Desktop Invention Helps Students Succeed

The Desktop Desk helped a California student with DMD finish school despite diminished hand and arm strength

David Davison and his teacher, Katy Fries, work using the Desktop Desk.
Article Highlights:
  • David Davison, who has DMD, was able to graduate with his high school class last year thanks in part to an invention called the Desktop Desk.
  • The adaptive desk was developed by a California special education teacher as a portable and versatile work surface for students in power wheelchairs.
  • Service clubs in northern California have been purchasing Desktop Desks and donating them to schools, service centers and other organizations that work with people with disabilities.
by Miriam Davidson on October 1, 2011 - 8:15am

QUEST Vol. 18, No. 4

David Davison is a friendly, outgoing young man who loved attending school. But last year, as David’s Duchenne muscular dystrophy progressed, his arm and hand strength decreased to the point where he could no longer participate in many classroom activities.

Then one day, David’s special education class at Placer High School in Auburn, Calif., received a gift from a local service club: a new invention called a Desktop Desk.

David’s teacher, Katy Fries, recalls that as soon as David positioned his power chair under the device and his hands were placed on the writing surface, he called out, “Get me a pen! I want to draw!”

David Davison at his graduation from high school
David Davison received a standing ovation on his graduation day last year.

Using the Desktop Desk, David was again able to do his school work, and he went on to receive a certificate of completion from Placer High last summer. At graduation, he rolled across the grass to a standing ovation, wearing a cap and gown and flags on his chair that read, “Our Hero” and “I’m Thankful to be Here.”

“I loved it a lot,” David, now 19, says of the Desktop Desk. “I had a lot of fun drawing on it.”

David’s mother, Maria Davison, adds that the Desktop Desk helped increase her son’s confidence.

“He could accomplish something and do what the other kids were doing, which really made him feel good about himself,” she says.

Invented by special ed teacher

The Desktop Desk is the invention of Rob Mayben, a special education teacher at Sonora High School in La Habra, Calif. Mayben, who teaches a woodshop/math skills class, developed the device for a student with cerebral palsy who used a power wheelchair that made it impossible for him to work on standard desktops and work surfaces.

“I wanted to design something that would help promote independence and level the playing field for people with disabilities,” Mayben says.

After coming up with a prototype, Mayben found a manufacturer and patented his design. He sells the device through online retailers and his website. He reports that he is working on a worldwide distribution deal with Sammons Preston medical supply.

The Desktop Desk is a large, portable and washable work surface that can be clamped onto a variety of objects and positioned at many angles. It can be placed close to the face, so that people in wheelchairs with visual impairments, as well as those who hold writing implements in their mouths, can see and reach it easily.

It weighs about 20 pounds and has raised edges to keep markers and papers in place.

David using the Desktop Desk to write
David Davison writes using the Desktop Desk.

Although Mayben recently upped his price, Desktop Desks still can be found for about $500 online.

Sponsorship program

In the past two years, Mayben has sold several hundred Desktop Desks to parents, schools, adult learning centers and other organizations.

He also has developed a sponsorship program, through which Rotary, Lions and Kiwanis clubs, as well as businesses and veterans’ groups, have purchased Desktop Desks to donate to local schools and centers that work with people with disabilities.

The Desktop Desk that David Davison used, for example, was donated to his school by the Auburn Host Lions Club.

Enthusiasm for learning

Even though he’s finished school and his health continues to be fragile, David still is enthusiastic about learning. His teacher, Katy Fries, now visits him at home and helps him work on several projects, including his autobiography.

He also keeps busy caring for his dog, keeping in touch with friends, and driving his power chair around the neighborhood to check on elderly, housebound friends. Once, he discovered a neighbor had fallen and was able to summon help using his iPhone.

David says one thing he really misses about school is the Desktop Desk. “I could put my laptop on it, and use it to draw until my hands get tired.”

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