Original article by Scott McNutt
Translated into plain language by Helen Osborne of Health Literacy Consulting

If you are missing a limb, you likely know many ways of making it easier to do daily tasks. You might use items that are “high-tech,” such as a computer-based prosthesis. Or maybe you use “low-tech” ways such as moving furniture to better move around. Both ways can help. Here are some new products and ideas to help with daily tasks.

Products to buy

Rehab Ideas (rehabideas.com). These products are designed by Professor Stephen Sundarrao and his mechanical engineering students at the University of South Florida. They include:

  • Off Road WheelchairOff-Road Wheelchair Kit. This base platform uses power wheelchair wheels. It lets people move on uneven (bumpy) or constricted terrain (such as places that are narrow or cluttered). The price is $4,495.
  • Sideways Wheelchair Sideways Wheelchair Kit. This allows a rear-wheel-drive power wheelchair to move sideways, get into tight spaces, and move on uneven or constricted terrain.
  • Automatic backpack retrieval device. This fits on most wheelchairs.
  • Swiveling adjustable tray. This can be attached to most wheelchairs. When not in use, the tray can hide under the wheelchair arm.
  • Aluminum crutch. The crutch will fold small enough to fit into a purse. It is being developed now.

Sundarrao says that a growing number of people who use power wheelchairs ask for technology like this. “We are committed to inventing and bringing to market solutions like this one that tackle everyday problems for wheelchair users and allow them more independence and convenience in their daily activities,” he says.

Mobility4kids (mobility4kids.com). These products let children in wheelchairs go places they could not get to before. One is a Go Kart that, with the right tires, can go on beaches, campgrounds and other outdoor places. Go Karts are controlled by either a joystick or steering wheel. There is a choice of seating options.

ProTon Locks (protonlocks.com). This is a magnetic bicycle pedal that can be used in all bicycle sports. It secures the rider’s shoe to the pedal with a metal plate. “These pedals make it so much easier to ride a bike, and I am sure they would do wonders for any other amputee out there,” says Kurt Yaeger, whose left leg was amputated below the knee after a motorcycle accident.

Dynamic Living, Inc. (dynamic-living.com). These help people with upper-extremity limb loss do their daily tasks, such as getting dressed. Andrea Tannenbaum is president of this company and knows how hard these tasks can be. “You may have trouble with the buttons, zippers or snaps,” she says. “All you know is that your clothing has become the enemy.” She offers these products and ideas to help:

  • Elastic shoelaces. These stretch so your foot can slide into shoes without untying the laces.
  • Bra-Angel. Putting on a bra is very hard for women to do with just one hand. Often, women close the bra in front and then twist it to the back. Bra-Angel helps byholding one end which makes it easier to bring both ends of the bra together.
Bra Angel
  • Pant Clips. It can be hard to pull up pants and underwear using one hand. Pant Clips are like suspenders in that they clip to the front of pants. Once the pants are pulled up, the clips can be taken off and kept in a bag or “fanny pack” to use later.
  • Easy-to-Close Belt. Belts with buckles are very hard to manage for people with limited dexterity (finger movement) or only one hand. This device snaps onto the belt loop, holding it in place while you tighten the belt. The belt then closes with a hook and loop strip.
  • Voice-activated appliances. These include TV remote controls, alarm clocks, telephones, and telephone dialers. Tannenbaum says that these can be “an ideal solution for someone who finds it hard to physically dial a telephone.”

Man with TelestikTeleStik® Portable Reacher (telestik.com). Reachers let people with limited mobility (movement) grasp objects that are far away. Reachers have triggers on the handles and hooks or pincers at the end. Most reachers are quite long. This new reacher folds to less than 8 inches and fits in a fanny pack or purse. It can extend up to 34 inches. It offers 3 ways to pick up objects: adhesive (sticky tape) that lifts objects weighing up to a pound; a magnet that lifts objects weighing up to one pound; and a standard hook.

ABLEWARE® (service.maddak.com). This company makes objects to help with daily tasks. They include:

  • Shower stool that rotates (spins). This makes it safer to move into and out of the shower.
  • One Handed Nail ClipperPress-On™. This nail clipper can be used one-handed. It has a heavy duty, straight-edged clipper attached to an extra-wide, extra-long base that is very stable.

Products you can make

Many amputees or their family members create new ways of doing daily tasks. For instance:

  • Charles Collins (who lost his right leg below the knee) created zipper-leg trousers. These have zippers on the inseam which allows him to doff and don his prosthesis without taking off his pants.
  • Karl Ekstrom could not find a cup holder to buy that he liked for his wife’s wheelchair. So he made one. “You buy a 4-inch PVC snap-in drain and notch it for the cup and to fit to the bar of the chair,” he explains. “Use a 5-inch hose clamp to hold it in place on a bar of the arm rest.”

Books to learn more

The Complete Product Guide for People with Disabilities and The Complete Directory for People with Disabilities list many aids to help with daily tasks. These include voice-controlled lamps, light switches and phones, doorknob-turners, button aids, dressing sticks, one-handed cutting boards, universal handcuffs with Velcro® straps, and mouth-controlled joysticks.

Adapt My World by J. Rose Plaxen offers many ways to make everyday objects more user-friendly. While the book is written about children with developmental challenges, many of the ideas can be used by people with limb loss. For instance:

  • People with limited dexterity can put milk or other liquids into pump dispensers (used for ketchup or other condiments).
  • Velcro® fasteners can replace buttons and zippers (which are hard to manage with only one hand).
  • Long key chains or lengths of string can be looped through a zipper pull so it is easier to use.
  • People can protect their wheelchair arm or walker by wrapping thick washcloths or fleece that is held in place with duct tape.
  • People can attach a bicycle basket on the front of a walker to help carry small objects.

One-Handed in a Two-Handed World by Tommye-Karen Mayer has many simple, low-cost ideas for doing daily tasks. These can help with self-care, grooming, home repair, and even sports.

You may be able to find these books at your local public library. If not, ask the librarian to request them through interlibrary loan. You can also borrow many of these books from the Amputee Coalition’s National Limb Loss Information Center (NLLIC). To learn more and find other helpful resources, visit the NLLIC online (www.amputee-coalition.org/nllic_about.html).

Articles and other online ways to learn more

“UpperEx National Outreach Coalition Tips & Tricks”
www.upperex.com/Tips.html. This includes video tips for people with upper-limb loss or difference.

“Surviving in a Two-Handed World”
www.amputee-coalition.org/inmotion/jul_aug_01/world.html 

“What Would MacGyver Do?”
www.amputee-coalition.org/inmotion/may_ jun_04/macgyver.html

“Grooming, Bathing and Safety Tips”
www.amputee-coalition.org/inmotion/sep_oct_05/grooming.html

“Assistive Devices: Restoring the Comforts of Home”
www.amputee-coalition.org/senior_step/assistive_devices.html

“Accessible Kitchens”
www.amputee-coalition.org/inmotion/nov_ dec_99/kitchens.html

“Adaptive Aids Increase Independence”
www.amputee-coalition.org/inmotion/oct_ nov_97/adaptad.html

“Innovative Products Aid Daily Tasks”
www.amputee-coalition.org/inmotion/oct_nov_97/innovate.htm

Translated from Special Report: Technology for Amputees – Progress and Access. High- and Low-Tech Aids for Daily Living
www.amputee-coalition.org/inmotion/nov_dec_08/aids_for_daily_living.html

Last updated: 02/05/2009
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