17 November 2010

All in My Head, Part Two

After another week using the head array control to steer my power chair, I think it's working pretty well, considering.

It's not as convenient or as easy to use as a joystick, if you can use a joystick. I can tell you from personal experience, though, that it's a whole lot better than trying to use a joystick if you can't use a joystick.

For the most part I've still been keeping to a speed that can be best described as 'glacial', although I prefer to think of it as 'stately.' Or perhaps 'dignified.' Getting down hallways and through doors at home and at the warehouse where I spend my days is enough of a navigational challenge for the time being.

Turns out one of the hardest things to do is go in a straight line. My chair (Permobile C300) doesn't track worth a darn anyway. With the lateral switches on the head array being either on or off, it's hard to straighten out just a little bit. Being front wheel drive, the chair has a tendency to fishtail when going downhill. I don't remember noticing it that much with a joystick, but it's really hard to control with the head array.

We've been dinking with the position of the headrest and the lateral switches. Really small adjustments can make a huge difference in how easy this thing is to use. If the side pads are in close, it's easier to turn the chair but harder to go straight. The best position for the head rest really depends on how you're sitting in the chair, which changes during the course of the day.

To respond to the comments on my last post (which I do appreciate very much even if I hardly ever respond to them directly because I'm a lazy slime weasel), using this thing does require a fair amount of head control, but not that much range of motion.

I don't need Scarecrow's help to change the speed profile. Although I can't press the buttons on the display, I've got a separate switch I can use as a kind of mode selector. That gets me to the settings menus, where I can select a different speed profile, or change the tilt, recline, etc. Navigating the settings menus and selecting options entails a series of taps on the side and back pads of the array, which is kind of awkward but not complicated. Sure beats having to ask somebody to do it for me.

Yes, I'm still learning (the hard way) that leaning my head against the head rest when the chair is on can send it crashing into walls or furniture. The dogs? Well, they're whippets. If they can't stay out of the way of a chair set to 'glacial', there's no hope for them.

I haven't taken it out in the real world much, yet. Excursions to the UW Medical Center and the optometrist went OK. I'm feeling like I'm safe enough to give it a try, but the weather has been crummy. This being Seattle, it should stop raining sometime next July.

OK, so. Mobility problems under control, for the moment. Thanks to TinMan, Cupholder v.3 is working great. My next quest is to find a hands-free way to control the cursor on my computer.

It'll be fun!


  1. Ok so I google hands fre mice and found lots that we controlled similar to your chair - yikes glacial mousing?

    How about one where you put a white dot on your head now I am thinking that would be strange.

    Hey whippets what out cause zoom is going to get zooming soon ;)

  2. Ah, stately, I like. I may borrow that term. Glad to hear that the head array is working out.

    Thanks for answering my questions. I'd just been thinking what a slime weasel you are -- not.

  3. I see it's been quite sometime since you wrote this one! Did you get the hang of it now?