Doing it Yourself January-February 2005

by Alyssa Quintero on January 1, 2005 - 4:38pm

Bobby Bible
Stotts City, Mo.; age 14
Duchenne muscular dystrophy

Bobby’s mother, Jana, found a way for her son to get around the house more conveniently, without the use of his power chair. It also enables Bobby to get exercise and be more independent.

Pneumatic Adjustable Roller Seat: Jana reports that Bobby’s doctors say he’s improved his trunk control, posture and leg strength since he began using his roller chair at home. The backless stool, which cost $25, swivels 360 degrees and has a 300-pound weight capacity. Jana says the wheels move easily on carpet, tile and hardwood floors.

Mark A. Hathaway
Lugoff, S.C.; age 47
limb-girdle muscular dystrophy

Hathaway, a retired information technology manager, has used a power wheelchair since 1983. His brother, Tom, completed several improvements to Hathaway’s boat and Jeep Wrangler, making them wheelchair-accessible. Tom also constructed a special lift that allows Mark to use the swimming pool.

Pontoon Boat: Hathaway removed the captain’s chair from a used 28-foot pontoon boat, allowing him to drive his wheelchair right up to the steering wheel. He widened the opening at the front of the boat so the wheelchair could fit, and removed one of the seat benches to have more room to turn around. Hathaway also made the dock stronger to support the weight of the wheelchair and added a plywood ramp from the dock to the boat.

Jeep: Hathaway purchased a used passenger seat for $100, a crane for $250 and a winch for $250. His brother added a hoist that lifts Mark to the passenger seat and lifts the wheelchair into the rear cargo area.

Pool Lift: When the pool was constructed, Hathaway had a 3-inch pipe embedded in the concrete next to the edge of the pool. Tom Hathaway fabricated a bracket that attaches an engine puller ($150) to the pipe, keeping the engine puller in place. Hathaway uses his Hoyer lift straps to support himself as his brother operates the engine puller to raise Mark from the wheelchair, swing him over the pool and lower him into the water.


Thomas Wachtler
Lake Dallas, Texas; age 47
amyotrophic lateral sclerosis

Wachtler, a former engineer for Boeing, and his father, Bill, designed a ceiling lift that can hold up to 1,000 pounds. Wachtler used his engineering background to design a complex lift system that provides flexibility when he’s moving around the bathroom.


Bathroom Ceiling Lift: The lift, which cost about $300 to install, was constructed using a U-shaped channel that runs through the ceiling and hangs from the rafters, and is operated by a 440-pound electric hoist motor. The system is 8-shaped, allowing Wachtler to go left, right, forward and back. The lift also swivels so he can spin or change direction. Wachtler attached a Hoyer sling to the lift that picks him up from the chair and takes him wherever he needs to go.




John E. Wright
Comfort, Texas; age 80
facioscapulohumeral MD

A former aviation technical representative in the Army, Wright was at the right place at the right time — a barbershop — when he got an idea for a low-cost, portable desk chair.

Desk Chair: Wright placed a barber chair ($350) on a self-made wooden platform base, and then attached a hydraulic unit. He can raise or lower the chair while he’s seated in it by pulling on a rope attached to the foot lever or using an inverted walking cane to push the lever. The chair also helps Wright get into a standing position: He moves the chair to the correct position, holds his legs together with a belt doubled around his knees, and stands.

David Buesing
Byron, Minn.; age 69
amyotrophic lateral sclerosis

A former designer for IBM, Buesing used his electrical engineering background to devise a way to rise more easily from a toilet seat. He also uses some everyday items to help him reach various objects while seated in his wheelchair.

Grab Bar With Suction Cups: Buesing added a suction cup to each end of a bathroom grab bar and placed it at the front of his bathtub, which faces the toilet. He uses a rope attached to the bar to pull himself up from the toilet. The grab bar, which cost $15 at a local tool shop, works best when the suction cups are attached to smooth surfaces. Buesing suggests that the grab bar be tested once it has been affixed to a surface.

Barbecue Tongs: Buesing has attached a set of barbecue tongs to his power wheelchair, allowing him to pick up items from various areas in his home. He also uses the hook from a wire coat hanger to move items within his reach.

Jeremy Waggoner
Auburn, Calif.; age 19
intermediate spinal muscular atrophy type 2

Waggoner, a college student majoring in physical education, enjoys using his Sony PlayStation in his spare time.

PlayStation With Legos: Waggoner adapted the PlayStation’s remote control by attaching several Legos to each of the four buttons. This lets him navigate the controller more easily and effectively. He grabs the extensions and pulls down, causing the Legos to press the controller’s buttons.


Contribute Your Ideas

Please send your ideas and photos of your do-it-yourself devices to Quest, MDA, 3300 E. Sunrise Drive, Tucson, AZ 85718, or Be sure to include a phone number or e-mail address, as well as your name, age, city and diagnosis.


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