Vranch House is a centre for the treatment of over 2,000 outpatients with physical difficulties, a provider of various therapies throughout Devon and an independent Day School in Exeter for children with significant physical difficulties.

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Last updated: 13/12/2018

Guided Mobility

What is the guided mobility system?

The device is an electrically propelled platform that follows a track carrying an electronic signal, when a single switch is operated. This enables a child or young adult who is unable to use a conventional powered wheelchair to experience independence and develop skills for mobility.  The platform can also be used off the track with up to four separate switches.

The mobility platform has been developed to provide independent mobility for people who have yet to develop the skills necessary to control the standard powered chairs generally available at the present time.

It follows a predetermined course upon operation of a single switch, allowing children with complex and multiple disabilities to control their own mobility for the first time, which has proven to be a powerful motive for learning in many cases.

It has been designed specifically for its versatility in situations where a number of people of varying ages and levels of ability would benefit from using the system, such as in a special school. A wide variety of seating systems can be mounted on the platform, allowing children in particular to experiment with powered mobility from within their own seats, which can vary in size and design as the children get older.

In some cases, as skills develop, the platform can be driven without the track, using between two and four switches to control up to four different directions of motion (forward, reverse, left and right).

It is also possible to convert a standard powered wheelchair to follow a track by adding the sensor and control electronics to it. This option could be more suitable if only one person was expected to use the system

What does the system consist of?

A. The tracks

There are a number of different types of track now available. Nearly all of the tracks installed to date have been indoors in schools or assessment centres, on to vinyl type floor coverings or under carpeted areas. It is also possible to install track in an individual’s home (normally under carpet); the first home track was installed last year and has been most successful.
 
It is also now possible to supply an outdoor track, which provides additional variety and benefits for the platform user. Two prototype outdoor tracks are currently in use, and more are planned. A portable track is also available which can be used in circumstances where a permanent track is inappropriate, such as assessments or in a room where furniture is moved around frequently.

All the tracks consists of a conductive material that can carry the signal from the transmitter unit. On a vinyl floor a thin self-adhesive copper tape is fastened to the floor surface, then covered with layers of protective tape. The tracks are quite durable; the tape is resistant to normal cleaning operations and easily repaired if damaged. It is not permanent and can be removed without damage to the original floor surface.

Under carpet the track takes the form of a miniature wire, laid under or into the carpet. Laying an outdoor track involves cutting a small groove into the concrete or asphalt surface with a suitable disc cutter and sealing a coated cable in place with an appropriate filler. A typical indoor setup in a school might consist of a 50 to 100m corridor track, a 20 to 30 m loop or fig.8 in a hall and a route track between a classroom and a dining area.

B. The transmitter unit

The transmitter box provides the electro-magnetic signal that is used by the sensor unit to guide the platform along the course of the track. It is a sealed unit, and requires a 240v mains supply. The wall mounted box measures approx. 140 x 85 x 32 mm, and is normally connected to all the permanent tracks available, and is used to select whichever track is currently required for use.

C. The motorised platform

The platform consists principally of an aluminium frame supporting the drive motors, batteries, a controller with additional control electronics for sensor control, the sensor electronics, and the wooden top that is specifically designed to provide a secure and straightforward anchorage for a wide range of seating arrangements.
 
The platform is around 900 mm long, 510 to 660 mm wide and 200 mm high, and weighs 40Kg. It is supplied with a charger, connectors, spare fuses, anchor straps and supports, and a full instruction manual. One large switch is provided, but these are normally specific to the requirements of individual clients. In a school environment, the platform is intended to be used as a supervised activity, hence there is no ‘bump stop’ normally fitted fitted.

What are its benefits and uses?
The platform mobility system has created considerable interest among professionals working with disabled people of all ages. Track following mobility does not exclude people with a visual or cognitive impairment, and has proven to be a powerful motive for learning. Tracking systems have now been installed in over 15 establishments, many concerned with the education or assessment of children with complex and multiple disabilities. The equipment has been used as:

An assessment device
A teaching aid
An educational tool

and can provide benefits in a range of activities, including:

Education through exploration of the environment.
Initiation of communication.
Structured, safe and purposeful mobility.
Switch assessment and training.
Training in the use of independent assistive equipment.
Development of cognitive skills.
Fun through play activities.    
 

Operation

The platform is quite straightforward to operate. Switch(es) are connected as shown and the mode of operation selected (on or off track) using the mode switch. The speed of the platform can be varied to suit the circumstances of use in both modes of operation by turning the dial. Once the transmitter is switched on and the correct track selected, the wheel clutches on the platform engaged and the red power button switched on it is ready for use.

The system has been in use since 1990 in some schools, and during that time has been proven exceptionally reliable and completely safe. Most schools have developed their own individual additions such as ramps, an extended top or even a wooden towbar.  All the schools and centres currently using a platform have commented on the unique impact that it has, although they use it in many different ways.

 

For further information please contact:
OpTech,
Vranch House School and Centre,
Pinhoe Road,
Exeter, Devon.
EX4 8AD
 
Telephone: 01392 463816

 

For further detail, including costs and availability please contact: OpTech@VranchHouse.org