Home Hack #1
Save Your Back, Boost Your Productivity: Posture-Friendly Computer Setups
Between not fitting under desks and forcing users to lean forward to use computers, wheelchairs often lead to bad posture, which in turn leads to pain. Good posture can be the key to relieving that pain. For example, I sit higher up with my tilt-recline power chair and there’s no way to tilt down low and still feel comfortable working. I used to just put a laptop on my lap, but even that made me hunch forward and caused shoulder pain. There had to be a better way.
Well, I’ve found a couple hacks to sit more upright in a taller chair that might work in your home. The first is to keep a laptop in your lap and use a wall-mounted TV as a monitor. Just connect an HDMI cable (and maybe an adapter) from your laptop to your TV. Now you’ve got a huge monitor to work with and you’ve removed the stress on your neck and shoulders. The second is to elevate one of your desks or tables. A quick search for “furniture risers” or “bed risers” online shows affordable tools that fit under the legs of a desk, and you can even improvise with something else around the house. I have one friend who uses $2.99 heavy-duty plastic planters he found at a Goodwill. Figure out the right height for your monitor and the right one for your keyboard and watch your posture improve.
Home Hack #2
You’ve Got the Power: The Budget Smart Home
Nowadays more and more people are using voice-controlled smart home devices to control every aspect of their home (see “The Smart Home“), but what if you don’t have one or can’t use one? All you need is some duct tape and a power strip. Tape the power strip down where you can reach it easily, even if you can’t move your arms, you should be able to set it up somewhere you can use a mouthstick. Then plug in whatever devices you want to control, and all you have to do is flip the power strip switch. I’ve used it to control floor lamps, fans, chargers — you name it.
Home Hack #3
Locked in No More: Open Your Doors With Ease
Opening doors can be tricky for the disability crew. Maneuvering wheelchairs and reaching handles is an art, pushing spring-loaded doors takes strength and coordination, and those of us with limited finger function and dexterity have a tough time turning circular doorknobs or keys on door locks. To get around the difficulty of holding and using keys, look for a lock that uses a number pad or has a remote. These used to be cost prohibitive, but have come way down in price and can be purchased for less than $100.
With the lock down, the trick is getting the door open — often in unfriendly spaces. One solution is putting in lever-like handles. Levers, which can be bought at any hardware store and installed easily, make things smooth for people with some arm function but no dexterity. Another solution is to add a loop or other door-extender to pull a door closed, and adding a doorstop with some spring to bounce the door back toward you. In the January NEW MOBILITY, fellow gimp “MacGyver” Brian Johnson shared how he built a Thighmaster-like device out of wood and a compression spring, mounted it to the wall, and used it to bounce the door closed.