The Wheelchair Magic Strap
A tiny tool which makes a subtle difference to wheelchair users’ lives
How often does this happen to you?
Previously we’ve reported about the Reagiro manual wheelchair, which adopts a backrest steering system so that the user can have one hand free throughout the wheelchair ride. Now in situations like the above, one free hand is probably not enough. There’s a new invention from New Zealand which could be the solution.
Being a paraplegic since 2012, Mike Brown founded a media and product development company, adaptdefy, on a mission to increase freedom for wheelchair users. He and his team have recently invented a tool called LapStacker: a strap attached to the user’s wheelchair. The user can easily pull the straps over their lap to keep things in place, similarly to buckling a seatbelt. This video shows how it works:
As seen in the video, users can choose between two different buckle options: magnetic buckles for users with reduced hand function or the more affordable manual buckles. Moreover, finger loops are sewn into the strap so that one can retract the straps rather effortlessly.
According to the product's webpage, the LapStacker can be mounted on most manual wheelchairs. With matching mounting kits, the same device can also be used between different wheelchairs.
Now you may wonder like me why any wheelchair user would invest CHF 200 in such a device. Aren’t there cheaper and handier solutions like a bungee cord? The LapStacker team has made a video to clear up our doubts. Here are the highlights:
- The LapStacker can be easily tucked away and retrieved without mess and fuss whereas bungee cords cannot.
- One can secure almost anything with just one LapStacker in contrast to the different size and length of bungee cords you need for different objects you plan to carry over your lap.
- Bungee cords tend to lose elasticity and need to be replaced more often than the LapStacker.
- Bungee cords are commonly used to secure a luggage carried on the outside of a vehicle. It is risky to be used over a person’s lap as it can accidentally release and cause accidents.
In early March 2019, Mike and his team completed a Kickstarter campaign for LapStacker to raise money for launching their product in the market. Kickstarter is a fund-raising platform for people to bring their creative projects and products to life. The LapStacker campaign has eventually raised 40,075 New Zealand dollars (around 27,500 Swiss francs) – more than double of their campaign target. Following the campaign’s success, the LapStacker is now available for pre-order at the price of US$ 199.
We’ve consulted Swiss Paraplegic Foundation’s Innovation Center for Assistive Technology (IAT) about the LapStacker. The IAT promotes technologies which bring benefits to people with a spinal cord injury. It helps people in need build tools which are not available yet or modify existing tools to better meet the users’ needs.
In general, the IAT thinks the LapStacker is a good idea solving a real problem for wheelchair users, namely carrying objects securely on the lap. However, the IAT reminds users about the risk of overloading. Although the current prototype of LapStacker weighs about 900 grams only, every additional device mounted to the wheelchair would make the wheelchair heavier – which in the end can overburden the shoulders, especially when carrying heavy load using the LapStacker.
What do you think about the LapStacker? Which other wheelchair tools do you find practical? We’re curious about your ideas!