Makery sampled some of the tricks and hacks designed by handicapped people and their entourage to make opening a door, writing or gaming a bit less of an ordeal.
The DIY community isn’t just interested in self-replicating 3D printers. It’s full of resources to adapt the most daily environment of handicapped people. To get an idea of their range, let’s take a look at designer Glen Hougan’s Pinterest, which documents solutions found on the Web for adaptating wheelchairs, as well as more general hacks of products for elderly people.
There we find simple solutions such as tennis balls to muffle the squeak of the walker, double straps to mount a tablet on your thigh (particularly for those with muscular dystrophy), or a foam tube slit lengthwise to hold playing cards…
These DIY hacks show that handicapped people don’t wait around for somebody else to find solutions to their daily problems. Karen Bourne, a painter who suffers from multiple sclerosis, invented an adaptive painting brush: insulating foam (used for plumbing), brushes and glue are all it takes to adapt the brush for people with limited motor skills (due to arthritis, multiple sclerosis or muscular dystrophy). The Oklahoma Assistive Technology Center’s website offers a variant for any type of pencil.
The same concept is applied to the DIY straw holder, which allows someone to drink from a cup without holding it. The clothespin-straw solution shared by Your Therapy Source, a site dedicated to pediatric physical therapy, is a two-minute fix: glue a section of a large straw to a clothespin, then slide in a standard straw and clip it onto the cup. Useful for both handicapped people and small children…
DIY resources for handicapped people abound on websites by therapists and physically challenged individuals, such as this adapted doorknob, based (again!) on a piece of insulating foam tubing with a mini-lever that can be pushed down with the wrist or elbow, as seen on Pediastaff.
A camera in a wheelchair
Canadian organization Tetra Society connects volunteers and handicapped people in order to solve specific problems with DIY solutions. For example, Dwight Atkinson’s smart fix enables someone in a wheelchair to use a camera, thanks to a segmented coolant hose attached to a sleeve that slips onto the wheelchair arm. The volunteer also added a rubber picture framing bumper to the shutter button, as requested by the tetraplegic photographer.
We could continue this DIY inventory of handicap hacks, as resources are hardly lacking… Instead we will conclude this little tour with two more “serious” hacks, i.e. a bit more difficult to do at home unless you’re an experienced maker.
The first tells the heartwarming story of maker Caleb Kraft, who was distressed to learn one day that Thomas, a young friend suffering from muscular dystrophy, would no longer be able to spend hours on Minecraft, his favorite pastime, because most controllers are designed with buttons that are impossible to use by people with such a disease. He began by developing a scratchpad prototype posted on Hackaday, before creating a dedicated website to share techniques and alternative solutions, while launching a joystick hack contest… And finally designed a simple little piece of 3D-printed plastic that attaches to a joystick (model and files are on Thingiverse). This almost universal adapter (PS3 and XBox share half the games on the market) is the fruit of several months of collective and participative contributions.
Joystick mod for muscular dystrophy by Caleb Kraft, 1st prototype :
Joystick mod for muscular dystrophy by Caleb Kraft, 2nd prototype :
The other DIY hack for advanced makers is a playful nod to all those who are distracted by the sight of the wheelchair-bound. Wheelchair itself will be hard to miss, as it is customized with a flashy set of LEDs to distract the eyes…