Last year we looked at how to personalise your wheelchair to reflect your personality. In this issue, we want to show you how to increase the use of your wheelchair with accessories such as drinks holders, trays, and umbrella clips. We have looked at local suppliers, as well as international online shops (don't forget about the international shipping charges)! Local suppliers can access most of the items you require or even custom-make them, and as an added bonus, you do get tax relief on any items prescribed by your therapist. If you do buy online - look at the reviews first, you may have to access many sites to find the perfect accessory for you.

Cups and bottle holders

Cup holders are a simple addition to your wheelchair and give you some "hands free" time. There are a variety of sizes, shapes and attachment methods so you need to think about your beverage choice first. Styling can be full metal jacket (solid with a cup handle slot), or a cage with a simple base and single or double support rings. If you prefer drinking tea you need a holder with a slot for the cup handle, or use a thermocup with a high handle. If you like to drink out of a bottle then look at the maximum weight the holder can take. A heavy-duty cup holder holds a litre and has higher sides to fit a wine bottle or beer quart!

Some holders are adjustable, so that bigger bottles don't fall out. Materials used are: polyethylene (hard plastic), metal, nylon and mesh. Neoprene (foam) interiors are useful for keeping drinks warm or cold. The soft material holders may have a flap cover or drawstring to protect the cup when not in use (from flies etc.), or to keep your cell phone and keys safe. Some of them have an extra side pouch for a cellphone or small camera. The solid cup holders can also be used as a cell phone holder. We found that the cup holders ranged from a 60-day to lifetime warranty (these were selling at $69).

Travelon (invented by a paraplegic), has a mesh section for your drink and a stash pocket for your wallet and cell phone.

People with limited arm function should try holders with a built-in straw, such as the Drink Aide (produced by people with disabilities). This has a large capacity (nearly one litre), a sealable top, and mounts on the back of the wheelchair - though it may take a while to follow the fitting instructions.

Most holders clip onto the front frame of the chair arm, scooter, or walker. Those with adjustable arms can go anywhere on the frame and the cup will stay upright. Clips can be: velcro, clamp, snappers, suction or permanent (bolted in).

Some of the problems noted by users were: variable arms may not be stable and your drink might tip out, some clamps don't fit all frames, some holders are cup size only and not big enough for a bottle or extra large coffees served at restaurants. Others complained that the cup can catch on things and break, for example: when getting your wheelchair in and out of a car. If your wheelchair control is not very good, then consider a back-mounted fitting rather than a side-mounted cup holder, which might smash on a doorframe. Some users suggest putting the cup holder far down the footrest, on the opposite side to which you usually transfer, so that it is out of the way. Type of drink holder Material Price Range Suppliers

Trays

Do I need a tray? What size should I have? Should it be able to tilt? How can I attach it? Will it fit my chair with desk length arms? Will it fit a manual or a power chair?
Do I need a tray? A tray can replace a (small) desk or table, be a place to keep things within reach, and somewhere to lean on/rest arms on, somewhere to play games (e.g. cards), or for children to play with toys. It can be used for reading, writing and typing, as well as eating and drinking. It may not be necessary around your house if you have a table or desk that your wheelchair can fit under, but it may be useful if you are "out and about" or staying in a different environment.

What material is best? Solid trays are made from wood, laminated wood, Masonite, Formica and polyethylene. Clear trays are made from clear, scratch resistant polycarbonate plastic. A "solid" tray cuts you "in half", and you can't check how your lower half is behaving, so you may like to use the flip away attachment for these. "Clear" trays circumvent this. Some suppliers provide trays that are covered in either vinyl or a non-slip material. Whatever the construction material; look for trays with a small outer lip to stop pens and paper, or small toys from slipping off.

What size should I have? You can find full width trays, desk style trays (half a tray) or "laptop" size trays. "Designs by Inspiration" has a wooden tray with side flaps to increase the working surface but it folds down for going through narrow spaces. Always remember to ask about the cut out size (where your stomach fits) and ensure that it is the correct size for you. Both wood and plastic trays can be cut to size. The thickness of the tray and the strength of the fixtures are important if you put weight on it (e.g. when chopping food for cooking). A full width tray is usually attached to the wheelchair all day and needs to be easy to put on and off for going to the bathroom.
How does it fit on the chair? Attachment options include velcro, clamps, webbing, slide mount or flip away.

When choosing your tray consider if it will attach to full-length arms, desk-length arms or no armrests! Most trays fit on the armrests using a Velcro strap; some require the padded armrest to be removed from the frame first. The flip away attachment allows you to flip up the table and store it, much like an airline tray, on the outside of the wheelchair - but this may limit your pushing ability. For bolt fittings, check whether the bolts will fit through the wheelchair padded arm fixture holes. Beanbag trays (or TV dinner trays) are also available - these are trays with a beanbag base, which moulds the contours of your legs and are not fixed to the frame. The Trabasack combines this with a lap desk and small backpack, useful for students. The Living Eazy Wheelchair table and ezEnabler Portable Wheelchair Tray can attach to any pole or bar (often the foot rest frame) and has adjustable lengths of support poles. The compact design means that you are not enveloped by the tray.

Can I customise a tray? Apart from the size of tray and cut out you can sometimes specify a recessed area for a glass/cup, or add a light. There are plastic "caddy" type trays that have separators. The Living Eazy Wheelchair table and ezEnabler Portable Wheelchair Tray comes with a cup holder, hook attachments and a mousepad. The Mydesc product line has small trays that tilt and can flip up to reveal built-in storage useful as a mini-office or school desk. They are quite expensive and some models do not include the fitting mounts, but can fit onto a lounge chair or bed frame. Speak to the Independent Living Centre or your wheelchair supplier about sourcing and ordering the tray of your choice.

Can I DIY my own tray?

Some people are happy just using a standard tray or wooden or plastic chopping board as a laptop tray! Remember you can always add a beanbag to these for added comfort and stability. Patterns for wood and Perspex trays are available at:

If your tray has a slippery surface try a non-slip mat or a piece of Dycem available from the ILC or a hardware store.

Type of tray Material Price Range Suppliers
ezEnabler Polypropylene tray
Aluminium pole (takes up to 11kg weight) $99.00
Includes hook, cup holder and tote bag
Mydesc Not stated $298.00 to $589.00 Mounts are from $79.00 Trabasack Nylon type
Removable bean bag $44.95 - $72.00
Jazzy and Pronto for powerchairs Fold and flip away $169.00
Therafin Clear plastic full or flip way tray $90 to $199.00
Sportaid Clear plastic flip away $126.00
Local Suppliers (including the Invacare range) Wood tray & velcro straps From R485 CE mobility

Medop
iShonaquip
Patterson Medical
(ILC can order) Grip boards and Dycem Dycem mats $20 - $60.00
OR

Karma Lap Tray, Wooden or Clear Trays Padded Lap Tray - customized if necessary for Powered Wheelchairs Solutions Medical

What do the users say about trays?

The Trabasack gets rave reviews by able-bodied and wheelchair users product see
Other reviews warn about taking care of the rims as liquid spills get under them and the need for extra fittings to stop the tray moving as the user moves

Weather Protection

For sun or rain protection consider a universal umbrella clamp. Some clamps come with 2 jointed arms allowing flexibility, where you clamp to the wheelchair, but it's usually to the back frame. The Brella Buddy (Rehad) combines umbrella and bag that attaches to the front of the body and the umbrella goes over the shoulder - this means you push against it. As umbrellas are useful for "moms with prams" and golf lovers, you are not restricted to wheelchair specialists. Look out for: a strong clamping system (so you don’t land up wheeling after an umbrella that has blown off); sun protection factor material; make sure that the rain isn't going to pour off the umbrella onto your lap; and that you can get out of the wheelchair without crashing into it; and that your assistant can fit under the umbrella. Remember an umbrella adds weight to the back of the chair and this may cause tipping. There is a range in price from $4.99 to $89.00 depending on the material used and robustness of the umbrella frame and clamp. Golf umbrella holders are available locally from R350. Local and International Suppliers who contributed to this article:

Local Suppliers that helped with product information Email or Web Address Telephone

CE Mobility (G, KZN, WC, EC)
Independent Living Centre (G)
Mobility One (G)

Solutions Medical
Shonaquip
Medop
Range of accessories
Active Mobility Centre
Range of accessories
Able Data
Drink holders
The Disabled Shop
Duncan Lauder
Caddy trays and comments on tryas
Independent Living Centre
Range of accessories
Rehadesign (Europe)
Umbrellas
Sportaid
Squidoo
Range of brollies with comments

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