Product Review - Gadget Mounts for Wheelchairs
Just about everyone has a cell phone, even in poor areas. Laptops and tablets are increasing in popularity and decreasing in price. Touch screens and voice activation are opening up communication for people with mobility, vision and communication problems. However holding these gadgets while using them can be a problem - dropped your phone and found it skidding away?
As bikers, cyclists and photojournalists like to use their gadgets on the move there is a large range of systems to keep your gadgets firmly in place and easily accessible. No more searching down the side of a cushion or back pack for the ringing cell phone!
We are astounded at the just how much is out there and this review barely skims the surface. Let’s go through some of the terms and definitions.
Mounts, Stands and Docks for phones, tablets, computers, cameras and music players
Base mounts or frame clamps attach to the framework of a wheelchair, car, bike or surfboard in a variety of ways. O-Rings, Zip Locks, U-bolts, hose clamps, claw, Velcro straps for tubing. Suction cups (moveable) or adhesive mounts (fixed) for flat surfaces e.g. desk, tray, or metal side panel. Mounts that can tilt and pivot increase flexibility. Universal mounts can attach to a range of cradles. Base mounts may need strength or dexterity to fit.
Body mounts: a simple base mount of Velcro, or nylon strap attached to arm rests or body parts (head, arms, legs and chest).
Stands, poles and tubes extend the height from “base mount” to “cradle”. These may be rigid or flexible e.g. a gooseneck stand can adjust for height and viewing distance.
Arms or swing stands have hinges for sideways motion to pull towards you or push away. Fold down stands for wheelchairs may place your expensive laptop beyond the greatest width of the wheelchair and be more likely to get damaged. These are the most expensive systems.
Cradles, holders or mounting plate hold your gadget and attach to a base mount or stand. Cradles may be universal or product specific e.g. iPhone only. Universal cradles have moveable grips so if you change your cell phone, or get a bigger laptop you don’t have to get a new cradle. They may not hold all gadgets as well as a product specific cradle. The gadget holding grips may be “slide to close” frames, thumb wheels, magnetic, “click to close” or “squeeze to open”. Flexible and moveable mounting systems need stronger cradles - so you don’t lose your tablet when you tilt the cradle to see better! You may not be able to open them independently if you have a weak grip.
Weather proofing: plastic or glass covers for splash and dirt protection. They may be “book opening” or “envelope opening” and zip or click close. Clean your phone and cradle first to prevent scratching glass faces or backing.
A dock or docking station is for charging electrical gadgets. Look for mobile universal docks with multiple ports or leads to charge different gadgets. Power wheelchairs have the advantage as you can get a USB socket to fit your wheelchair and charge up on the move!
Choose a system that puts gadgets in reach but ensures they will not get damaged by:
- The moving parts of the wheelchair e.g. swinging footrests or the seat tilt area
- People, furniture or door frames,
- Be in your “night line” when you are wheeling or talking.
Product specific options are available for wheelchairs from DAESSY, Charis, Joy Factory, Permobilis. They can be expensive and not readily available in South Africa, so we looked at sites for bikers, cyclists, and photographers. If you wheel on “rugged” terrains (a local potholed road) then try “tough” systems recommended by mountain bikers or motorbike riders e.g RAM products. Consider products specifications carefully, especially if buying on line. Check that it includes the base mount and cradle, and a 30 day return policy in case the product doesn’t suit you. Most of these mounts are cheaper than replacing a dropped and broken phone!
Cameras and video camera
Most cameras have a screw inlet for use with a camera tripod, so you need an adaptor for a base mount or specialised camera mount.
Power on the move
Run out of battery for your phone? Choose from USB, solar, or wind-up chargers; or a “power banks”. Match your charger to your gadget, smart phones need more power! A 500mAH charger charging a 700mAH phone will be slow, and you may damage your phone. Chargers should have multiple USB accessories and a battery charge indicator.
USBs: for an electric wheelchair/scooter you can add on a charger unit to your charging port.
Solar charging units range up to a few thousand rand, we have chosen the budget end of the market. Charging rates are up from 2 hrs - 7 hrs.
A few minutes winding with a “hand crank charger” can give you 5 - 10 minutes talk time for your mobile and smart phone.
Listening to an iPod/MP3 player with earbuds may cut you off from sounds around you. Want to hear your cell phone better? A wireless speaker or combined player/speaker may be the way to go.