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Growing up with TAD

TAD has made and modified a number of devices for seven year- old Grace, including a raised bed that she is still using.

Grace has cerebral palsy, vision impairment, hearing impairment and developmental delay. She needed the raised bed so that her carers did not have to bend over when tending to her, and side railings to keep her safe at night.

Made by volunteer Jonas Kirk, the bed is 880mm above the floor. It has fixed railings on three sides, and the fourth side slides up and down. However, Grace’s mother Allison needed a method to get her up into the bed without having to lift her.

Rather than use a hoist, the plan was to develop Grace’s mobility as much as possible by building a set of stairs that she could walk up to access the bed. Made by volunteer Bruce Hattersley, the stairs consisted of two sections: a set of three steps, and a platform 600mm above floor level which Grace used to access the bed. The two sections clipped together with suitcase catches.

These stairs have worked well, but Grace is now twelve and has grown considerably. The steps are no longer deep enough for her feet, and the structure is not strong enough to remain completely steady under her increased weight.

Also, the step section was designed for a carpeted floor: it rests on its wooden edges which sat firmly on the carpet. However, the family has since moved to a house with tiled floors, and the stairs are not quite so stable on this surface.

Bruce was therefore asked to make a new, larger set of stairs to the dimensions specified by Grace’s therapist. In most ways the design of the new set is similar to the original: both sections have height-adjustable handrails and an intermediate safety panel so that Grace can’t slip under the handrails.

The steps have closed risers to prevent Grace from catching her feet as she goes up. There are non-slip strips on all the surfaces and black strips at the edges of the steps to make them easier for Grace to distinguish.

However, there are a few important changes. Firstly, the side panels on the old platform did not go all the way down to the floor, whereas on the new one they do, making this section steadier and more rigid.

“There is also more internal structure,” Bruce said. “The previous wooden panels were fixed with small brad nails and glued, but all the joins in the new version are reinforced with a piece of 19x19mm pine which is screwed into place. This adds to the overall strength.”

On the new version, the steel tube uprights that support the handrails run all the way to the bottom of both sections, and are covered with rubber stoppers to create legs which rest firmly on the tiled floor. The handrails are also slightly wider than previously.

As each unit was now bigger and heavier, Bruce put castors on both sections rather than just on the step section as before. The castors could not go on the bottom because of the requirement for stability, so Bruce put them low on one side of each section, where they are not visible from the main part of the room.

It’s easy to detach the two sections, tilt them onto the castors to move them to another room when required. Grace can also use the stairs in other ways if needed – in the past she used them to reach the family’s trampoline.

“It’s actually a plaything for her,” Allison said. “She likes to stand on the platform and declaim!”

Allison also requested a new, larger Corner Chair and Table for Grace. Generally made for younger children, it a low-to-the-floor seat with an adjustable height table which latches onto the seat, and is very useful for stretching Grace’s hamstrings.

“I use the seat with Grace all the time,” Allison said. “She sits there to eat and play, and also uses it to play simple games on the computer. And when she is there I know she is safe and I can do something else like cooking or gardening. Otherwise it’s just one on one and you never get anything done.”

Grace will always need extra support, but TAD will still be there if Allison needs further help!

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TAD acknowledges the traditional owners of country throughout Australia and recognises their continuing connection to land, waters and community. We pay our respects to them and their cultures and to elders past, present and emerging.