Topics: Spinal Cord Injury, Traumatic Brain Injury, Advice & Tips, Accessibility & Adaptations

5 Inexpensive Disability Life Hacks & Wheelchair Hacks

In recent years, there has been a surge of awesome “life hacks,” aka easy tips to make your life easier. These include everything from making quick and delicious dinners to fixing issues around the house. Inevitably, #disabilityhacks and #wheelchairhacks came to be, and now there are thousands of disability blogs and sites doling out these types of advice.

For someone with a new spinal cord injury (SCI), these types of advice can be life-changing. No longer do you have to live years into your injury to figure this stuff out on your own. Instead, you now can get the tips straight from other SCI survivors like you, and we have a handful of some of the best and inexpensive tips below. If you have any disability hacks of your own to share, please add yours in the comments. We’d love to add advice from them (with credit) in future articles!

1: Touch Lamps

While many people know what touch lamps are — lamps that only require a light tap/touch to turn on — don't forget how useful they are for people with spinal cord injuries. You can put loops on lamp pulls using a piece of string, but a touch lamp is easier to use when you have limited mobility or dexterity and is much more aesthetically pleasing — if you can find one in your decor choice, that is.

You can find these lamps all over the Internet/Amazon too. For those with limited dexterity, they are extremely useful by the bedside for in the middle of the night when you need to turn on a lamp easily. One of our favorites is this simple white shade lamp from Amazon for $12.99.

2: Safety Pins (to Help Clothes to Stay Put)

Another life-changing cheap disability hack is using safety pins to keep your shirt attached to your pants throughout the day. twitter-logo One of the number one complaints of wheelchair users when it comes to their clothing is their shirt riding up as they move. twitter-logo For many quadriplegics, this is especially annoying since it’s hard to fix once the shirt is up.

Large quilter safety pins are recommended for this hack and you should also put back your armrest when having your attendant do the pinning, so you can get the pin low enough and so that it is not visible. These are the safety pins we recommend.

3: Incense Sticks (for lighting candles)

Lighting a candle is a difficult task for quadriplegics with limited dexterity. A great disability hack for lighting a candle is using an incense stick. Light the end of an incense stick and while there's still a flame, use that to light your candle. twitter-logo Please be careful while doing this, however. We recommend having a cup of water next to you while doing the lighting so you can put the incense stick in the water right away when you're finished.

4: Cutter Bowls (for Super Fast/Easy Salads)

It can be hard remembering everything you want your caregiver to do before they leave for the day. If you suddenly want a fresh salad but don't feel like freehand cutting vegetables, one of the coolest things you can use is a Cutter Bowl. This ingenious bowl has a top with a slicer that chops your vegetables as you shake the bowl. And the best part is that it’s only $12. For anyone with limited dexterity or fatigues easily, this tool may change your life.

5: Plastic Bag (for joystick in rain/keeping things in fridge)

Love them or hate them, plastic bags are everywhere. However, for many people with disabilities, they are extremely useful. One excellent way that many powerchair users utilize them is as a handy joystick cover for when it rains. twitter-logo If you keep one in your purse/backpack, you can pull it out whenever it suddenly rains and you'll be able to zoom in the rain without getting your chair’s important electronics wet.

Another disability hack for using a plastic bag is putting things in/and taking things out of the refrigerator. Many quadriplegics will keep all of their items in plastic bags in the fridge so all they have to do is put their hand into the handle and they can easily access whatever they want or need. This does require some assistance setting up, however, and your fridge might not look so appetizing when you open it. But, if you can access everything independently when you’re done, it’s a great life hack.

Don't be afraid to try new things on your own. Your occupational therapist can’t possibly teach you everything you need to know. You’ll always inevitably learn some things on your own. Disability life hacks and wheelchair hacks like the ones we’ve mentioned will hopefully serve as inspiration for you to develop your own disability hacks along the way.

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Tiffiny Carlson

Written by Tiffiny Carlson

Since 1998, Tiffiny Carlson has been a prolific commentator on all things SCI in a number of prominent magazines, blogs and websites. Hailing from Minnesota, she was the SCI Columnist for New Mobility Magazine for 13 years and she currently works as the Executive Director of SPINALpedia, one of the leading websites for people with SCI to share videos and stories. She has been a C5-6 quadriplegic since a diving accident 24 years ago. Tiffiny has also been a fierce advocate for SCI research. In 2016, the Morton Paralysis Fund honored her for her work. While all SCI topics interest her, dating, love and the business of relationships have always been where her passion lies the most.

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