In last week’s blog, “A ‘Look’ at a Good Assessment“, we discussed the importance of getting an assessment from a qualified professional who can evaluate your needs and make recommendations of appropriate assistive technology. Several weeks ago, I received such an assessment myself from Michigan Rehabilitation Service’s Accommodations Center. The person doing my assessment came to my office at Michigan Disability Rights Coalition, spent several hours talking with me about my job duties and needs, and examining my worksite. True to a good assessment, we explored everything from my ability to reach the paper clips to the ergonomics of my positioning at the computer. Out of this assessment, I became aware that a major area of need that I had was to be able to maintain productivity while providing pressure relief and repositioning in my wheelchair. My Permobil C300 has the ability to tilt in space, recline and elevate the leg rests, but it was hard to keep working on my computer while stretched out and reclined back.
Per the recommendation in my assessment, I began looking at different tray mounting systems that could attach to my wheelchair. In particular, I knew I wanted something that could accommodate a variety of positions, was easy to transport, and easy to detach. BlueSky Designs’ Mount n’ Mover looked like it would provide exactly that. Their dual arm mounting system enables the user to position a number of different tray options in an almost infinite number of positions and keep those positions in either a locked or moveable state. The mounting arms and tray can be easily positioned by the user with a series of levers that are designed to work for people with limited fine-motor ability like me, and the tray can be easily unlocked and removed.
I was thrilled to learn that BlueSky Designs offered a two week evaluation kit that would allow me to try out the Mount n’ Mover at my workplace and at home where I often work as well. Living in a small apartment, I was particularly interested in whether the mounting system would interfere with my ability to move in small spaces and around tight corners. After paying $60 for shipping and return shipping, the evaluation kit was delivered to my home relatively quickly in a nice, compact case on wheels. I have to admit, I felt overwhelmed with a twinge of panic upon opening the case. The evaluation kit came with 28 separate components, including the single and dual arm mounts, a laptop tray, and iPad tray, two different sizes of mounting posts (12″ and 18″), and a host of brackets, clamps and screws. However, the literature provided helped to alleviate some of my anxiety as I learned that not all of the pieces were needed for my particular wheelchair, but were available to fit all different types of chairs and mounting needs.
Having neither the dexterity nor the mechanical ability to mount the system myself, I enlisted the help of a friend and we went to work. In addition to the literature provided, the BlueSky Designs’ website provided more information (including videos) on mounting the device to my specific wheelchair, which uses the unitrack system along the seat pan. There were two mounting brackets designed to work with the unitrack system which could be mounted in a variety of orientations. Figuring out which bracket and which orientation would work was the hardest part. After many trials and errors, the bracket holes and screws did not seem to match up with the holes on my unitrack, and we could not seem to get the bracket to slide along the track. Finally, we discovered that the screws appeared to be coarse threaded, whereas my track took fine threaded screws. In addition, a third mounting bracket (not indicated for the Permobil) seemed to match better with the holes on my wheelchair. Once we figured this out, and the mounting bracket was attached, the rest of the parts went on easily.
Later, I spoke to BlueSky Designs about my difficulty with the brackets and screws. They indicated that the way I mounted the system wasn’t typically how it was supposed to work, and perhaps I missed a step or couldn’t locate the right screws (entirely possible) but said that it should work all the same. They offered to help troubleshoot over the phone or with Skype, where they could see my setup and help walk me through the process, and assured me that that they could provide the correct hardware should I choose to buy. Overall, I found their customer service to be extremely helpful and accommodating, I only wish I had taken advantage of it sooner. For now I am happy with my mount (albeit unconventional) and excited to see how the Mount n’ Mover will work for me. Stay tuned as I further explore this device and watch for my next blog about how I used it and my overall impressions.