Comparing wheelchair trays, what are the options?
There is a wealth of choice out there if you considering wheelchair trays, but what represents the best choice for you? Can you get great value, functionality and style in one package? Of course you can… but before we get to the best overall solution (the trabasack, designed by a wheelchair user), let’s see what else is out there. What can you get for your money, and will it be suitable for you? Do you value function over style, or style over function? And who out there is designing a product that will stand the test of time?
Polycarbonate wheelchair trays
Price: £46.31 (inc VAT)
Size: 515mm x 600mm x 15mm
Pros: This simple and sturdy tray attaches to a wheelchair using straps. It’s cheap and cheerful, and will do the job for you. It’s solid and effective, and won’t break easily. There are no gimmicks here.
Cons: You might find that, once it’s been fixed into place, it’s a bit of an endeavour to remove it and re-attach it. The lack of a lip to the surface means that pens can roll right off and away from you. The abdominal cutaway is not massively ergonomic, but will at least get everything within close reach. You could find that the sheer width of the tray means that you risk catching your knuckles or wrists on it from time to time. As well as that, there’s no kind way of saying this, it’s a bit…clunky. It looks a little industrial, and is hardly stylish. If you have reduced upper body strength, you could find this kind of item unwieldy and impractical.
Verdict “Unfortunately looks like something your Uncle might knock up in his shed”
Lap bean bag trays
Price: £20.34 (inc VAT)
Size: 445mm x 330mm
Material: Plastic and fabric, Dycem non-slip mat
Pros: Lightweight and portable, this tray should hold a small laptop or other items in comfort, while moulding to the shape of your body. A moulded lip means you shouldn’t suffer any items falling off onto the ground.
Cons: Sitting with a large beanbag like this beanbag might leave you feeling uncomfortable and sweaty after a while of using it, (the trabasack has a smaller beanbag but in a uniquely designed shape and with an insulating layer to prevent this) and not everyone will enjoy the feeling of a weight resting on their lap. Lap height is not always ideal for every activity, and there’s no built-in mechanism for attaching it to a wheelchair for extra stability or to keep it at the right working height for activities such as laptop use. This might not be stable or comfortable enough for your needs, and it’s worth considering from an occupational health perspective if you’re able to perform certain tasks like using a laptop for any considerable length of time without fatigue or pain setting in. The ordinary bean bag laptray isn’t purposely designed to be used as wheelchair trays and does not fit exactly what a wheelchair user would need.
Verdict: “Not practical or stylish and lacks versatility, only basic design features. Can easily fall off your lap.”
Flip away half lap trays
Price: £107.55 (inc VAT)
Size: 330mm x 530mm
Material: plastic and metal fastenings
Pros: The flip-away design means you can get out of your wheelchair quickly without having to uncouple any device from the chair. The transparent plastic allows you to see what’s underneath, adding an extra degree of safety. It’s also less claustrophobic as you’re not surrounded or “trapped” by the tray. Unlike other fixed and rigid wheelchair trays this tray can be flipped up over one side of the wheelchair. There’s also a cup holder. Comes in “left” and “right” versions so that you can use it for your dominant side (or non-dominant, if you prefer).
Cons: It is small and the one “open” side risks objects or liquids sliding onto your lap. It also might not be convenient for transporting a laptop. Because of the flip-over design it may obstruct you from moving your hands to the most comfortable position in order to get enough purchase to get out safely.
Verdict: “Too small, expensive and will not fit all chairs”
Clear wheelchair trays
Price: £191.94 (inc VAT)
Size: 610mm x 530mm
Material: Plastic and metal fastenings
Pros: Once again, there is a benefit to the material – the transparent plastic material means you can see through to what’s beneath you – the corners of your own chair, for example, so you can see hazards when you’re manoeuvring around. The sturdy construction means it should withstand the odd bump and scrape, while the smooth, curved design will make it easy to keep clean. There are two cup holders to keep drinks from wobbling over.
Cons: It’s built to last, but it still could be a little dear for a lot of pockets. It’s not just the price tag that’s hefty, either: at 2.3kg, you might want to consider how many times you’re going to be lifting the tray and replacing it. The bulky design might not be to your taste, either. As well as that, there’s the consideration of using it over a long period of time – the plastic surface could get marked or scratched with regular use, leading to a loss of the transparency and a tendency to appear tired after a while.
Verdict: “Eye wateringly expensive, heavy and a social barrier”
Board wheelchair trays
Size: 597mm x 559mm
Material: Melamine and fabric
Pros: The straps are an easy-on, easy-off solution to fixing to the wheelchair, and you could find that the abdominal cutout section means you can get close to the tray without things getting uncomfortable. The fitted groove means you can rest a pen or pencil easily without worrying about it rolling away.
Cons: You might find this a trifle bulky for your needs. It lacks a certain refinement that you might want from something that you’re going to be taking along with you everywhere you go, and has a certain medical bulkiness about it. The groove might stop your pen or pencil from departing at speed, but you could find that it could accumulate dirt and fluff. Again, there isn’t the smooth style that might make you opt for another lap tray.
Verdict: “£100 for a part of 70’s sideboard? Nope.”
Price: £24.95 – £69.95
You know Trabasack is the leading contender, but what is it about this wheelchair lap tray that makes it outscore its rivals in every department?
Style: There’s something about the Trabasack that just feels different. While some of the other lap trays on the market have a certain bland starchy formality about them, this feels like something that’s designed to be seen. The smooth, rounded curves make for a pleasing feel against your hands, ensuring good grip at all times, and the colour and materials used bring to mind high-end laptop accessories rather than anything else. There’s no stigma attached to this piece of mobility and accessibility equipment – it’s something you’d be happy to be seen with in any situation, business or social.
Which tray would you be happiest using with a glass of champagne in Harrods Foodhall?
Practicality: There’s a large space for carrying valuables, and it keeps your purse or wallet in easy reach, but safely tucked away. There are two zips with large zip rings for easy use, and because there are two, you can place the opening at the place that’s most convenient to you. The Trabasack is also lightweight, as little as 700g, meaning that you lifting and moving it around won’t be a workout for your upper body – worth remembering when you consider how many times you’re going to be lifting this product during its lifetime.
Chronic illness and Penguin Blogger ‘Dannilion’ (who has M.E. (also known as CFS Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) uses a trabasack curve in bed. Click the image to visit Danni’s blog.
Comfort: You won’t feel trapped behind a solid, hefty tray, as is the case with some of the other models. The soft material means you won’t be harmed by pressure, and there’s no need to worry about a solid chunk of wood taking paint off your walls as you’re moving around, or catching on careless passers-by as you’re moving around when you’re out and about.
Which tray would be most comfortable for the Glastonbury Festival?
“Dog in a Sink”
@doginasink on a twitter (customer photo)
Hygiene: Here’s a benefit that the Trabasack offers that no other tray can bring – it’s wipe clean and you can machine wash it. With some of the fixed tray options, food or dirt can become trapped in the crevices, meaning it’s not as hygienic as you might like. It’s something that will give you peace of mind if you’re using the Trabasack for eating or having the occasional cuppa as well as for other activities.
Versatility: There is a choice of four straps – two long and two short with the Trabasack curve – so it can go around the waist or attach to the armrests. A Trabasack can fit to any chair, and you won’t have to worry about issues with clamps fitting particular chairs, as some users have found with other designs. There’s also a choice of designs, with the ‘Connect’ option giving a fabric surface that you can use with velcro to secure tablets or toys for children. There is the Mini and Mini Connect, as well as the Curve and Curve Connect offering a wide range of options to suit almost every use – or upgrade to the luxurious Trabasack Max with burgundy satin lining adding a gorgeous final detail to this essential piece of British kit.
Paraorchestra musician Charlotte White using her pink trabasack curve connect on a trip to Qatar (Charlotte is in the foreground, customer photo)
Value: The Trabasack wheelchair trays are exceptional value for money, providing a truly unique, durable and exciting product at a highly competitive price. In fact, you might be surprised at just how low the price is: it’s high quality, from a specialist family company that really believes and uses its products. And with some customers having had them in regular use for more than seven years, you can be sure that the Trabasack is built to last. The Mini starts at just £24.95 and even the extraordinary Max offers incredible value, starting at £64.95.
So there you have it – we’ve looked at the rest of the wheelchair trays out there and we believe that for everything you want, there’s only one serious option. The only one that was designed by a wheelchair user with many stylish and ergonomic feature in mind. Whether you want a simple tray, a reliable daily piece of kit or something seriously stylish to complete that businesslike look as you travel, you can be sure that using a Trabasack as a wheelchair tray will provide everything that you’re looking for.
Duncan and Clare Edwards (founders of Trabasack) with Medilink Chairman, at the Medilink East Midlands Innovation Awards Dinner 2011 (Best start-up award) at the East Midlands Conference Centre, Nottingham.