Necessity: Mother of Invention

James Sanders adapted this lift so he can transfer onto his John Deere tractor.
Reprinted from PN April 2011

James Sanders had trouble transferring independently. So, he went to his workshop and solved these problems.

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James Sanders of Amarillo, Tex., served his country in the U.S. Navy from 1970 to 1974. He spent three years aboard the USS Sperry AS12, a sub tender stationed in San Diego. In 1992, he was trimming the deadwood from a tree and fell. This resulted in a spinal-cord injury (SCI) at the T10 level. 

One morning, Sanders had slept a little later than usual. His wife had risen earlier to work on a few projects of her own. He has a morning routine. He likes to get out of bed into his shower chair and go straight into the shower. Ready to start his day, he called to his wife Judy for assistance. She responded, “Just a minute! I’m in the middle of something.”

Sanders lay in bed, at first a bit frustrated because he was anxious to get up and out to his workshop. Among other projects, he is working on a hydrogen generator to increase fuel efficiency in automobiles. Then the helplessness and the dependency of the SCI reared its ugly head. When Sanders is up in his chair, he is independent. The independence is what makes his life worth living.

A gifted mechanic and inventor, James Sanders meets challenges head-on.

Sanders allowed himself a few moments of self-pity, then got to thinking about his wife. She was also tied down by his dependence, and it wasn’t fair. She had to plan her day around his disability. There may come a time when she is no longer able to physically assist him out of bed. There had to be a better way.

Do you know, that in that moment of necessity, an idea sprang forth. Sanders credits his prayers. He is a gifted mechanic and inventor. Why not use that gift to make life easier for his wife and him? He determined there were two major problems: When he tries to transfer independently from his bed to the shower chair, the chair dangerously scoots away from the bed. He needed to find a way to securely anchor the chair so it didn’t move in the middle of the transfer.

The second problem was the bed’s softness. When pushing down on the soft mattress, he couldn’t get enough lift to safely transfer.

Once up and showered, Sanders immediately went to his workshop and started sketching. [If he can draw it, he can build it.] It didn’t take long for him to come up with a way to secure his shower chair to the bed and develop a transfer stick for thestabilized lifting needed to transfer. He could secure and release his chair from the bed independently. He built it—and it worked the first time.

This got Sanders thinking about other things he could invent to make life better for wheelchair users and their spouses.

When Sanders realizes an obstacle, he comes up with a solution. He and Judy live in an accessible home they built on 51⁄2 acres. He wanted to be able to transfer onto his John Deere tractor so he could join his wife in working on their property. I had the pleasure of watching him, by way of Skype, go out into his garage and get on a Tommy Lift he adapted to transfer onto his tractor.

Sanders’s brother Duane is his greatest advocate. Duane is helping him bring his products to market. They are setting up a website,, and want to connect with wheelchair users around the world. Their goal is to increase independence and make life easier for all.


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Necessity: Mother of Invention


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