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October is AAC Awareness Month!

Mounting AT Part 3: Device and Equipment Considerations

-- by Liza MacLean, OT

If you have read my last article in this series (Mounting and Postioning of Assistive Technology - Part 2: Abilities and Needs), you now have considered all the abilities and needs of the user that need to be taken into account when prescribing a mounting system.

The next step is to consider the equipment factors, which includes:

  • The device that needs to be mounted
  • What it needs to be mounted to.

 

Device Considerations

How do you attach a device to a mounting system? Most dedicated communication devices will have a specific mounting plate that can be fixed to the back of the device to attach it to the mounting pole or bracket. iPads have a range of mounting plate options, some with additional features like in-built speakers, bluetooth switch or rugged housing design. These mounting plates have been designed so they don’t impede access to charging, switch or USB ports or cover speakers. Not all mounting plates are compatible with different mounting systems/brands so best to ask about how this can work for your tablet or device and businesses like Communicate AT can help advise you on which mounting plate you need for your device and chosen mounting system.

Some devices may not have a commercially available mounting plate (e.g. environmental control units) in which case you may need to contact a special technology service to custom make a mounting bracket for you. When choosing a mounting system, it is important to consider the size of the device, including the dimensions and weight and check which mounting system may be appropriate for size and weight of the device. If the device is particularly sensitive to vibration (e.g. laptops and tablet computers) you may need to consider adding shock absorption in the mounting.

Consider what the device screen visibility is like in different lighting environments and the position and angle of the mounting required and which mounting system can best achieve this and trial the mount in the different environments.

 

Equipment Considerations - Wheelchairs

The most important consideration when mounting to a wheelchair is to ensure the safety of the user. The first thing that should be checked is the weight of the user. Combine this with the weight of the device, the weight of the proposed mounting system and any other wheelchair accessories. If these weights combined exceed the manufacturer’s recommended weight limit of the wheelchair then you need to stop at that point and re-think your options. It is always advisable to test the stability of the wheelchair with the user in and out of the chair with the mount in position, particularly if it swings or folds to the side or the rear to ensure the chair is not likely to tip.

Consider whether the wheelchair and seating system are finalised or if there are likely to be changes in the future. If so, ensure any mounting system prescribed will be transferable to the new wheelchair, or await prescription of the new wheelchair to finalise the mounting system. Ensure that the mount or mounting clamp that attaches to the wheelchair don’t obstruct access to any moving or removable parts of the wheelchair such as brake levers, swing-away footplates, armrests, tilt or folding mechanisms.

Mounting clamps should never be attached to any removable wheelchair parts as these are not as sturdy as the wheelchair frame and won’t be able to withstand the weight of the mount and device. Where possible, ensure that the device and mount stay within the footprint of the wheelchair (width, length, height) to ensure the safety of the user and the equipment.

If the wheelchair has a tilt-in-space function, a mount with a lockable frame clamp should always be used so that the mount is secure when the chair is tilted and won't fall on the user. It is advisable to attach a frame clamp to the tilting part of the wheelchair (usually the seat base) so the user can access the device in tilt if required. This may require customisation of a mount bracket.

Not all mounting systems are suitable for manual wheelchairs, particularly paediatric manual wheelchairs. A rear folding mount is not usually recommended for manual wheelchairs and folding or swing away mounts should be considered carefully on paediatric manual wheelchairs due to the likelihood of the chair tipping. Eye gaze systems are not recommended to be mounted on paediatric manual wheelchairs.

Consider whether the mounting system needs to move between a manual wheelchair and powered wheelchair or from a wheelchair to a desk or bed. Consider all environments where a device needs to be used to ensure the mounting systems are compatible and the best position for the user can be achieved in all environments.

 

Hopefully these series of articles have helped you to understand the important considerations when prescribing a mounting system. If you need help, please contact Communicate AT who are always able to offer advice and support, or point you in the direction of a specialist AT service for a comprehensive assessment.