Category Archives: Disability equipment

10 Awesome DIYs for Adaptive Tools

ballWhen in doubt, broke or if the adapted tool you want hasn’t been made yet, do what a lot of people with disabilities do and turn to DIY. Granted, it takes a handy, creative individual to make things go from just an idea to actually existing, but a lot of people with disabilities have his capacity.

And if they don’t, many have gotten good at asking for help (raises hand). I would’ve been lost without my Dad all these years; the veritable Leave It To Beaver handyman everyone dreams of knowing. He can build ramps, make my shower accessible; he is the one who I’ve always called whenever I’m at a loss.

But sometimes even my Dad can’t help me. Sometimes it takes a highly clever individual to illuminate us to a solution that even our peerless fathers haven’t thought of, like using a pizza box to create a laptop stand (it totally works, just make sure the grease stains are wiped off).

If you ever find yourself in this position, think DIY. There are some exciting DIY solutions for adapted tools out there. Check out my 10 current favorites below.

10. Wire Hanger Reacher

An adapted tool almost anyone can make is a reacher made from a wire hanger. All you need is a wire hanger and a good grip (quads, you’ll likely have to recruit help with this one). All you do is unfurl the wire hanger completely so it’s stick straight, then bend one end into a hook shape, so you can reach things easier and pull them to you.

9. Tube Sock Elbow Protector

If you have skin issues around your elbow area and really don’t want pay for elbow protectors, you can make your own using a tube sock. All you need to do is cut the end off so you can pull it up to your elbow, and voila – instant elbow protector. It may not be pretty, but you can’t get any cheaper or easier than this.

diy8. Grip Shelf Liner-Widened Utensils

For anyone with limited hand function, grabbing and holding utensils can seem like the hardest thing in world and most end up buying expensive utensil holders. You can however make any utensil easier to hold by wrapping the handle in grip shelf liner.This may be one of my favorites tips because it’s so easy and works awesomely.

7. Tennis Ball Jar Opener

Another great DIY for people with limited grip is a jar opener using a tennis ball, and this is a fast one. All you need is a tennis ball and an X-Acto knife. Simply cut along the seam completely so the tennis ball splits in two, and there you have it – two instant jar openers. To use these babies, just stretch one over a jar and twist.

6. Lego Card Holdercard

If you love a good card game but holding your deck is a whole other story, this Lego card holder is the ultimate solution; it’s both awesome and cheap. Yes folks, a crystal clear win-win situation. As you can see, this holder is mainly comprised of longer brick Legos, and they’re stacked to mimic those expensive playing card holders you can buy online.

cell5. Sugru Cell Phone Handle

A putty you can buy that will mold to almost anything you want it to, Sugru is taking the DIY world by storm, and it’s an especially big favorite amongst people with disabilities. For a person with limited hand function who had trouble using their smartphone, they used Sugru, along with some Velcro and a bit of a wire hanger to create this handle for their phone.

4. Ace Bandage Thigh Strap (for dresses)

For the ladies out there who love wearing dresses or skirts but can’t keep their legs together (and I’m not talking for that reason lol), an Ace Bandage is your skin-friendly modesty protector to the rescue. You can use this to wrap under and over your thighs, pulling your legs together so they don’t splay open at your niece’s graduation, or wherever you may be. Wouldn’t be prudent, no siree.

3. PVC Pipe Universal Cup Handle

Sometimes you can’t always find a cup with a handle; sometimes you need a separate solution. Case in point – a PVC pipe universal cup handle that helps people with limited hand function use any cup. You can set almost any cup in the handle’s base, allowing you to finally be able to hold any cup with complete ease.

cup2. Tin Can Cup Holder

Adequate cup holders meanwhile are one of the most difficult things to find, which is why this DIY tin can cup holder is amazeballs (and you don’t have to spend more than $5 in case it breaks. All you need is a 14.9 oz tin can, a plastic clamp, a short screw and some super glue.

Once you have your supplies, choose a location on your chair, punch the middle of that can with the screw, then screw halfways into the clamp. Next, put the clamp on your chair, then super glue the can to the clamp. Get a full how-to here

1. Stretchy Fleece Universal Cuff

Universal cuffs are traditionally made of hard plastic, sometimes cloth, but very rarely do people make these at home. Some clever OT students however have turned to stretchy fleece as the ideal fabric for DIY universal cuffs, as you can see with this one made especially for electric scissors. All it takes is some stretchy fleece, Velcro and a thread and needle to bring it all altogether.

While a DIY power wheelchair or adapted van should make you wheel like a crazy person in the opposite direction (not safe; not safe at all), smaller adapted devices can go the DIY route, and by all means should do so. Not only will you save money, you may even improve upon the device, and that would be a pretty a mighty sweet bonus.

What are your favorite adapted DIYs?

Products Mentioned

Sugru

Velcro

X-Acto Knife

Legos

Ace Bandage w/ Velcro closure

Grip Shelf Liner

How I Stave-Off Wheelchair Back Pain

Gravity may keep our world together, but it’s no friend to wheelchair-users. Year after year, gravity slowly takes its toll on our backs, grinding away at our vertebrae and pulling them together, causing major pain.

Preventing back pain is almost a no-win when you can’t stand or walk. You may not be able to do it completely, but you can still help the situation. When I broke my neck, my back was perfectly straight, but I also had three more inches to grow. As I sat between the ages of 14 to 17, it sadly became pretty darn crooked.

When my growth-spurt finally ended, I realized how crooked my back had become. It transformed from a straight line into an elongated letter “S” and the only way to fix it, we were told, was with braces or surgery, but neither ended up a good solution.

In the end because of my scoliosis, back pain is now something I must live with on a daily basis. My grandpa was always lying on his back on his living room floor watching TV whenever I came to visit because of his back pain (slowly caused by degenerating discs), and now I know what that feels like.

I’m not in hellish pain everyday mind you, but it’s far from pleasant. Luckily, I’ve discovered a few ways to help out the frustrating situation of back pain. Here’s a peek at some of my favorites below.

Extra Lumbar Support

I know a quadriplegic last month who finally have some awaited lumbar support added to his wheelchair backrest, and it has totally transformed his world. Having support in this area of your back can relieve pain and help you feel more stable. Everyone who uses a wheelchair should take this seriously and strive for it whenever possible.

Forward Bend

When back pain is too much to bear, one of the few things that really helps is yoga; specifically the lean forward stretch. This stretch can be done in your wheelchair or in bed; wherever you can get the most balance. I’ve learned how to do this in rehab too, but my yoga classes perfected it, teaching all the small things you only get from yoga, like better breathing and a more clear of mind feeling.

Spinal Twist

For another back stretch that can really alleviate back pain, look no further than the classic Spinal Twist pose. This yoga pose has you twist to the left and again to the right, using your upper body as the central turning point. Think of your organs as being “wrung-out” as you do it too. It helps your mind feel unbelievably clear.

Sit as Straight as You Can

I’ve also found that slouching in my wheelchair is one of the worst things I can do to my back (oh man does it hurt). I fortunately have a custom-made backrest that literally forces me to sit straight. Although it would be nice at the end of the day, I do not have tilt on my power chair, which means I have no choice but to sit straight all day long.

While my methods above may not be perfect when it comes to “true” back care, it works for me, and that’s all that really matters. You should all do the same for yourself as well. Living each day to of the fullest will make you the happiest, and if you can manage that you’re set.

How do you take care of back pain?

Products Mentioned

– Lumbar support for a wheelchair

Custom wheelchair backrest

Photo courtesy of Blah Blah Blah

Rediscovering A Blast From My Past

Because I acquired my disability shortly after birth, I have spent my life using adaptive equipment and assistive technology. Some of these items I still use today, like my crutches and my bath chair. Other items, like my leg braces and adaptive writing utensils, I no longer use at all. Every once in a while though, one of those long ago items will become useful again and I then wonder why I ever stopped using it in the first place.

Recently, I have been struggling with things that slip; like my feet on the kitchen floor, the cutting board on the counter, my ruler on my cutting matt, my butt on the chair in my sewing room. All of these things are frustrating at the very least, and have the potential to be very dangerous. I’ve tried to come up with various solutions that didn’t involve spending a small fortune on non-slip rugs and rubber coated kitchen supplies. I have put blue tape on my ruler and my cutting board. I even considered the possibility of rubber cementing the bottoms of my most used kitchen supplies to see if that would help. Then I had a flashback to my first grade classroom, where my teacher, Ms. Hart used to put prices of blue rubber sheeting under my paper so it wouldn’t slip when I wrote.

All it took was one quick post to a CP forum I am part of to discover an item called dycem; big plus side is that it is available online. Dycem is great; it is tacky on both sides and will stick to nearly everything. It can be cut to any size so I can use it on the floor under my feet, on my chair under my butt, under my cutting mat and ever under my ruler when I am cutting fabric. I can even use it under fabric when I need to trace a template. But that’s not all, dycem is not only good at preventing all manners of slippage, is also great for adding grip to items. It can be used to open jars and bottles, or strips can be added to handles, pens or even a toothbrush to supply a better grip.

Dycem has a million possible uses. And it is not just for people with disabilities. Dycem can be useful to anyone who is sick of having their stuff slide around; I can even see it being a great tool for mothers with young children. Dycem is also reusable and washable, so one small roll can last quite a long time and be used for several different applications. If you find you are regularly putting Dycem under certain items regularly, it can be permanently adhered to any surface with a little superglue. I think I might glue some to the back of a clipboard so that I can finally carry papers around the office without them sliding off my lap. What do/would you use dycem for?

Amazing Disability Garage Sale and Craigslist Finds

Like any true Midwest girl, I go crazy for a good garage sale. Tables lined up with treasures just waiting to be discovered, musky garages deep with God knows what, nothing makes me happier than dedicating a morning or a afternoon to garage saleing. Well almost nothing; scoring a deal on Craigslist comes in a close second.

And these cheap shopping venues become a million times better when you find something you really need – an item related to your disability. Yes, finding a deal on a product manufacturers would otherwise love to stick it to you on feels good. We all know upcharges abound on medical products.
From wheelchairs to automatic beds, you can go house-poor just getting what you need. Here are four items I’ve either bought or sold on Craigslist or at garage sales that have completely improved my life as a person with a disability.
Rolling overbed table: You know these tables well if you’ve spent any time in a hospital, rolling bedside/overbed tables are lifesavers when you’re in the hospital, but they’re also pretty great when you’re at home and have a mobility disability.  Nothing beats having everything you need on a rolling table right by your bed. 
I would be lost without mine, and I wouldn’t even have it in the first place if it wasn’t for a garage sale I went to nearly 18 years ago (a person with a significant disability died down the street from my family and their family had a garage sale). When we went, this is where we found the rolling overbed table. 
We got it for $5 and I’ve been using it every night since (I don’t think I’ve spend $5 on anything better in my whole life). 
Trapeze bar: Not as cool as the circus trapeze, a bed trapeze is one of those must-have items if you need it – it helps people sit up in bed when they can’t move their torso muscles. This is a great thing for people like myself who can still move their arms, but not their torso muscles.
A trapeze is basically the cheapest alternative you can find to purchasing an automatic bed. While it’s not as cool and definitely not as easy to use, it gets the job done. And we found this at the same neighbor’s garage sale mentioned above too. We got it for $10, and since they’re made of steel, they last forever. 
I don’t you use mine anymore since I upgraded to an automatic bed, but we still have it just in case. 
Automatic bed: Back in college I made one of my biggest used disability equipment purchase – a full-sized automatic bed. I had been wanting one for awhile, but could never afford it. I was still using a twin hospital bed my sophomore year at Augsburg College. So I finally I got smart and looked online, Craigslist of course, and found a used bed that was just in my price range and exactly what I was looking for – a full-sized automatic bed for $399. Something bigger than a twin, but not too big for my britches.
That bed served me well for almost 7 years and it was extremely comfortable. Sure, it probably came from someone who had died (let’s just hope not in it lol), but it was a huge life enhancer. Sigh…I still miss that bed. So comfy.
Hoyer lift: Now we’re talking an extremely important piece of equipment for millions of people with disabilities – the Hoyer lift. This is literally the bridge for people when getting from their bed to their wheelchairs (and vice versa). I had a Hoyer lift I no longer needed and felt I should send it back into the world and sell it on Craigslist.
So that’s exactly what I did, selling it to a middle aged couple who were taking care of an elderly parent. I was more than willing to give them a deal and pass along the good juju vibes.
So the next time you’re about to stress out because you need to buy medical equipment you just can’t afford, pause the freak out session and check out both Craigslist and garage sales to see what you can find instead. And when all else fails, remember to visit DisabledDealer.com; a not too shabby site that can sometimes lead to some pretty interesting used disability equipment finds too.
What awesome deals have you scored on disability equipment?
Products Mentioned
– Hoyer Manual Hydraulic Lift

Photo courtesy of Vivmilano

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