It seemed like such a simple request: A lunch tray for a student with range-of-motion limitations in one hand. Michael, a student at Park West High School, has joint limitations in his left hand that keep him from holding a lunch tray on both sides in the usual way. His occupational therapist asked if we, at Adaptive Design, could make him a tray with a raised handle on the top of the tray, instead of the side.
Of course, we could! Nothing to it! Then she had a second request: that left hand also has some weakness and Michael may not be able to hold it reliably on that side. Could the tray have some kind of straps that would support it if Michael lets go?
We built a tray -- in fact, we built three, with minor variations in the handle angle and position.
For the straps, we looked for models: Peanut vendors at sports stadiums and others. We found several designs, but most were designed to hold their wares, not to be stable without supporting hands. We also needed a strap arrangement that wouldn’t get in the way of the special handle -- or the lunch the tray is designed to hold.
In the end, it took lots of trial and error, and Michael had to be the one to try each design. What worked on someone of different height, different shoulder width, etc. often didn’t work on Michael. For example, he tends to walk with one shoulder slightly forward and down, so the strap that stayed up on someone else, would slip down on him.
With input from Michael’s occupational and physical therapists, one of ADA’s fabricators, three occupational therapy students, and Michael himself, we came up with a strap arrangement that held the tray level, even if he let go, hung from his shoulders and not his neck, did not impede placement of food and other items on the tray, and stayed in place on his body. Quite an achievement for this “simple” request!
Now, Michael can get his own lunch, instead of waiting for someone to bring it for him.
BONUS! How-to make a lunch tray. Download the PDF or preview the slides below.