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Bunking down

When three-year-old twins Ashlea and Audrey outgrew their cots, their parents bought a set of attractive white-painted bunk beds for the girls.

The beds were designed so they could be used as bunks or detached and used as separate beds.

Ashlea has diplegic cerebral palsy, some developmental delay and vision impairment, and she needed the protection of a side rail on her bed to be safe at night. The plan was to separate the beds and put Ashlea in the original top bunk, which had a railing, while Audrey slept in the bottom bunk.

Unfortunately, the railing wasn’t high enough to stop Ashlea climbing out of bed. Her Occupational Therapist, Marion, felt she needed railings that were high enough to be safe even if she pulled herself up to a standing position. Marion also thought the bed should have an opening so Ashlea could climb in and out unaided.

TAD has now developed considerable expertise in bed modification, which involves a number of complex factors including safety standards, ergonomic issues for carers and aesthetics. The twins’ parents had consulted TAD before buying the beds, and had purchased a unit that had good potential for modification. It has a solid frame with clean sides which makes it easy to add attachments.

TAD Volunteer Bill Phippen was asked to modify one of the beds for Ashlea. Matching the style of the bed, Bill added three new rails, with the fourth side fixed to the wall.

For the head and foot of the bed he made extensions to the existing railed pieces to raise them to 550mm above the mattress. For the third side he made a new set of rails, divided into three sections. One section at the lower end is fixed, and the other two are hinged to form a gate using strong steel parliament hinges.

“My concerns were that the hinge posts would be strong and that the openings be wide enough at the hinges and closing ends, so that little fingers would not be pinched,” Bill said.

The other decision to be made was how to lock the gates – the girls’ mother Alison wanted the mechanism silent so it would not wake Ashlea unnecessarily. Bill thought that “a simple rotating block placed out of Ashlea’s reach would be good in this regard and also within the dexterity of a half-asleep parent.”

Now aged four, Ashlea loves her bed. Alison is equally delighted, both with the look of the bed and the design of the solution.

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