If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard people with disabilities say, “geez, who designs these things?” in reference to their assistive technology or mobility equipment, I’d be rich. What first intrigued me about the ergojoystick is that it was conceptualized and designed by a person with a disability who uses a powerchair himself. Joe Olsen understands, through personal experience, the kinds of things that are difficult about operating power mobility equipment and the ways in which traditional joysticks may fall short.
The process of customizing the ergojoystick was relatively simple, involving just a few measurements and photos of my driving hand. I chose the Stingray design and was pleasantly surprised with how well the device fit my hand. In fact, many people mistakenly thought it was custom molded.
As a person with Cerebral Palsy, I had no trouble fitting the ergojoystick on the joystick shaft. It actually fit more snuggly than my traditional joystick knob, which was always loosing friction and popping off. I discovered through my trial that I actually position my hand differently throughout the day depending on the driving environment, and the ergojoystick accommodated that by rotating around the shaft.
I immediately felt more comfortable and had less pain using this joystick for longer distances. It provided a more natural resting place for my hand, which in turn seemed to reduce spasticity in my arm, hand, and fingers. This year’s winter season has been the one of the worst on record for Michigan in terms of ice and snowfall, but I felt as much, if not more control on the bumpy, slick surfaces than with my original joystick. On rough terrain or in tight spaces the shape of the stingray allowed me to have more control by grasping the device in a claw position.
As with any piece of new equipment, there was a definite learning curve. For me, this involved adjusting the way in which I drove in reverse and around tight corners, and approached tables/ I also had to develop that muscle memory (as Joe advised me) to avoid bumping the ergojoystick with my hand, arm, or sleeve as it is bigger, taller, and wider, but it never caused any serious problem other than briefly engaging the motors.
I found the customer service behind the ergojoystick to be excellent. Joe provided initial consultation on how to secure, position, and begin driving with the device, and followed up several times to see how things were going and to answer any questions. A user-designed joystick is long overdue. The ergojoystick takes into consideration the needs and comfort or drivers in a way that, to my knowledge has never been done before.