This is the 1st blog in our series on alternative drive controls. Check out the Power Wheelchair Guide for more information on power mobility, and The Wheelchair Handbook: A Consumer’s Guide to Seating and Mobility Equipment for more information on the wheelchair provision process.
When it comes to the wheelchair evaluation process, many decisions must be made in order to achieve an optimal outcome for your clients. What type of wheelchair base will be most compatible with the individual’s goals and environment? What type of seating will provide the necessary support and postural alignment? How will the individual drive the wheelchair? When done well, the outcome is one that not only meets the individual’s mobility needs, but can also promote health, maximize their independence in daily activities, and integrate everyday technology.
This blog series will focus on considerations for drive control selection, more specifically, alternative drive controls. For many, a standard joystick allows for independent and efficient operation of the power wheelchair, while for others, a more specialized drive control may be required to achieve their goals.
Standard Joystick vs. Alternative Drive Controls
A standard joystick is a stand-alone joystick that may or may not have a display screen. There are typically buttons or toggles for power, speed adjustments, and mode/profile selection. Different types of handles may be available for individuals with varying degrees of hand and/or arm function. There are also different mounting options based on where the individual needs the joystick to be. For example, in-line with the armrest or closer towards their body. Some customization of the joystick buttons and/or external switches may be possible.
An alternative drive control is any drive control that varies from a standard joystick and has specific characteristics that meet an individual’s strength, range of motion, and coordination abilities. As their ability decreases, technology needs will often increase. In these scenarios, alternative drive controls should be considered in order to maximize their independence. There are many types of alternative drive controls, some of which include specialty joysticks, head arrays, sip & puff, switch arrays, eye gaze, and single switch scanning.
Join us next time as we review how to determine when your client needs an alternative drive control. Interested in learning more about alternative drive controls and the new options from Permobil? Sign up for our July webinar here.
Sarah Lusto, PT, MSPT, ATC, ATP
Regional Clinical Education Manager
Sarah Lusto PT,MSPT, ATC, ATP is a physical therapist and the Regional Clinical Education Manager for Permobil in the Mountain Region. Prior to joining Permobil in 2021, Sarah worked at the Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation where she gained extensive experience in neuro rehabilitation. At Kessler, she served as the inpatient wheelchair team lead and a member of the outpatient wheelchair clinic. She has lectured for numerous Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, and Medical Residency Programs and was a faculty member for Kessler’s PT Neuroresidency program. She has also presented at ASCIP and the International Seating Symposium. Sarah is a current member of RESNA and the APTA Assistive Technology/Seating & Wheeled Mobility SIG.