. Use of the existing mouth pointer and the need to park it while changing functions is important to ensure independence.
The solution involving mechanical, electrical and control items is outlined in the following article, as well as the development work required for this technically demanding solution.