Alternative Drive Controls: Looking at the Possibilities, as Opposed to the Obstacles

Alternative Drive Controls: Looking at the Possibilities, as Opposed to the Obstacles

Over the years I've had numerous unforgettable experiences working with clients, all of which taught me valuable professional and/or life lessons. About 12 years ago, a three year-old little girl with spastic quadriparesis cerebral palsy came to my former facility for a power mobility evaluation. During the family interview her mother stated that she was not sure why the physician had referred her daughter to our clinic, because she knew her daughter did not have the ability to drive a power wheelchair.

I couldn't help but notice as the mother was expressing her doubt, the little girl was rolling her eyes. A few minutes later that same little girl utilized a head array to drive directly toward her older sister and pin her up against the wall. Don't worry; the older sister was perfectly fine! As a result, the mother saw her daughter in a completely different light, and the client had a smile of satisfaction on her face that I will never forget.

So what did that lesson teach me? Given the appropriate access method power mobility can make dreams come true!

Technology is ever evolving, which has led to the development of a wide variety of specialty input devices that allow individuals to drive a power wheelchair with everything from their head to their toes. There are devices that range from requiring the user to have a great deal of motor control to devices that simply requirement one small movement.

Let's look at a few of the alternative drive controls that are currently available:

Compact Joystick – Dual (ASL, Inc.) – The unique shape, size, and textured end makes it easier to grab and manipulate. The integrated buttons on the top come with two mono jack plugs that can be programmed to activate such things as: on/off, reset, powered seating functions, etc.

Mushroom Joystick (ASL, Inc.) – This joystick was designed to fit the contour of a hand, so no gripping or pincer grasp is needed.

MicroPilot (Switch, Inc.) – This joystick requires virtually no force and has no throw. The amount of force required to move in any direction can be adjusted.

MicroGuide (Switch-It, Inc.) – The MicroGuide is the size of the MicroPilot, but has the physical joystick throw (deflection) for clients that prefer feedback of movement. This joystick is well suited to be activated by a finger or chin.

Micro-Mini Joystick (ASL, Inc.) - The ASL Micro Mini Joystick with Hand Pad virtually takes no force to move. It allows individuals with very limited mobility to rest a finger on the top of the joystick and, with a slight movement, proportionally direct the chair.

Proximity Switches – Activation of proximity switches occurs when the switch senses a hand or another body part in the activation area, which means the user does not need actually touch the switch. Proximity switches are ideal for individuals that have difficulty with motor control and coordination. Proximity switches are often utilized in head array systems or lap trays.

The options listed above are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to alternative drive controls. Be sure to talk with manufacturer's representatives to learn more.

Would you like more information on how specialty controls and accessories work? Check out these videos:

    Watch Quickie Power Accessories YouTube Playlist

Please note being aware of the equipment available to your clients is just one of the pieces to the puzzle when it comes to identifying the best option for an individual. In future blog posts we will discuss the evaluation process, suggestions for training, and choosing the best equipment for your client.

Thank you for reading our blog! We love hearing from you, so please do not hesitate to reach out to us.

Always remember at the end of the day, your client is your number one priority!
- Angie

Disclaimer: The contents of this blog are intended to be utilized as a general resource for clinicians and suppliers to then use clinical reasoning skills to determine optimal seating and mobility solutions for individual clients. Steve and Angie are unable to answer questions from members of the general public including caregivers and end users. Members of the general public should direct specific questions to their own clinicians, medical, suppliers, or other health care professionals.

Posted by: Date: 7/1/2014 4:00:00 PM
Filed under: AlternativeDriveControls, Angie, Mobility, PowerWheelchairs, SpecialtyInputDevices
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