But Glen doesn’t let anything stop him doing his share on his family’s farm near Kempsey. Not even his wheelchair.
Glen has paraplegia, as the result of a spinal cord injury, causing paralysis of the lower part of the body. He drives around the farm on a Gator, an off road vehicle commonly used on farms.
“I use the Gator for spraying the fields but also to follow the dogs when they’re rounding up the cattle,” says Glen. “There’s no way I could manage that in the wheelchair, the Gator gives me freedom to contribute to the farm.”
Glen’s therapist from CRS Australia noticed that he was over-stretching and reaching awkwardly when moving from his wheelchair to the Gator which could potentially cause muscle or joint damage in his shoulders. She felt he needed a handle that would enable safe and independent transfers.
Glen’s therapist got in touch with TAD and volunteers John Brumby and Detlef Czerniejewski from the Port Macquarie Group visited the farm to assess the situation.
As they discussed options and requirements Glen hit on a great idea. He suggested making a handle attached to the roof bar of the Gator, which could be folded and locked into the roof while he was driving.
The volunteers went straight to the drawing board to design something that would meet all the requirements; storing away safely and not falling down as the vehicle went over tough terrain and staying sturdy in position when Glen was moving to and from his wheelchair.
Making the handle secure was the top priority. They first thought of bolting the handle through the roof strut but then decided to clamp it on and include two grub screws to further reduce the risk of rotation. This would also make it easier to adjust in the future.
The locking mechanism developed from their first prototype as they based it on balanced forces around the main shaft. A compression spring now provides the tension to hold the lever handle in the required positions defined by two ball bearings, fitted into holes bored into the side of the handle lever, which rotate against a housing plate.
The handle lever with ball bearings; and bracket plate with locking holes. When the balls align with the positioning holes drilled into the plate, the force of the compression spring holds the lever in place.
The partially assembled mounting bracket Glen now uses the handle to get in and out of the Gator and the folding mechanism is working well.
“It’s great that other people can still drive the Gator without hitting their heads on the handle. I think Detlef and John did a great job – it was exactly what I had in mind!”