We’ve never really covered electric wheelchairs or power chairs in any great amount of detail on BBS for a number of reasons. Partly it’s because, with the importance of individual requirements, the prices involved and the provision of power chairs, we’re just not that sure how much influence a style guide would have. But what we thought we could do instead was to put together something on cool accessories to go with and enhance power chairs.
That idea occurred to us a long time ago… since then we’ve been searching high and low for good designs and now we think we’ve finally put together enough stylish products to make a guide – some that are specifically designed for wheelchair use and some that will just work well with one. These are our selections of items to help jazz up and make the most of whatever power chair you may already have.
The product that inspired this article, ErgoJoysticks were invented by an American wheelchair user named Joe Olson who, much like us at Blue Badge Style, felt disappointed by the lack of style and choice of assistive products. He set about designing improved products for himself before eventually deciding it was time to bring them to other people who needed them.
ErgoJoysticks are innovative ergonomic wheelchair joystick handles which look great and are designed to be easier to use, for people with reduced dexterity. They’re more comfortable and effective to use, for people with arthritis, weak or impaired hand function, or individuals who fatigue easily. They also stand out in an aesthetically pleasing way, with interesting shapes and cool metallic colours.
ErgoJoysticks are available online and we’ve been told that it is possible to have them sent to the UK, for any British readers. There are three different styles to choose from – Original, Stingray and Aero – all of which are intuitively designed to fit to the shape of your hand. As well as being ergonomic, like the Original model, the Stingray and Aero are both also designed with holes in them to help the hand breathe. These are really creative designs and we love the approach behind them.
iPortal products allow you to link your iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad up with your wheelchair. Using Bluetooth technology you can turn your gadget’s screen into a dashboard, displaying key information about your wheelchair, such as the speed at which you’re going and how much battery your chair has left. You can also use the iPortal joystick to make your iPhone more accessible – making phone calls or surfing the internet using a joystick and control pad attached to your wheelchair’s armrest.
The Care-E On is a really clever little wheeled platform which lets other people step onto the back of a wheelchair and ride along with it. It can hook onto the chair and carry along a partner, friend or child and it’s lightweight enough not to be a drain on the wheelchair’s motor or battery. When you don’t need it, it can be folded up and hidden away at the back of the wheelchair, so you don’t have to worry about getting any unwanted hop ons! It was designed by an American lady and is certainly available in her home state of California. However, beyond that there may be problems as you need an expert to attach it to your chair. It seemed worth including regardless since it’s a very clever idea.
Flexzi 3 is an extra-strong, triple-stranded tool for holding things up to read and use, complete with detachable iPad case. It’s a colourful, funky way to use media devices without having to hold them up, that comes either with a stand or a clamp to attach to your wheelchair. If you don’t have any need of an iPad case (i.e. if you don’t have an iPad) you can still use a Flexzi for other gadgets, but it’s part of the surprising number of wheelchair accessories which are aimed specifically at iPad owners – it’s not like every single wheelchair user has an iPad. It retails at £72.
Tecla Mobile Mounts, from Canada, are a very similar product to the Flexzi. The main differences are that they’re for smartphones rather than tablets and that they look a bit like something evil from a sci-fi film – you can kind of imagine one bursting out of John Hurt’s stomach in Alien, for instance. It’s a flexible tool, with a quick release mounting system for your handset that stays where you need it. It can attach to flat surfaces or tubing so it really can fit wherever you want on your wheelchair.
The phone mounting plate comes with an industrial-grade dual-lock fastener, so you do need to buy a hard case or shell instead to prevent damaging your phone. Mobile Mounts can be bought online for $99 Canadian dollars and shipped to UK or USA if necessary. If you need more information, they have a chat service on their website which is very helpful, in a typically Canadian way.
Trabasacks are a multi-purpose range of backpacks, designed to also operate as transportable desks for wheelchair users (and for non-wheelchair users too). They have a firm flat tray surface on one side and a removable bean bag cushion on the other, with a reasonably sized bag in between the two for storage. It’s a really clever and convenient idea to use as a tray when necessary and to discretely store on the back or the side of your chair when you don’t need it. They’re streamlined and lightweight, which makes them both functional and stylish. Prices vary within the range of bags.
Trabasack also sell a Media Mount to hold iPads (or other generic tablets) and Kindles (or other generic e-books) upright. It’s made of soft hook and loop receptive material with a velcro strip along one side. This means that you can twist it to any shape and it will stick to itself! Just use the grab handles to manipulate it into shape. It can also be used to tie objects down onto a surface, making it a nifty little gadget at £19.95.
We’re aware that wheelchairs aren’t just massive docks for using touch screen technology but we have one more accessory for media devices before we finish. The iLoop is essentially a smaller version of the Media Mount – a small circle which can hold a phone upright. It’s marketed as being and uber stylish product and it does look like a nice simple piece of kit, if not quite as glamorous as the designers let on. They come from Slovenia but can be bought online (the iLoops that is; not the designers!) and posted around the world for about £15.
We think that these are useful and trendy accessories for electric wheelchairs, but we want to know what do you think. What accessories, gadgets and gizmos do you use to power up your power chair? If you have or know of any, please get in touch in the comments section below!
If you would be interested in a BBS guide to electric wheelchairs let us know about that too.