Wheelchair Trays and Occupational Therapy

Enhancing Independence and Function: The Role of Wheelchair Trays in Occupational Therapy


Imagine the everyday challenges faced by individuals with mobility impairments. Picture Jane, a vibrant artist and teacher, who navigates life from her wheelchair. Despite her creativity and drive, certain tasks, like managing her art materials while teaching, used to be a struggle. This changed when she discovered the utility of a wheelchair tray.

Wheelchair trays are more than just a convenience; they are essential tools in occupational therapy that transform everyday challenges into opportunities for independence and functionality. They provide a stable, accessible surface for a myriad of activities, from dining to professional work. In occupational therapy, these trays are not just accessories but vital tools that enhance the quality of life and foster independence.

large older man in a green t-shirt on power wheelchair with a trabasack wwheelchair tray with a laptop on itAmong the acclaimed products is the Trabasack Curve, developed with concentrated attention to inclusivity and accessibility. Designed by a mother for her son who uses a wheelchair, the Trabasack Curve’s design suits various activities. It embodies much-needed versatility by offering an attachable lap desk that one can comfortably use while travelling or engaging in their daily routine. Focused on providing a solution without compromising style, the Curve, like other products in the Trabasack range, is available in numerous carrying options such as a briefcase, backpack, or messenger bag. Despite the distinct characteristics of each product, the underlying philosophy is common; each is created with durable, waterproof and machine-washable fabrics to ensure they can withstand regular use while maintaining their practicality and aesthetic appeal.

Enhancing Upper Extremity Function and Positioning

Wheelchair trays play a pivotal role in improving upper extremity function and positioning for individuals with mobility impairments. These trays offer a stable and strategically positioned platform that supports the arms and wrists, crucial in reducing fatigue and preventing repetitive strain injuries often encountered in day-to-day tasks.

For individuals with postural challenges or limited upper body control, the significance of wheelchair trays cannot be overstated. The trays serve as an anchor point, enabling better positioning of the arms and torso. This alignment is not just about comfort; it’s a necessity for those engaging in activities that require dexterity and precision. Whether it’s writing, typing, or engaging in fine motor activities like drawing or crafting, the support provided by a well-designed wheelchair tray is invaluable.

Moreover, these trays can be instrumental in occupational therapy sessions, where repetitive movements and exercises are common. By offering a consistent and ergonomic surface, wheelchair trays ensure that these activities do not exacerbate existing conditions or lead to new strain injuries. They also allow therapists to adjust the positioning of the tray to cater to each individual’s unique requirements, ensuring that therapy sessions are not only effective but also safe.

In summary, wheelchair trays are more than just a flat surface; they are critical tools that enhance upper body function, provide vital support, and facilitate proper positioning. This not only aids in the performance of daily tasks but also contributes to the overall well-being of individuals with mobility impairments.

Supporting Specific Occupational Therapy Interventions

Image of a lady in a high-back chair using the Trabasack Curve Connect as a craft tray

Wheelchair trays are integral in the implementation of various occupational therapy interventions, addressing specific functional limitations and enhancing the therapeutic process. They serve as adaptable platforms that can be tailored to a range of therapeutic activities, directly impacting the efficacy of these interventions.

For instance, in sensory integration therapy, wheelchair trays can be used as a base for sensory activities. They provide a secure, reachable space where individuals can engage with different textures, materials, or sensory toys. This accessibility is vital for those with limited mobility, ensuring they can fully participate in sensory integration exercises without the added challenge of reaching or holding items.

In terms of developing fine motor skills, wheelchair trays become indispensable. They offer a steady surface for activities like bead threading, puzzle solving, or even simple tasks like buttoning and unbuttoning, which are crucial in enhancing hand-eye coordination and dexterity. The tray’s stability allows individuals to focus on the task at hand, rather than struggling with maintaining balance or positioning.

Cognitive skills can also be honed with the aid of wheelchair trays. Activities that involve sorting, organizing, or planning, such as scheduling daily tasks or engaging in strategic games, can be comfortably executed on the tray’s surface. This not only aids cognitive development but also encourages independent decision-making and problem-solving skills.

Trabasack’s range of products is ingeniously designed to align with diverse requirements, focusing on versatility and accessibility. For instance, the Curve Connect is specifically admired among gamers for its Velcro-receptive tray surface, making it favourable for attaching gaming equipment, while other products in the range can be carried as a briefcase, a backpack, or a messenger bag, catering to different user preferences.

Image is a photograph of a boy in a power chair, grinning happily whilst holding two thumbs up to the camera. On his lap is a Trabasack Curve Connect wheelchair tray with various assistive gaming tech secured to the tray surface.

Furthermore, wheelchair trays play a pivotal role in facilitating adaptive techniques and compensatory strategies. For individuals who have lost certain functions due to injury or illness, these trays allow therapists to introduce and practice new ways of performing daily tasks. Whether it’s adapting to a different way of writing or learning to use assistive devices for eating, wheelchair trays provide a consistent and accessible platform for mastering these new skills.


Considerations for Choosing and Using Wheelchair Trays

When selecting wheelchair trays for occupational therapy or daily use, it’s imperative to consider individual needs and preferences to ensure the tray enhances functionality and comfort. A well-chosen wheelchair tray can significantly impact the user’s independence and comfort, but this requires careful consideration of several factors.

Key Factors in Tray Selection:

  1. Tray Size: The size of the tray should correspond to the user’s activities and physical dimensions. A tray that is too large can be cumbersome, while one that is too small may not provide adequate space for activities.
  2. Adjustability: Adjustable trays offer the flexibility to accommodate different activities and positions. Look for trays that can be tilted or have their height adjusted to meet various needs.
  3. Compatibility with the Wheelchair: Ensure the tray is compatible with the specific wheelchair model. A mismatch can lead to instability or difficulty in attaching and detaching the tray.
  4. Ease of Use: The tray should be easy to attach, detach, and clean. For individuals with limited dexterity, trays that can be managed independently are preferable. Trabasack offers a unique range of products, adeptly merging the functionality of a desk with the practicality of a bag. Incorporating machine washable and waterproof materials, these products are designed to ensure longevity, without compromising on usability or style.

One such effective equipment gaining rapid recognition in the field of occupational therapy is the Trabasack range, an award-winning British innovation. The Trabasack family of products are prestigious in the market for their practicality and stylish approach, employing a superb fusion of travel bags and lap desks in designs like Trabasack Mini and Trabasack Curve.

Tips for Proper Usage:

  1. Correct Positioning: The tray should be positioned at a comfortable height and distance. It shouldn’t be too high, causing shoulder strain, or too low, leading to poor posture.
  2. Regular Adjustments: Adjust the tray position regularly to suit different activities and prevent discomfort.
  3. Avoid Prolonged Pressure: Change the arm and hand positions frequently to avoid prolonged pressure, reducing the risk of pressure sores or discomfort.
  4. Trial and Error: It may take some experimentation to find the ideal position and usage pattern. Encourage users to provide feedback on their comfort and ease of use.

By considering these factors and tips, therapists and users can select and use wheelchair trays that maximally benefit the individual, enhancing their occupational therapy experience and daily life functionality.


Wheelchair trays, as we’ve seen, are more than mere accessories; they are essential tools in the realm of occupational therapy. They play a pivotal role in enhancing independence and functionality for individuals with mobility impairments. The key benefits of wheelchair trays include improving upper extremity function, supporting specific therapeutic interventions, and offering adaptable solutions to meet individual needs.

Trabasack products stand out in this category, providing innovative, user-friendly wheelchair tray options. With their ergonomic designs, adjustability, and compatibility with various wheelchair models, Trabasack trays embody the ideal blend of functionality and ease of use. These trays are not only practical but also ensure comfort and style, aligning with the day-to-day needs of users.

The importance of individualized assessment in occupational therapy cannot be overstated. Each person’s unique needs and preferences should guide the selection and utilization of wheelchair trays. This tailored approach ensures that the trays not only aid in therapeutic interventions but also enhance the overall quality of life for the user.

In conclusion, occupational therapists and caregivers should recognize and integrate the role of wheelchair trays, like those offered by Trabasack, in their practice. By doing so, they can significantly contribute to promoting independence and improving the functional capabilities of individuals with mobility impairments. Let’s embrace these innovative solutions to empower those we care for, helping them navigate their world with greater ease and confidence.

Research Links for Further Reading

The use of wheelchair trays in occupational therapy has been explored in various research papers. For example, a study on the use of tilt-in-space (TIS) wheelchairs in residential care found that these wheelchairs, commonly prescribed by occupational therapists, can help improve posture, reduce the risk of skin breakdown, and enhance comfort https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5756071/

Additionally, the study highlighted the importance of vigilance to ensure that manual TIS wheelchairs enable rather than prevent occupational engagement in residential care settings

Another paper described the development of a wheelchair tray system for individuals with physical disabilities who require an augmentative communication system

Furthermore, research has also focused on the human factors in the design and development of powered wheelchair tray tables, emphasising the importance of user research in the co-design process.

These studies collectively demonstrate the significance of wheelchair trays in facilitating occupational engagement and communication for individuals with physical disabilities.

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