Innovations: Where iDevices Meet Mobility

By | 2017-01-13T20:43:07+00:00 April 1st, 2013|
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Mark E. SmithPower chairs have always been tools of necessity. However, as technology and culture have evolved over the past 40 years, power chairs have increasingly integrated into our everyday lives. They are truly part of our daily wardrobe, so to speak. As a result, power chair accessories that interface with other gadgets in our lives — especially iDevices — are gaining in popularity and becoming increasingly available, powering just about everything that we carry with us.

Virtually everyone owns a smart phone and tablet nowadays, and they are especially popular among people with disabilities. Powering these devices off of a power chair just makes sense — with comparatively huge batteries, running or charging an iDevice is of no consequence to your mobility. You can keep your devices running indefinitely. While your friends watch their smart phone’s battery gauge drop, yours can be fully powered all of the time.

innov413cThe Power2Go USB kit available from Broadened Horizons allows you to power an astounding array of electronics through your power chair’s charging port. The Power2Go plugs into the industry-standard three-prong XLR charging port, and allows a power conversion from the power chair to a USB port. However, what makes the Power2Go especially useful is that it doesn’t just provide a USB power port, but includes 10 power adapters, allowing direct powering of devices ranging from smart phones to tablets to portable gaming units. And, at $99.95, the Power2Go is reasonably priced among other electronics accessories.

Combined Power and Lighting
innov413bIf you want a combined lighting and USB power source, Active Controls’ Power Buddy builds both into one unit that plugs into a power chair’s hand control charging port. The Power Buddy features an XLR port connector, then a long, flexible goose neck with an LED light and USB port on the end. Any USB-powered device can run off of the port, and the LED light features an independent on-off switch. At $119.95, it’s a bit more costly than other units, but does have both the light and USB feature.

Power chair lights are desired by many consumers but are expensive and rarely covered by insurance, so many go without. However, The Light Owl is a super-cost-effective, easy-to-use solution. The Light Owl — $69.95 — is an ultra-bright LED headlight that plugs into the hand control’s charger port and illuminates to a 180-degree range. What’s more, it features a flexible neck, allowing positioning where desired. Drawing only .2 amp, the Light Owl is of no noticeable draw on the power chair’s battery, and has a one-year guarantee.

Beyond just power sourcing, Dynamic Controls’ iPortal literally interfaces Apple iOS devices with a power chair. The iPortal works is an add-on module to Dynamic power chair electronics that, via Bluetooth, connects the power chair to an iPhone, iPod, or iPad. The result is that the iPortal app, downloaded from iTunes, allows the iOS device to display speed, distance, compass heading, battery level, power seating positions, fault logs, and an emergency contact. Additionally, two USB ports are provided as device power sources. An optional device holder is available, as well. (It’s important to note that the iPortal only works with Dynamic Controls electronics, so you must have Shark, DX, or DX2 model electronics in order to interface the iPortal.)

Mounting Devices
innov413With all of these electronic device interfaces, you still need a way to mount them on your power chair. RAM Mount makes an iPad mounting system specifically designed for wheelchairs. It features a clamp base, 18-inch flexible goose neck, and variable-position iPad surface mount, perfect for those using an iPad as an augmentative communication device. And, with a retail price of only $85.98, it’s exceptionally affordable.

For smart-phone users, Stealth Products makes a clamp-on phone holder ($140) with a mechanism that allows the holder to drop down, out of the way. What’s more, an adjustable, armrest-mounted smart-phone holder is a no-charge option on Quantum power chairs, so mobility manufacturers are now even building them into products.

It’s an ever-changing world of technology, where it all seems impossible to keep up with at times. However, mobility accessory manufacturers are making great strides toward interfacing mainstream iDevices with power chairs, taking everyday accessibility, functionality, and independence to a whole new level.

• Active Controls, 800/324-527;
• Broadened Horizons, 855/276-2336;
• Dynamic Controls, 440/979-0657;
• Quantum, 800/800-8586;
• RAM Mounts, 800/497-7479;
• Stealth Products, 800/965-9229;
• The Light Owl;