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If Reveca Torres could give just one piece of advice to her 13 year old self, she would tell her “don’t care what anyone else thinks of you, do what you want.” At age 30, that’s exactly what she’s doing, but it took her a while to come to this conclusion and it certainly wasn’t in her plans to be at the helm of her own charity, nor paralyzed from the chest down.

Reveca’s grew up in suburban Chicago with her large family – five of her own siblings, plus four of her cousins who came to live with her when she was six. Ten children in all made for a chaotic and mischievous childhood.

With so many children, flying anywhere was expensive, so the Torres family holidays often involved a road trip. It was New Years, 1994. Reveca was 13 and the family were driving back after visiting Grandma in Mexico. 

An oncoming semi-truck decided to pass another oncoming car, meaning the Torres vehicle was faced with a choice – either hit the semi or go off the road.

They chose to go off the road, hitting the gravel and the driver lost control of the vehicle.

I was in the back sleeping with no seat belt. The car rolled I think four times, I imagine I hit my head on the top of the vehicle, and that’s how I broke my neck at C5-7.

Reveca TorresArtist & Social Change Agent

One of Reveca’s brothers and her mother were thrown through the front windshield, leaving them with two large scars, and her father with an injured shoulder. 

“We were incredibly lucky, so thankful everyone made it.”

The truck driver didn’t stop – but fortunately another car did, who loaded everyone in and dropped them off at the nearest medical facility. With severe injuries, Reveca’s life was literally saved by a stranger.

The clinic they arrived at was small, unable to provide Reveca with the vital care she needed. They told her parents she had a spinal cord injury, and she would have to be taken back to the States.

“Luckily we had family back in the States who could arrange for me to be air-lifted from Mexico to the nearest trauma centre in Houston.”

Once stabilised, she was able to fly back to Chicago for a stint of intensive rehabilitation at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago.

Reveca is a pretty typical C6 spinal cord injury – both arms have similar function, she is able to move her wrists, but has no finger function or grasp. Her triceps are weak, but she has strong biceps and shoulders.

“Then I returned home and it was like what next? I was in 8th grade, my priority was my friends and school, I just wanted to graduate middle school to start high school with everyone else.”

Luckily, Reveca’s school were very supportive, and a little bit lenient, she admits, allowing her to move on with her class.

The support from her family, friends and community, meant that a lot of her emotions of anger or depression regarding the accident never really registered.

“But now looking back, it was a hard time, you are trying to figure out what the heck is going on with your body, bowel and what you can move.”

A lot of her challenges were the basics. She was starting high school, a scary process in itself, but all she could think about was whether the other kids would talk to her, or would they see her as weird because she was in a wheelchair.

Would I get a boyfriend? It’s hard, kids are spontaneous, it wasn’t easy for me to just get up and go

Reveca TorresArtist & Social Change Agent

In her junior year of high school Reveca finally gave in and started using a power wheelchair, which after a teacher told her how much she would benefit from one. It opened her eyes to just how independent she could be.

Art had always been her passion, but after her injury, the thought of pursuing a career in art world went out the window. She considered teaching elementary school but soon changed her mind, and started to feel despondent about her future.

Until she met a teacher who ran the home economics programme at her school.

“They ran a sewing class, but they also turned it into a fashion design show every year and the students were in charge of creating a collection and managing everything that went into.”

Reveca explained her situation to the teacher, who in turn invited her to her classroom, where she had a sewing machine Reveca could operate with her hands.

She didn’t go to lunch very often after that, spending any spare waking second she hand in that classroom, learning how to sew, working on different projects. After encouragement from her sewing teacher, Reveca enrolled in a fashion design programme at the local community college, the first student they’d had who was in a wheelchair.

“They had to learn from me how they could help me, we had to lower tables, mannequins had to be lowered, I also worked with an assistant during the class time, they would help me cut fabric and gather materials to make better use of my time, so I could keep up with the other students… they learnt a lot from having me there and having to adapt things.”

People would always tell her she should design clothes for people with disabilities. But at the time, disability fashion, for want of a better term, involved a lot of Velcro and stretchy things. It wasn’t cool or in any way appealing to a young Reveca, who avoided it for as long as possible.

But nowadays things have changed and Reveca says there’s greater emphasis on designing for different bodies.

People are talking about how we can look good in a chair and have fashionable clothing. It’s exciting to see that even though I’m not doing fashion design anymore

Reveca TorresArtist & Social Change Agent

Reveca would love to see the concept of universal design, often used in architecture applied for clothing.

“If something is provided for the masses, it’s not seen as an adaptive thing, and often times it’s easier for everybody, why not start designing this way with this in mind?”

Maybe not entirely for everything, but in a way that makes clothes in general more accessible for a majority.

In terms of adaptive tools, Reveca is fairly minimalist. Her main accessory is a pair of special scissors with a flatter surface that she can stand on a table and slide along as she cuts. 

She used to use adaptive utensils for eating but soon taught herself how to use regular cutlery.

“I hated taking them with me to a restaurant or to schools, if I pulled them out and dropped them.”

She continued her career in fashion as a theatre costume designer but started to become more of an advocate for the disability sector as time went on, getting involved in various projects.

The idea for Backbones was sparked after a visit to rehabilitation centre, Project Walk in 2008.

People in the centre told her about all the support they received during rehab, but how this was lost once they got home and reality hit.

“Everything was much harder, it was harder to find information, and connection and peer support and just being connected to the community.” 

The challenges people living with a spinal cord injury face are often the basic ones she says. 

“They’re facing health issues, secondary to their spinal cord injury that prevents them from going to an event, seeking out each other. That connection is super important, connecting with healthcare professionals, potential employers and the community in general, otherwise you can feel isolated and it takes a toll on your physical and mental health.”

After talking with her sisters, Reveca realised she had the potential to help connect these people one on one to find that peer support that was missing after they left rehab and went home.

She was lucky enough to meet Johnny Imerman, the founder of Imerman’s Angels, a peer support service for cancer survivors that paired people of a similar age, and type of cancer.

 “I saw how simple it was and thought it would’ve been awesome for me at 13, I didn’t have any mentors, no women or younger girls to talk and share with.”

And Backbones was born, but Reveca admits the hardest thing about starting her own organisation was exactly that – starting.

“I didn’t know what I was doing, I had no experience of managing, budgeting or working with a board.

Reveca TorresArtist & Social Change Agent

I actually went back to that one teacher that showed me how to sew, in tears, saying I don’t know if I should do this. She told me that whatever I do I’m not going to lose creativity, I’m going to bring creativity to whatever I do.”

That was all Reveca needed – she submitted the paperwork needed for starting a non-profit, and never looked back.

She did lots of research and essentially taught herself to run a business from scratch. She also found that as a small non-profit, people often wouldn’t take her seriously.

But she must be doing something right, because here Backbones is, ten years later and still going strong.

Now, one of Reveca’s main goals is to set aside more time for herself to work on art projects. Over the last few years she’s managed to obtain artist fellowships and residencies to do some personal artwork, and she wants to continue these opportunities. 

After long periods of self-doubt, Reveca is finally starting to recognise her potential as an actual artist, and says the fellowships give her a sense of validation.

Fully exposing herself for the first time, Reveca shares the link to her website she has recently launched, where she posts her artwork.

You can also keep up to date with Reveca on Instagram.

If you’d rather listen than read…

Listen to the Podcast with Reveca Torres now.

Currency

Retractor Location Guide - Lower Horizontal Frame Tube

Watch the video or read on below
Play Video
Brackets Used

If you choose to mount the Retractors from the lower horizontal frame tube you’ll receive two 90 Brackets (as seen below) – one for the left and one for the right side of your chair.

The Retractors slot onto these Brackets, which are then attached vertically to the Lower Horizontal Frame Tube using Clamps.

Bracket Orientation

The Brackets have a tilt feature which allows you to adjust the angle of the Retractor so that it is parallel to the Keeper, for the smoothest operation.

Key Dimensions

The clamps are 16mm or ⅝” wide

The maximum distance from the centre of the Clamp to the centre of the Retractor webbing when mounted on the 90 Bracket is 70mm (3″).

Retractor Dimensions
The Retractors themselves are 75mm wide by 50mm high or 3×2″
Moving Other Attachments

Finally, it is worth noting that other attachments, such as brakes and side guard clamps can often be moved to accommodate the LapStacker® without compromising their function.

Need Help?

If this is the only option you’ve been given, it doesn’t look like it will work, or you’ve still got questions, then please contact us or your preferred reseller, and we’ll do our best to help.

Retractor Location Guide - Front Vertical Frame Tube

Play Video
Brackets Used

If you choose to mount the Retractors from the front vertical frame tube you’ll receive two Flat Brackets (as seen below) – one for the left and one for the right side of your chair.

The Retractors slot onto these Brackets, which are then attached to the front vertical frame tube using clamps.
Bracket Orientation

The Brackets have a single long slot and rotate feature, which provides plenty of adjustability so that you can align the Retractor webbing with the centre of the Keeper. 

Key Dimensions

The clamps are 16mm or ⅝” wide.

The maximum distance from the centre of the Clamp to the centre of the Retractor webbing when mounted on the Flat Bracket is 105mm (4 1/8″).

If the front vertical frame tube is too far forward to allow the Retractor webbing to align with your optimal Keeper position, or you don’t think you’ll have clearance from your legs, you may need to consider other Retractor locations available for your make and model.

The Retractors themselves are 75mm wide by 50mm high or 3×2″

Moving Other Attachments

Finally, it is worth noting that other attachments, such as brakes and side guard clamps can often be moved to accommodate the LapStacker® without compromising their function.

Need Help?

If this is the only option you’ve been given and it doesn’t look like it will work, or you’ve still got questions, then please contact us, or your preferred reseller, and we’ll do our best to help.

Retractor Location Guide - Cross Frame Rigidizer Bar

Play Video
Brackets Used

If you choose to mount the Retractors from the cross frame rigidizer bar, you’ll receive two Cross Tube Brackets (as seen below) – one for the left and one for the right side of your chair.

The Retractors slot onto these Brackets, which are then attached to the cross frame rigidizer bar using clamps.

Bracket Orientation

The Brackets have slots in them to allow plenty of adjustability so that you can align the Retractor webbing with the centre of the Keeper.

Key Dimensions

The clamps are 16mm or ⅝” wide.

The maximum distance from the centre of the Clamp to the centre of the Retractor webbing when mounted on the Cross Tube Bracket is 90mm ( 3.5″).

The Retractors themselves are 75mm wide by 50mm high or 3×2″

Leg Clearance

Please note, there must be clearance from the back of your legs, so we suggest mounting the Bracket and Retractor back a little bit from the edge of your cushion.

Seat Clearance

The Brackets are best tilted slightly downward, so the Retractors don’t touch the seat when the chair is in use.

Moving Other Attachments

Finally, it is worth noting that other attachments, such as brakes and side guard clamps can often be moved to accommodate the LapStacker® without compromising their function.

Need Help?

If this is the only option you’ve been given, it doesn’t look like it will work, or you’ve still got questions, then please contact us, or your preferred reseller, and we’ll do our best to help.

Retractor Guide – Frame Top Tube

Play Video
Brackets Used

If you choose to mount the Retractors from the frame top tube, you’ll receive two 90 Brackets (as seen below). One for the left and one for the right side of your chair.

The Retractors slot onto these Brackets, which are then attached to the top tube using clamps.

Bracket Orientation

Depending on what clearance you have available, the Brackets can be mounted forward of the clamp (above) or behind the clamp (below) to ensure that the Retractor webbing can align with the optimal keeper position.

The Brackets have a tilt feature which allows you to adjust the angle of the Retractor so that it is parallel to the Keeper, for the smoothest operation.

Key Dimensions

The clamps are 16mm or ⅝” wide.

The maximum distance from the centre of the clamp to the centre of the Retractor webbing when mounted on the 90 Bracket is 70mm or 3″.

The Retractors themselves are 75mm wide by 50mm high or 3×2″

Recommended Configuration

The Brackets are best mounted horizontally and tilted slightly downward, so the Retractors are tucked away and don’t touch the seat when the chair is in use.

 

It is very important to note that there must be clearance from the back of your legs, so we suggest mounting the Bracket and Retractor back a little bit from the edge of your cushion.

Moving Other Attachments
Finally, it is worth noting that other attachments, such as brakes and side guard clamps can often be moved to accommodate the LapStacker® clamp without compromising their function.
Need Help?

If this is the only option you’ve been given and it doesn’t look like it will work, or you’ve still got questions, then please contact us and we’ll do our best to assist.

Side Guard Keeper Guide

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Introduction
The Side Guard Keeper is what we consider the last resort. It is only recommended after the Long and Short Keepers have been exhausted as options.
How is the Side Guard Keeper Mounted?

The Side Guard Keeper mounts inside, or cushion side, of your side guards (otherwise known as the wheel guards or clothing guards). It is fixed in place using an adhesive patch. 

 

It is not recommended for fabric side guards, although it can work there with some custom modification.

When is the Side Guard Keeper an Option?

The Side Guard Keeper could be an option when there is not enough space for a Long or Short Keeper and the side guard extends sufficiently forward of your body so that it comes close to the optimal Keeper position.

Some wheelchair makes such as the Hands on Concept range of chairs have oversized side guards and these are good examples of where a side guard can work.

Recommended Configuration

We recommend the Side Guard Keeper is located so it doesn’t sit higher than your cushion. 

 

From the testing we have done in that location, it should not interfere with the body or be a problem for skin pressure. We do recommend CAUTION and suggest that this is assessed carefully.
Retractor Alignment

Remember, the Keeper must align with the Retractor webbing so please keep this in mind as you review the Retractor Location Guides.

Need Help?

If this is the only option you’ve been given and it doesn’t look like it will work, or you’ve still got questions, then please contact us, or your preferred reseller, and we’ll do our best to assist.

Short Keeper Guide

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Mounting Options

The Short Keeper can be mounted to your wheelchair frame’s top tube in three ways.

1. Snap-Fit Mount

If your wheelchair has a 1” or 25mm frame top tube, the Short Keeper will be supplied with a snap fitting that is simply pressed in place onto the tubing. 

The Short Keeper is then fastened to the snap fitting and can be fine-tuned by sliding it forward and back, before tightening the bolt with the supplied allen key.

 

You’ll require 1” or 25mm of relatively flat clear space on the tubing for the snap fit mount and 55mm or 2 3/16” for the Short Keeper itself.

2. Universal Mount

If your wheelchair has a frame top tube diameter that is any size other than 1” or 25mm then a universal mount will be supplied.

The universal mount attaches via two supplied cable ties and requires 1 ⅜” or 35mm of relatively flat space on the frame top tubing to be mounted effectively.

 

Again, the position of the Short Keeper can then be fine tuned by sliding it forward and back on the universal mount.

3. Direct Mount

The Short Keeper can also be mounted directly to the tubing without the snap fit or universal mount using the supplied cable ties and rubber pad. 

Common Scenarios

There are three common scenarios where the Short Keeper is used.

Scenario 1 - Folding Wheelchairs

The first scenario is for folding wheelchairs (as below) that have a separate seat frame that moves up and down as it folds.

In this scenario the Short Keeper fixes to the frame top tube, not the seat frame, so that when the seat frame moves up and down the Short Keeper does not move.

 

If you have a folding wheelchair that doesn’t have a separate seat frame that moves up and down independently of the main frame, then the Long Keeper may be the better option for you.

Scenario 2 - Forward of the Seat Base

When there is not enough space to Velcro a Long Keeper to the solid or upholstery seat base, a Short Keeper can be mounted forward of your seat base provided there is enough flat area of tubing to mount it. 

 

Please refer to the three mounting options above to determine if you have enough space to mount the Short Keeper in this position.

Important Note - Leg Clearance

It is important to note, that in all cases where the Short Keeper is mounted forward of the seat base, the Retractors should NOT be located horizontally off the frame top tube or cross frame rigidizer bar as they will be in the way of your legs.

 

In this case, the Retractors will need to be mounted from the lower horizontal frame tube or the front vertical frame tube if these options are available for your chair. 

More about these locations is provided in the Retractor Location Guides.

Space for Hands

If you use your frame top tube as a hand hold for transfers then you may want to consider how much space you will have available after mounting the Short Keeper, remembering that it is 55mm (2 3/16”) wide. 

 

If there is insufficient space on top, you may consider mounting the Short Keeper directly under the top tube (as shown above) to give you more clearance.

Scenario 3 - With Strap/Belt Seat Upholstery

The Short Keeper may be suitable for rigid wheelchairs that use a strap/belt system for their seat base, particularly when there are doubts about aligning the Long Keeper up with these straps, or the surface area available to fix the adhesive velcro. 

 

This is covered in more detail in the Long Keeper Guide.

Retractor Alignment

Remember, the Keeper must align with the Retractor webbing so you may have to come back to the Keeper guides to double check your choice after you’ve reviewed the Retractor Location Guides.

Please Note

Unless asked, you do not have to know the frame top tube diameter of your wheelchair as this is automatically selected for you based on your make and model. 

Need Help?

If this is the only option you’ve been given, it doesn’t look like it will work, or you’ve still got questions, then please contact us or your preferred reseller, and we’ll do our best to help.

Long Keeper Guide

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Space Required for the Long Keeper

The Long Keeper requires 55mm or 2 3/16” of space on your solid or upholstery seat base forward of any side guards.

Is There Enough Room?

Do you have this room available? Will the location of the Keeper be close to your optimal position? If so, then the Long Keeper could work for you.

How is it Attached?

The Long Keeper attaches to the rigid or upholstery seat base, using adhesive Velcro which is provided. 

It is worth noting that an upholstery seat base or strap system often has velcro sewn into it already and this can be used in addition to the Velcro provided.

What About Strap/Belt Style Seat Upholstery?

If you have a strap system for your seat base, then you will need to determine if there is a strap close enough to your optimal Keeper position to velcro or tape the Long Keeper to.

You may be able to move the straps so that they are inline with your preferred Keeper position and if a strap already has Velcro on it, you may be able to use this in addition to the velcro supplied.

If the strap can’t be moved or you’re not sure you can stick the Long Keeper to it, then selecting the Short Keeper (shown below), which attaches directly to the top frame tube of your wheelchair, may be a better option. You can learn more in the Short Keeper Guide.

What About Folding Wheelchairs?

If you have a folding wheelchair with a rising seat frame the Long Keeper won’t be suitable and a Short Keeper will be a better option.

Retractor alignment

The other factor that is important is making sure the webbing from the Retractor lines up with the optimal Keeper position.

Need help?

If this is the only option you’ve been given, it doesn’t look like it will work, or you’ve still got questions, then please contact us or your preferred reseller, and we’ll do our best to help.

Keeper Location Overview

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Choosing the Best Keeper Location

While in your wheelchair look down at your side and imagine using the LapStacker® to secure an item. Find the midpoint for this object and take a note of where this position is on your wheelchair frame’s top tube.

Ideally, the Keepers are positioned central to where you will carry items, but the LapStacker® will still work if forward or back of this point. 

Keeper and Retractor Alignment

It is important to note that the Keeper needs to be in a position where the webbing from the Retractor can pass freely up into the Keeper and they also need to be aligned. 

Keeper Guides

Each Keeper style has its own Guide which will help you determine its suitability. Please review these guides in the next step of the selection process. 

Need help?

If, for some reason, none of the Keeper options look like they will work for you, or you’re unsure of something, then please feel free to contact us, or your preferred reseller, and we’ll do our best to help.

Key Component Overview

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Retractors

Every LapStacker® Set has two Retractors (seen below) – one for each side of your wheelchair. These contain the tensioned strap and locking mechanism.

Retractor Locations

Depending on your wheelchair make and model, you’ll be given a number of options for where the Retractors can be mounted. 

These locations include the frame top tube, the cross frame rigidizer bar, the front vertical frame tube, and lastly, the lower horizontal frame tube which is common on folding chairs and dual tube rigid wheelchairs.

Clamps and Brackets

The Retractors mount to the wheelchair frame using a specific Clamp and Bracket (there are many types, including the 90 Bracket and  1″ Clamp seen below). 

These are both automatically selected once your preferred Retractor mounting location is chosen.

They are made from high quality and lightweight aluminium, with a stylish anodized finish.

Buckles

The Buckles attach to the Retractor straps. They use high strength magnets to guide the two sides together, then lock mechanically as the straps tighten.

They are precision machined from aircraft grade aluminium for strength and anodized for a stylish finish.

 

The Buckles are held in place by your side using Keepers. 

Keepers

We’ve designed three styles of Keeper and you’ll be asked to choose one from the available options for your chair. 

Long Keeper

The Long Keeper velcros to the wheelchair seat upholstery, or rigid seat base.

Short Keeper

The Short Keeper connects directly to the frame top tube.

Side Guard Keeper

The Side Guard Keeper mounts on the cushion side of a wheelchair’s side guards