Thelma has arthritis, which limits her movements considerably and makes it impossible for her to stand up from a chair without arms, unless she has assistance.
Thelma has adjusted her immediate surroundings accordingly – she has an office chair with arms that she uses when she is at her computer, and a comfortable armchair for watching television. But she is still unable to manage in other situations such as visiting the hairdresser and going to church.
Thelma has a frame around her toilet which she uses to help her stand from there, and she asked at a shop selling equipment for people with disabilities if there was something similar for a chair. That supplier referred her to another shop, which suggested she contact TAD.
TAD volunteer Neale Taylor was asked to make a lightweight portable armrest which Mrs Flower could use with a variety of chairs – and church pews. Neale made the frame using 20mm diameter steel tubing, painted with blue epoxy enamel.
The frame has a U-shaped base that is 300mm deep and 475mm wide. Attached to the base are 240mm-high armrests – this proved to exactly the right height to give Mrs Flower the leverage she needed. The front prongs of the U have 50mm wide flat strips, which provide a stable surface as she pushes down on the armrests to stand up.
The next part of the job was done by volunteer Sandra Brown, who sewed a back and seat for the device. These are made from Breezeway, a tough, waterproof fabric used for outdoor furniture that TAD buys in bulk, and are attached with hook and fasteners strips so they can easily be removed for washing.
Thelma is delighted with her armrest, which she can carry easily under one arm. She was advised that the design was experimental and might prove unstable in some circumstances, but she says it works perfectly. ‘I balance it with my weight towards the back,’ she said.