Archives: April 2016
As I have mentioned in the past, the main aim of The Active Hands Company is to improve disabled people’s lives by offering products that enable users to overcome potential barriers and gain independence. We ship our products all over the world, catering to people with a vast range of disabilities and conditions, and there’s nothing we love more than receiving positive feedback from our clients and hearing the impact our products are having on people’s lives. It really does make it all worthwhile. We would therefore like to share a story with you about a fantastic charity in America called Personal Ponies, an amazing little girl named Kelcie, and the positive effect our Active Hands gripping aids were able to have.
Kelcie was born on September 4th 2004. She was two months premature and required a respirator and oxygen to help her breathe. Due to her early birth and initial lack of oxygen, cysts formed on her brain which resulted in Kelcie developing a condition known as periventricular leukomalacia, a not uncommon brain injury for premature infants that affects the white matter that sends information to the brain, spinal cord and muscles. After a month in neonatal intensive care, and with doctors still unsure to what extent the brain had been damaged, Kelcie’s mother was able to take her 3lbs 14oz baby girl home. Once there, Kelcie began therapy as soon as possible in the hope that she could grow to reach her fullest potential. As Kelcie grew from a baby, to an infant, to a happy, funny and motivated young girl; it became clear that, whereas her injury had affected her physically; mentally she was as sharp as a button and hungry to get the most out of life! And that is where Personal Ponies comes in.
Personal Ponies was founded by Marianne Alexander in 1986 and is a charity that gives children with special needs the chance to meet, groom, ride and look after miniature Shetland ponies. Starting out with only 2 ponies, the organisation is now international and can boast approximately 50 breeding farms, 65 stallions, about 200 breeding mares, and more than 1500 registered ponies! At its heart, Personal Ponies is a community based learning organisation that promotes an I Can! attitude and has the core value of caring at its centre. It has given the gift of laughter and happiness to thousands of children, including Kelcie, and continues to do so to this day!
Kelcie was 8 years old when she first attended Personal Ponies and the experiences she has had with them over the past couple of years have caused her smile to grow and grow. When she was younger she would get easily startled, but thanks to her weekly interaction with the ponies, this has drastically minimised. Lying on the back of one of the ponies can help stretch and relax her severely tightened muscles, and her face lights up whenever she gets to wash, groom, feed or paint the ponies, especially Cookie Face – her favourite!
However, due to the tightness in Kelcie’s muscles and fingers, she found it extremely difficult to do any of these activities independently, and would instead have to rely on a ‘hand over hand’ method, meaning that someone would physically need to help her to hold whatever she might be using to interact with the ponies at that time. Then one day, a volunteer brought in an Active Hands General Purpose Gripping Aid, and everything changed.
The staff were amazed at how the aid was able to allow a person to securely and comfortably grip a multitude of items, allowing them to tend to the ponies independently. The adult-sized aid was too big for the young children to use however, and so Sandra Seiden, state director of the Florida branch of Personal Ponies, approached Active Hands to see if we could help. As the charity is not-for-profit and made up entirely of volunteers, we offered to send a pair of sample Mini Aids out to them which, as soon as they arrived, became an instant game changer!
Within moments of their arrival, we heard back from an excited Sandra, who said that Kelcie had managed to brush her pony and fill up the water bucket all by herself! “My heart absolutely danced to see how she was able to groom the pony completely independently because of your product” said Sandra, who went on to describe Active Hands as “a dream come true” and “a perfect design” that gives the user an “I CAN attitude”! When asked what the difference was between actively assisting a child with ‘hand over hand’ help and using Active Hands, she said, “The assistance that Active Hands offers is the freedom to DO IT BY MYSELF!”
After her initial wide-eyed amazement and with squeals of, “I DID IT!! THAT WAS SOOOO COOOOOOL!!”, Kelcie is now able to wash, feed, groom and paint the ponies independently, all whilst using the Active Hands Mini Aids. Her mum was brought to tears when witnessing all of her daughters ‘firsts’ at the barn!
As we grow from babies, to infants, to children, to adolescents, to adults; our confidence in our own abilities should also grow, leading us to push ourselves and seek out challenges in our quest for independence. However, it is not always a straightforward path and, for a variety of different reasons, some youngsters will not find it as easy a process as others. They may require extra nurturing and physical aids to give them the confidence, self-belief and I Can! attitude, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Achieving independence is so important for children like Kelcie and the fact she can now care for the ponies by herself will give her the confidence needed to help stimulate her emotional growth, as well as reinforce the importance of responsibility, caring and nurturing, and all whilst having the most amazing time!
Active Hands is proud to have been able to help Kelcie reach this milestone and give her the opportunity to create some truly magical memories that will doubtless stay with her throughout life. We hope our gripping aids will continue to be of benefit to Kelcie and the children at Personal Ponies, as well as to our worldwide network of customers and users.
Here at Active Hands, our aim has always been to improve people’s quality of life and encourage independence. We have done this by creating products that remove disability related barriers, giving the user access to equipment, apparatus and tools that they may have struggled with otherwise. We like to think that by offering these unique products, we are helping people all over the world to overcome obstacles, increase their confidence and reach their potential.
However, we are also aware that we are not the only company doing this and that there are countless other products out there, similarly designed to improve the lives of those with a disability, illness or impairment. And so we have made the decision to branch out and offer what we believe to be the best and most useful of these products in our store, alongside our own Active Hands aids. Some of them are brand new products, some have been around for a while, but we believe all of them to be worth sharing with you guys.
So, without further ado, here is a list of the exciting, new range of products found and sold by Active Hands:
This is a simple yet revolutionary invention that can be of benefit to anyone. Sugru is a mouldable, self-setting putty that can be shaped and bonded to almost anything, giving it a virtually infinite number of possible uses. Initially feeling like play dough, it can be used for anything, from repairing cables to fixing broken toys, replacing missing parts to creating comfier grips. And once it has been left to set for 24 hours, it becomes a permanent, flexible rubber. I use mine on my games console control pad to give me trigger buttons that I can grip and press without my fingers slipping off, on kitchen utensils that I struggle to adequately grip and also on my bedside table as a handy slot to put my phone charging cable in so it doesn’t fall on the floor where I can’t reach it. I always keep some spare in the drawer too, as I never know when I’ll next need it! Available in packs of 3 or 8 and in a variety of colours.
For people with little or no finger movement such as myself, pressing buttons on a remote control, typing on a keyboard or using a touchscreen device can be a bit hit or miss. I often find myself hitting wrong or multiple buttons, meaning I’m forever having to correct myself. But as soon as I slip the Sixth Digit onto one or both of my little fingers, I can press every key and button I need without having to worry about my other fingers getting in the way, a lifesaver when it comes to writing articles such as this! The replaceable stylus tips also allow me to use them in conjunction with the touchscreens on my mobile and tablet, and their unobtrusive design means I can even leave them on as I push my chair! Sold in pairs, with two spare tips and a handy storage pouch.
I must admit, I do enjoy the occasional game of poker, both at home with friends and at a casino. The problem I’ve had since my injury though is that I struggle to hold my cards firmly in my hands and struggle even more to fan them out. This can often result in me dropping them, giving opponents a chance to see my hand and call my bluff. However, with this nifty card holder I can slot my cards between the two wheels and then twist them so that they fan out perfectly, allowing me to hold up to 14 cards in one hand and eliminating the risk of scattering them all over the table. Can be used in conjunction with a multitude of card games and is an ideal accessory for any aspiring card sharks!
Table Top Scissors
As someone with no discernible hand function or finger movement, using regular scissors can be an absolute nightmare, requiring both my hands to open and close the blades. This, more often than not, results in me making a bit of a mess of whatever I’m trying to cut and can leave me reliant on others to help. However, with the Table Top Scissors I am able to easily cut using one hand, whilst guiding whatever I’m cutting with the other. Their large T-shaped handles mean that they balance comfortably on any flat surface and all you need do is push down on them to close the blades, then release and the hidden spring opens the blades up again. Each pair comes with a blade guard to ensure safe storage and transport. Available in both adult and child sizes.
Table Top Nail Clippers
Without the hand function necessary to squeeze and release, regular nail clippers become virtually impossible to use, as I quickly found out after my injury. This meant that I either had to rely on someone else to clip my nails for me or I could attempt to cut them myself by balancing scissors on a lap-tray and attempting to insert each fingernail between the blades, a process that often ended in cursing and bloodshed! These Table Top Nail Clippers have thankfully put an end to all that though. The stable, plastic base and rubber feet mean that they can be used on any flat surface, and the large lever pad makes applying pressure to close the blades a thing of ease. It also has a handy nail file attached if you require any finishing touches.
If you suffer with arthritis or poor hand function, then you will understand what a nuisance opening a drink, sauce or pill bottle can be, especially if the seal has yet to be broken. And I’m sure I can’t be the only one who, many a time, has resorted to clamping down on the bottle top with their teeth and twisting it off that way. Thankfully, I now have one of these silicone bottle openers that can be placed over the top of almost any bottle, gripping the lid firmly, and then twisted off with relative ease. This inexpensive piece of kit is a much more hygienic way of getting into bottles and could save you a fortune in dentist bills!
For items you can’t even get your teeth around, the Jar Opener is similar to the Bottle Opener but larger in size and is designed to fit over and provide ease of access to any twist-lid jar. I use mine to get into jam jars, cooking pastes and larger multi-vitamin bottles, and it has often been the difference between cooking for myself and reaching for the takeaway menu!
When pushing my chair around whilst balancing a tray of food or drink on my knee, it’s not uncommon for the contents of the tray to slide about, often resulting in spillage. Similarly, when using a chopping board or mixing ingredients in a bowl, I have to use both hands to hold the knife whilst chopping and both hands to hold the spoon whilst mixing. This can mean that the board or bowl often take on a life of their own and move around all over the place, leaving me more than a little frustrated! However, by placing this circular piece of anti-slip silicone on the tray or table first, it means that whatever I place on it afterwards, stays on it. So I can now push around, chop and mix without fear of calamity, and afterwards can just peel it off and put it away until next time. I also find it handy to use in conjunction with the Bottle and Jar Openers, as it provides the perfect base to grip whatever I’m opening.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m fiercely independent and when it comes to meals, I’m determined to cut and manage my own food. However, due to my inability to firmly grip cutlery, this can lead to me constantly dropping them whilst struggling to cut through food, and I end up finishing my meal twenty minutes after everyone else, with more gravy left on my fingers than on the plate! However, once I slid my knife, fork and spoon into these Cutlery Grips I found it became instantly easier to hold them steadily in my hands, cut food and feed myself without the usual struggle or fear of dropping them. The chunky, silicone design means that they fit firmly yet comfortably into your hands, gripping to them and allowing you to enjoy mealtimes without feeling stressed or self-conscious and without having to ask others for help. They can fit over most standard cutlery and can be used in conjunction with other household items such as pens, toothbrushes etc. Also these silicone grips are completely dishwasher safe.
Another handy cutlery aid, the S’up Spoon is perfect for people who have spasms or tremors in their hands. The hollowed out handle means you can hold the contents of the spoon inside it and then tip it into your mouth without fear of losing it should a tremor begin. I’m prone to the occasional spasm in my fingers and so I find this particularly useful when it comes to eating soup and cereal. It’s a real confidence booster to be able to eat with others and not have to worry about potential spillages.
Sweets, crisps, cereal, ham, cheese, microwave meals, boxes, letters, magazines…the list of things I’ve had trouble getting into could go on and on. And more often than not I’ve had to resort to using my teeth to gain access, a process that, whilst looking fairly ridiculous, can also be on the risky side, especially when opening microwave meals and trying to avoid a potentially boiling steam blast to the face! But these problems have all been eliminated thanks to the Nimble. It slips onto your finger with ease and the tiny ceramic blade sticking out of it will instantly slice open whatever you run it across, without the potential to cause serious harm. Its compact size means you can carry it with you wherever you go and slip it onto your finger whenever it is needed. I use mine on a daily basis and it really does *ahem* cut out the frustration that can come with opening packaging when you have limited finger movement or suffer from any other hand, arm or strength related afflictions. Its brightly coloured, one size fits all design also means that you don’t need to worry about losing it or about which size is best for you.
So there you have it, our new range of disability aids, each aimed at overcoming a different potential barrier. We intend to keep our eyes open and hopefully, if these prove popular, add more products over time that we believe would be of use to our customers. And of course we are working on new Active Hands designs and products all the time, so it’s always worth checking back to see if anything new has been added. You never know, we may have the answer to a problem you’ve been struggling with for years!
About me: In 2005 I was involved in a road traffic accident in which I broke my neck and damaged my spinal cord at a C5/6 level. This resulted in me being paralysed from the chest down, with weakened arms and very little hand function. I live independently thanks to the numerous aids and inventions that are available for people with disabilities.