I’ve been a wheelchair user for almost 4.5 years, and I’ve yet to understand why not one wheelchair manufacturer has created a universally user-friendly footplate. As a C7 incomplete injury ASIA-D who experiences severe spasms, I found it puzzling that there is little variation or inclusion of footplates that address the spasticity issues. As it applies to our feet, having a footplate is generally a much more foot-friendly option than the old-school/hospital wheelchair with the double footrests that extend forward and outward for some reason. However, from talking to many other wheelchair users, I realized that my issue is quite common, and it seems as though it’s an issue that hasn’t been addressed as ubiquitous (or profitable) enough for a wheelchair manufacturer to solve.
This is where sandpaper tape (or “tread tape” as it’s popularly known by customers who use it for ladders and various other non-wheelchair-specific home improvement items) has really helped me. I visited Home Depot with the specific goal of solving this unique problem, so I immediately searched for a resourceful employee who could float some ideas in my direction. I’m not a particularly handy person, but I have a pretty good team of friends and family who are usually willing and (more) able to assist me in these types of projects. At the time, I had very recently experienced a scary spasm-related fall, in which, while rolling down a concrete hill, one foot shot forward and the other shot backward, causing me to tumble forward and land flat on my mouth. As a result, I had hideous facial damage, including scraping the skin off my chin, shoulder, and above my lip. Worst of all, my two front teeth were badly cracked and crushed, losing 2/3 of one tooth and 1/2 of the other.
After recommending some very complicated-sounding projects meant to help secure my feet on the footplate, the employee finally recommended the tread tape, which sounded simple enough. At two inches thick, I was able to fit two strips of tape horizontally on my standard metal TiLite footplate, which had the added benefit of covering up its grates. This in advertently solved another issue I’ve had: unless I’m wearing shoes, my toes have gotten stuck and scraped up in the footplate’s grates. My extensor spasms cause clonus, accompanied by my feet going into plantar flexion and my toes curling. The sandpaper successfully covered up these pesky grates (I’m not entirely sure what they’re for or what benefits they are supposed to offer).
If you’re looking for a softer solution for sharp and slippery footplates, check out the Comfort-Padded footplate, reviewed here.
Written by Julia Hodge (California)