Sustaining independent mobility and more - the story of Ryan
by Guest Blogger Michelle L. Lange, OTR/L, ABDA, ATP/SMS
Ryan is a busy 25-year-old man, who is getting his Master's degree in psychology. He likes to go out to eat, claiming his favorite food is whiskey! Ryan also plays video games, even programming the system so that he can control the functions he needs to. Ryan has limited motor strength due to a diagnosis of spinal muscular atrophy, type II.
Game controller joystick
Ryan was diagnosed with this progressive muscle disease at age 6 months. He was able to drive a power wheelchair for many years, using a standard joystick. This became more and more difficult, however, as his muscle strength deteriorated. A standard joystick requires about 250 grams of force to use.
More than five years ago, he began using a game controller that was adapted as a driving method for a power wheelchair. The small joysticks on this controller only required about 50 gr of force to activate. However, the entire assembly tended to slide around and off of his lap. As a result, this driving method often broke.
Introducing a proportional joystick
It was time for a change. Ryan needed a proportional control, if possible, that required less force and activation distance. His hand and forearm needed to be well supported to facilitate this small movement and provide the stability he needed. Finally, Ryan would need access to a mode switch to control other features of the power wheelchair through the driving method, including power seating. Mike Freehill, a representative for Quantum Rehab and Stealth Products, met with Ryan to discuss options.
Ryan now drives with a mo-vis Micro Joystick using his right thumb. This driving method provides full proportional control without requiring undue force or effort - requiring less than 10 grams of activation force. As a result, Ryan can use his power wheelchair throughout his day.
The Micro Joystick has made an immense difference in my life. It provides me what I need: independent mobility and control of my power seating.
Hand and arm pad for postural support
The Micro Joystick is embedded in a Stealth Products hand pad at the optimal height for his control, about 1/4" (6 mm) above the surface. He does not use a handle, he prefers to just use the stem. The hand pad, in conjunction with the arm pad, provides postural support and stability to the wrist and hand. He grips the edges of the hand pad with his right fingers to keep his thumb aligned with the joystick and to provide stability.
The hand pad is mounted just inside the right armpad to a swing away joystick bracket so this can be moved for transfers, as needed. The hand pad also protects the joystick from collision.
Full control with additional switches
The Micro Joystick is combined with a mode switch mounted at his lateral knee (see photo). This provides Ryan with full control of his power seating, including tilt, recline, elevate, and elevating leg rests. He can also move the joystick to the left twice to emulate a mode command.* He has a second switch by his other knee to power the wheelchair on/off. The switches are Twisters, highly sensitive mechanical switches, which are mounted to the seat rail.
Ryan is very happy with his red Quantum Rehab Edge 2 power wheelchair and particularly likes the independent suspension. The same goes for the control: "The Micro Joystick has made an immense difference in my life. It provides me what I need: independent mobility and control of my power seating."
When asked what else he wishes his power wheelchair could do, he states: "Climb stairs and fly". Well, fly true, Ryan!
(* With Curtis electronics, you have the option to enable a direct mode command in the advanced display for special controls. It can be programmed under a double left or double right tap on the joystick.)