My Stretto is my first power wheelchair. When I sat down with my representative to customize my wheelchair…woah! There are A LOT more choices compared to making selections for a manual wheelchair! As is usually my go-to when I’m entering uncharted disability-related waters, I checked with friends and colleagues in our disability community to ask their opinion about what worked and what didn’t. Choices like these, of course, are highly individualized and personal but it helped me to hear different perspectives. These are three components/accessories I’m glad I chose for my power wheelchair.
Actuator Controls for Tilt, Recline, Footrests and iLevel
The actuator controls for my tilt, recline, iLevel, and footrest have been helpful to get different seating configurations just right, and quickly. I wasn’t sure I needed another set of buttons if I could technically change these controls with my joystick. The buttons are a much easier and smoother way for me to adjust seating. I don’t have to look at the screen and can adjust two modes at once.
My Quantum Glovebox
The Quantum glovebox is the perfect size for my phone, wallet, sanitizer, mask and whatever else I need on the go. I haven’t carried a purse in a few years because nothing seems to work quite right. For me, it’s either a wallet and phone or all-out backpack. The glove box has been a must-have to keep my lap and hands free, while still having what I need within reach.
A Headrest for My Power Wheelchair
A headrest might seem obvious to some, but I’ve never had one on any of my wheelchairs previously. In fact, I’ve preferred very low backs so I wasn’t sure how it would feel to have a full back AND a headrest. Also, I’ll admit I felt conflicted about how a headrest looked in a superficial sense. Our chairs are an extension of us. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with wanting and designing a beautiful, powerful wheelchair that represents you. In this case, I realized that I was overlooking the benefits (actually having support for my head when I tilt back!), in exchange for this mythical minimized wheelchair aesthetic. I’m appreciative for the extra support for my neck and back. I’m filing that previous sentence under “Things my 16-year-old self never thought she’d say.”
Make The Choice That’s Right for You
I’m about two months into life as a Stretto user and continue to learn more each day. The backup camera also makes my list of favorite accessories, but I’d like to dedicate a little more detail to my thoughts on its uses in the future. Making choices about your next wheelchair can feel overwhelming. We know there are no “do overs” and it’s often unknown when we’ll be eligible for our next wheelchair. With all that in mind, let’s push back on our resistance to any support, wheelchair accessory or otherwise, that could be helpful but doesn’t fit an aesthetic. All bodies and all wheelchairs are beautiful.
About Kara Ayers: Kara is a mother of three and lives in Ohio. She is an associate professor at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and Medical Center. In 2021, Kara spoke to the Biden-Harris COVID-19 Equity Taskforce about the need for people with disabilities to access the COVID-19 vaccine. Click here to learn more about Kara.
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