Michelle L. Lange, OTR/L, ABDA, ATP/SMS
I recently presented a webinar on Dynamic Seating through AbleNet. One of the participants shared that he had successfully used Dynamic Seating with a client who routinely ‘destroyed’ seating and wheeled mobility equipment. Vincent Coratello is an Adapted Equipment Specialist and Minister of Fleet Operations at Allegheny Valley School in Hummelstown, PA. I asked him if we could get together for a phone call to discuss Dynamic Seating and he graciously agreed!
Vincent, tell me a little bit about your background
Vincent had retired to Pennsylvania but wanted to go back to work. He saw an ad in the paper for someone to do adaptive equipment repair at Allegheny Valley School. That was 10 years ago.
Before this first retirement, Vincent received a degree in design which he applied first to computer graphics and then to ship building in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. From there, he was involved in building construction and eventually moved to Las Vegas where he was a musician for 10 years!
Vincent now repairs and makes adaptive equipment at Allegheny, which is located in rural PA and serves 70 residents at their main facility and various group homes. He works with plastics, other materials, and even sews. He says his Mom used to make their clothing and that is how he learned to use a sewing machine!
Vincent first met Peter when this resident came to Allegheny 10 years ago. Peter is now 29 years old.
He initially arrived with an Invacare Solara tilt-in-space manual wheelchair. However, he destroyed almost everything on the chair including breaking welds and back canes. Peter tended to lean forward and then slam back against the back of the seating system. Vincent rewelded the frame several times, but eventually this had to be replaced. The team chose a PDG Stellar tilt-in-space manual chair which is very durable and also includes a spring and gas struts designed to ease tilting. Peter figured out a way to use the motion and energy of the struts to propel himself and the wheelchair 3-4” in the air! At 6’ 4.5”, Peter is a big guy and very strong. Vincent had custom rear axle mounts made to extend the rear of frame to increase stability, but Peter soon bent these. Even when replaced with steel, Peter still broke, bent and destroyed the frame.
Vincent knew that he needed a very durable frame, but he also needed something to absorb the forces Peter was exerting to prevent further equipment damage. He chose the Seating Dynamics Rocker Back Interface (DRBi) after United Disability Services recommended this solution. Peter received an Invacare Solara 3G tilt-in-space manual wheelchair with the DRBi and Frog Legs (front caster suspension). This manual wheelchair is holding up much better than previous frames. Vincent credits the DRBi for absorbing forces and preventing damage. He keeps a close eye on the elastomers in the DRBi, knowing that these will need to be replaced at regular intervals to due to Peter’s forceful movements.
Do you use Dynamic Seating for other clients you work with?
Once we finally accidentally stumbled upon Dynamic Seating, we found that it is absolutely necessary for some clients. “Some of these clients live in these chairs, it is a second home kind of concept, it is the recipient of their bad moods. We forget that all these people, no matter their cognitive level, have different personalities.”
Vincent, I am so glad you didn’t retire permanently 10 years ago and I’m sure the folks at Allegheny Valley School agree! Keep up the great work!