Saturday, 18 March 2017

Wheelchair Lift Repairs

Yesterday I took my truck in the Accessible Vehicle Solutions shop. The wheelchair lift and seat lift system both needed some repair work. The shop is right next to the wine store, so I figured I would know what to do while I waited. My friend, Anne, came along to help me in and out of the truck.

There were three things which needed to be repaired or maintained on my truck; the lift seat itself, bent low from the last four years of my weight, the wiring cable for the wheelchair lift which had been crimped and frayed from use, and the hand controls which need lubricating every couple of years.

The lift chair was the biggest thing. When it was new, it was level and fairly easy for me to sit on. As time has gone by, two things have happened. First, my weight has caused the holding bracket to bend downwards. This means the seat points downwards now, sloping in a way to make it unsafe for me unless I am holding a safety bar or some other grip. Then there was the seat to chair gap, about 4 inches where the seat was higher than my wheelchair. As I have weakened, this has gone from inconvenient to impossible for me to traverse.

In order to stabilize the lift chair, the mechanic simply put a lift screw in the bottom of the seat. This screw lifts the angle of the seat to compensate for the drop in the holding bar underneath. At the same time this lift screw can be, and is, adjusted to make the seat slope inwards rather than outwards. I felt it immediately, the increased safety, the loss of need for a grip. It will make it tremendously easier when adjust, readying to transfer, getting the wheelchair into the back.

What I know for sure is that fixing problem almost always exposes another. This is true with the truck seat. The upward angle of the seat now makes that gap of four inches into something like six inches.  That four inches was already getting tough for friends boosting me upwards. At six inches, it is pretty much impossible except for the strongest of them. On top of this, my continuing weakness in my arms and shoulders means I can offer no help whatsoever with that transfer. In years past I could aid in the lift. No more.

So what to do? I have a safe truck made unusable by the elevation of the seat. The solution to this is a folding, portable ramp that will go right next to my truck. I have designed it in my mind already, a box frame made of 1 X 6" pine with a 5/8th " plywood deck, about 30 X 30 inches square. One end will be open underneath and a ramp will be attached with a piano hinge, such that when I pick it up the ramp will fold underneath and into the box. I'll have some sort of handle attached to I can easily pick it up once the chair is in the truck.

But first I have to make this sucker. I will need help, a fair bit of help, to do the measuring and construction, from cutting the box frame to cutting the deck to assembly and finally to testing. I could take a day or so to build, all in. It won't be really light weight, which is unfortunate. I was wondering if there was a way to build it with plastic to make it lighter, but I have neither the tools nor the skills to make that happen. So wood it must be.

All I need to do now is ask someone to help me. This is where the problem lies. I don't want to ask for help. I don't know who to ask for help. I don't want to hear the no or suffer the denial. I can count on myself. I just don't think I can do it myself. That's the biggest barrier.

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