Introduction: Wheel Chair Headrest


An individual at Seven Hills has problems with her wheelchair headrest. In times of high anxiety and stress, she has spastic convulsions. During these episodes, her head can be forced around the side and bottom of the headrest. This position is extremely uncomfortable and potentially dangerous if left for an extended period of time. Seven Hills has reached out to several wheelchair manufacturers who have sent over different headrests. These headrests either break or fail to prevent the problem. Seven Hills is currently using a bunched up blanket to block the gap underneath the headrest. A more permanent solution is needed.




Decision Matrix:

Step 1: Materials

Step 2:

Take a ruler and draw lines on the sides of the bucket that will evenly cut it in two halves. Then, use the sawzall to cut the bucket in half.

Step 3:

Use the hand router to cut the ABS into two sheets, both 5” by 8”.

Step 4:

Take the sheet of ABS and place it in the oven at 275 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes. Check the plastic every 5 minutes to make sure that it does not begin to bubble. When the plastic is malleable, take it out of the oven.

Step 5:

Place the longer side of the ABS sheet across the top of one of the buckets, and make sure that both halves are symmetrical. Press the plastic onto the mold and wait for it to cool.

Step 6:

Use the Conduit Bender to bend the conduit in two separate places. Make sure the bend in the ABS directly matches the curve in the conduit because they will be screwed together soon.

Step 7:

Put the conduit on the outside of the plastic, and leave one end with 2” of conduit hanging over the edge and one end with no conduit hanging over. Mark and cut the conduit in these places; the pipe should roughly be 11 ½ “ long. Repeat for the second pipe.

Step 8:

Use the Sawzall to curve the short end corners of the ABS sheets to eliminate sharp corners. Then, use a file or electricians pliers to deburr the cut edges of the pipes and ABS.

Step 9:

Use the cordless drill and the drill bit to drill three holes in each pipe and each ABS sheet. The three holes were spaced equally along the length of the sheet. The side of the sheet with the curved corners should have no pipe hanging over the edge.

Step 10:

Use the auger bit to countersink the head of the screw into each of the holes until they are flush so that the inside surface that contacts the body does not have the screws protruding. Put the screws in each hole and tighten the nuts with the ratchet and screwdriver.

Step 11:

The front side of the ABS sheet and the piece of memory foam should be sprayed with the adhesive. Shake the can well and allow the spray to dry for 2 minutes or until the adhesive does not transfer when touched.

Step 12:

When they are tacky, press the foam onto the support and allow them to dry together. Put the foam upside down onto the bucket to allow it to set for at least 15 minutes.

Step 13:

Apply the adhesive to the thinner strips of foam and the backside of the support. Use the same techniques from the last step to glue them together.

Step 14:

Using the scissors, cut any of the foam that hangs over the edge of the other side and make sure to round the edges to resemble the curved corners of the plastic.

Step 15:

Cut the tee in half vertically so it will be able to wrap around the pole attached to the wheelchair. Then, drill a hole in the two places shown in the figure below. To finish the complete shoulder support, wrap the two halves of the tee around the pole of your wheelchair, and run the main dowel through it. Put the conduit inside the other end and run the other screw through it. Put two washers and a hex nut on each hex bolt and the support will be complete.

Step 16: Optional Covering

Paint the exposed metal and cover the support in a material that is suitable for your client.

Step 17: Improvements and Extensions

Other Client Requests:

Reverse the screws on the chair from inside to outside, so that the bolts/screws can be tightened from the exterior of the chair and it will not be necessary to dismantle the chair. Lengthen the main pole to fight against her strength and add extra poles to absorb the pressure more evenly. Add supports with hydraulics or pistons/springs to absorb the force of the convulsions and restore the position of the chair after each convulsion.


The group will be continuing with this project over the summer and into the following school year as community service. The recent requests and any other new requests will be the focus of the group in the next stages of development.