Wheelchair trays come in a variety of shapes, sizes and materials to provide answer several issues facing wheelchair users in their daily activities. They negate the need to roll up under a table to participate in activities such as eating meals, writing, reading, supporting communication devices and computers. In short they provide a work surface. The wheelchair tray can also be used as a support device to help users maintain their posture and/or support their arms.
Trays are normally mounted on the armrest of the wheelchair and are only really stable if the wheelchair is equipped with full length arms. The more stable the arms, the more stable the tray will be and when purchasing a wheelchair, the tray, if any, to be used should be considered when choosing an armrest style.
Most trays use an slide on bracket of some sort that slides over the wheelchair arm pads for easy removal however there are a few trays on the market that use velcro straps or mechanical clamps that some may find easier to use.
Wheelchair Tray Style
Padded Wheelchair Half Tray
Wheelchair trays come in two basic styles; full trays, that extend from arm to arm of the wheelchair and have a large surface to provide the room needed to be an effective work surface; and the half tray, that is mounted either on the left or right arm of the wheelchair and is intended more of an armrest or support for the user. The half trays, sometimes referred to as "hemi" trays, will often have hinges that attach them to the "slide on" bracket so they will flip out of the way when not needed instead of having to remove them.
Tray Material and Surface
Full Clear Wheelchair Tray
Trays are usually some type of plastic or wood construction. The wooden trays are more solid and can be padded and upholstered for those who use their tray for support rather than activities.
The plastic trays tend to ne a little lighter in weight and can be more easily modified if required. Plastic trays can be a solid color or clear.
In the case of children's wheelchairs there are two schools of thought on whether clear or solid is preferable. The proponents of clear trays like them because the child can see their lower body through the tray and are more aware of their body image. The proponents of solid trays for children like them because visually it is easier to see and distinguish the shape of things on the solid tray. There is no right opinion, it's a matter of what the priorities are for the child.
As mentioned, trays used for support are often padded and upholstered but they don't have to be. A regular tray will work fine and a small pad can be made from some foam if the user needs a softened area to rest their elbows on. Trays used for support do need to be fairly solid the take the weight exerted on them without bending or moving around.
Support trays often can be fitted with added accessories to make them more effective. Elbow pads can be added to both full and half trays prevent the elbows from slipping off the side. Lateral supports can be added to the inside curve of the tray to support the user's torso. When the torso is supported the user will find it easier to use and control and use of their arms and hands.
Trays for Power Wheelchairs
Wheelchair Tray with
Cut-out for Joystick
Wheelchair trays for power wheelchairs are pretty much the same as for manual wheelchairs with the exception that allowances have to be made for the joystick position. Although some trays are manufactured with cut-outs for joysticks the cut-outs are not always in the right place for the user. It is not uncommon for dealers to purchase regular trays and custom cut them to fit the user's wheelchair.
Using a half tray on the same arm as the joystick is mounted can be an issue but with some creativity a good service tech should be able to make it work, although it may not be removable. Any type of slide on try will have issues with joysticks unless the joystick is mounted on a swingaway mount of some sort. A clamp on or velcro strap try may be a better option.