Richard, an architect turned motel proprietor from Cowra, is able to walk but unable to get to his feet unaided. He needed an office chair which would raise him from a normal sitting position to a higher position, so that his legs were nearly straight and vertical and he could slide from the chair to his feet.
Volunteer Richard Smith from TAD’s Central West Branch took on the task, and began by buying a conventional gas lift chair second-hand from an office furniture store. The store, Qualified Office Furniture of Orange, generously offered to donate a longer central column (used for drafter’s chairs) and an electric thruster from an adjustable table when they were told how the chair would be modified.
The longer central column still left the seat 110mm too low, so Richard made a pipe extension and also extended the thruster travel using a lever system to suit the longer column. This gives a minimum length of 510 mm and an extended length of 681 mm, resulting in a maximum seat height of about 825 mm.
However, raising a gas-lift office chair requires the user to take their weight off the chair, and Richard was not able to do this once he was sitting at desk height. This problem was solved by installing the electric thruster, which is operated using microswitches actuated by the chair’s original raise/lower lever. Position switches mounted inside the chair chassis prevent over-travel in both directions.
The chair also required additional stability so that Richard would not injure himself while he is getting on and off it. Richard therefore made and fitted a three-legged prop stand which sits under the three front legs of the chair’s existing five legs.
Richard uses a lever to engage this when he is in the process of sitting or standing, and the chair is held firmly in place. He then disengages it when he is safely seated and wants to wheel himself around his office on the chair’s original castors.
Richard also wrote an operating manual for the chair, detailing the modifications that he made, and how the modified chair can be safely used. This will assist if the chair requires maintenance or repair by another qualified person.
Richard has been putting his mechanical engineering skills to good use for TAD since he retired from the Mt Piper power station in 1990. “You’ve got to do something to be of use to other people, not just yourself,” he said.