REMAP: customising equipment

Chris Gibson, project engineer and Betty Bateson, honorary secretary of the REMAP panel in Doncaster, outline the work of the UK charity. They also describe how the panel enabled a disabled mother to buckle her child's car seat with one hand. For further information visit www.remap.org.

 

REMAP designs, manufactures and supplies items for disabled people, free of charge, where the required equipment is neither available commercially nor provided by the statutory services. In some circumstances, it also modifies existing equipment.

REMAP is a national charity with 90 panels spread over England, Wales and Northern Ireland. There is also an associated REMAP in Scotland. The Doncaster REMAP panel includes a senior occupational therapist and 10 project engineers/technicians.

Referral process

Referrals are usually made by an occupational therapist (OT) when they are unable to find a commercially available product to satisfy a client's particular needs. Occasionally, clients approach the panel directly or through REMAP's website which automatically directs the enquiry to the nearest panel.

In Doncaster, the referral secretary visits the client for an initial assessment, sometimes with the client's OT. If accepted, the job is passed to one of the volunteer engineers/technicians who will work in his/her own home workshop to find a solution. Usually, the engineer visits the client to find out what is required, to take measurements, sketches or photographs, or even take away the client's item for modification. The engineer makes sketches, drawings and sometimes prototypes to test the proposed solution. Fitting checks may be needed on some occasions especially if prosthetic devices are being made.

The Doncaster panel maintains a large container of materials and equipment for use by members, much of which has been donated.

When the job is completed to the client's and OT's satisfaction, the client is given instructions on its use and information on how to contact the engineer or panel in case of problems.

During the year 2007/2008, the panel received 52 referrals (some of which were for multiple users, such as in schools).

Child's car seat device

One referral involved a disabled parent, Laura, who has limited dexterity and strength in one of her hands. The requirement was for a device or modification to aid Laura to buckle her young daughter into her car seat. No modifications could be made to any part of the tested and ‘type approved’ car seat harness, without having to do a very expensive re-test.

The solution to the problem was some means of holding the buckle of the crotch strap in position while the other two parts of the buckle were inserted. The device had to be easily removable before driving off.

At Laura's home, various sketches and measurements were made. The engineer completed the design at his home. Using a computer program called CAD, he designed a ‘U’ shaped pillar which would rest on the seat base and support the buckle without catching the child's legs.

The three main parts were cut from polyethylene sheet, milled, drilled and sanded smooth. They were joined with screws and all sharp edges and corners were removed.

On visiting Laura, it was found that the pillar was too tall for the crotch strap so the engineer shortened it to the correct length. On the next (and final) visit, the device proved suitable and Laura found that she could assemble the buckle one-handed on the first attempt.

Laura was pleased with the device. She returned the monitoring form expressing her complete satisfaction and thanks to REMAP.

The whole process took about 22 hours of the engineer's time spread over two months, and in this case material cost was negligible as it was available from parts in stock.

First published in Disability, Pregnancy & Parenthood, issue 64, Winter 2008/2009.

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