Story by Chris Marchand
A technical innovation by a Dryden High School teacher is helping some students with disabilities overcome barriers.
Dryden High School Communications Technology teacher Dave Darling says he was faced with a bit of creative problem solving and took to an online community in search of ideas to help some mobility challenged students make full use of an SLR?camera.
“I had a couple students who were having difficulty holding the camera manually,” said Darling. “I wanted them to participate on the same level as the other students in the class. I looked at some tripods and some things online. Eventually I posed the question on an Internet forum, ‘Are there any photographers who might be in a wheelchair or have limited mobility and what do they use?’ This was one the suggestions I got.”
The key to Darling’s hands-free camera mount is a sturdy clamp and arm accessory articulated with ball joints and produced by high-end tripod manufacturer Manfrotto.
To take pictures students push a button in a handheld electronic shutter release cabled into the camera — another common accessory used by photographers to avoid nudging their cameras during long exposures. The photographer can compose their shot via a ‘liveview’ image on the screen on the back of the camera — a feature common to point and shoot cameras, but more of a recent development among digital SLR cameras.
DHS student Cindy Wildhaber has congenital Muscular Dystrophy. She candidly describes it as a missing protein in her body that she says has prevented her muscles from developing as she’s grown. Moving around with the use of a motorized wheelchair, she faces challenges that most people would struggle to imagine.
She says Mr. Darling’s innovation has allowed her to explore photography with a level of independence she wouldn’t normally be able to. Over the past year, Wildhaber has used the rig to take pictures at sporting events and around the school.
“I can’t lift heavy things,” she says. “I can’t really lift my arms above my waist. It clamps onto my chair and I can just go around the school taking pictures. I don’t have to physically lift the camera. Now that I know more about cameras and the accessories, I have a bigger interest in photography for sure.”
Wildhaber, who got a taste of page layout while working on last year’s yearbook says she’s interested in graphic design as a career path.
“My goal was to make sure all my students could participate to the best of their ability, to me that’s the beauty of it,” said Darling. “It’s obviously not exactly the same but it pretty much gives everybody the opportunity to achieve.”