Philippa shares a flat with a housemate on the outskirts of London, and loves running, hiking, dancing and seeing friends.
In her early thirties Philippa found herself returning home from hospital after losing her fingers. She was so relieved that the pain had ended that she hadn’t even considered the impact this new disability would have on her life.
She so loves being active that she went on a cycling holiday in France in between operations on her hand!
When her surgery was done, she had lost three fingers and part of her palm on her left hand and two fingers on her right. Initially, she really did believe that it would be easy to adjust, but the resulting weakness, easily sprained tendons and ‘clawing’ of the remaining fingers made it difficult for Philippa to ‘Get a Grip’.
With this newfound difficulty, Philippa could have accepted her local council’s offer of ‘meals on wheels’ and resigned herself to being unable to exercise like she used to, but she refused to allow her disability to get in the way of the active lifestyle and independence she loves.
In the kitchen, Philippa has found that most equipment isn’t easy to use without fingers, but she hasn’t let that stop her! Philippa’s adopted microwave cooking as her new speciality – she’s branching out from ready meals and cooks from scratch, chopping fresh vegetables with her right-angled knife from Active Hands! Her sister found some double walled plastic bowls online which can be picked up from underneath without burning her hands. She uses gadgets to help with everything: taps, jars, tins, bottles, and making sure she has a good grip on the frying pan handle! See the range on our website for great gadgets!
“Finding products that made life easy again, meant I could still do what I enjoy, not be reliant on others and continue where I left off.”
She loves her Ungrip which saves her phone from many a fall and is great for texting (she can hold it with 1 finger and text with her thumb!
Philippa is the proud owner of both Limb Difference and General Purpose aids. She actually wasn’t sure how much the General Purpose aids would help her – but she keeps finding uses for them that she never would have expected:
- Carrying two cat boxes to the vets on the bus
- Pulling a suitcase (and not a light one at that!)
- Rowing across an Alpine lake in a storm!
- Riding a Dutch bike (where you pedal backwards to brake)
- Going to barbell classes at her local gym
- Doing pull ups and weights
Beyond gadgets, Philippa is great at finding other little ways to make her life easier – she’s sown her keys and Oyster card to her bag so that she can commute at a normal speed in busy London without worrying about dropping them in rush hour!
Philippa’s outlook is simple: “It’s not that I can’t, I just do it differently.”
Everyone loves a good life-hack.
Here at Active Hands we’ve scoured through life-hacks for poor hand function and now we can proudly say we stock more than 25 of the best products we’ve come across (as well as our own wonderful gripping aids!).
Back in December we shared with you our top 10 winter disability life-hack products, so 6-months later it must be time for a summer edition!
So here, for you to muse over, are our top 10 summer life-hacks!
#1 Automatic Bottle Opener – heading into summer, social occasions can be many and often. With this bottle opener just press down and off pops the cap!
#2 Swimming Hand Paddles – fancy a swim? These paddles form a cup so you don’t need to!
#3 Gardening Tools – love gardening but struggle to grip the tools? We sell trowels and cultivators with right-angled handles to help ease wrist strain! Pair with the arm cuff or our General Purpose aid to get an even stronger grip!
#4 Bread Knife – it’s BBQ season! Make slicing those rolls even easier with this handy bread knife! The right-angled handle minimises wrist strain, and you can pair this with our General Purpose gripping aid for a firmer grip.
#5 Muggi – back in December we loved the Muggi for its tea-carrying capabilities… now it’s warmer it’s equally brilliant for carrying delicious refreshing drinks (you pick: water, fizzy pop, beer, G&T!)
#6 Zubits Magnetic Laces – make heading out even easier! With these magnetic laces you can clip your shoes together with no fuss, AND they come in a variety of colours so they’ll blend in no problem.
#7 Kitchen Pack – if you really want to make the prep for that BBQ easier (and all meals for that matter), then what you really want is our new kitchen pack! This includes: a Nimble, a push whisk, a jar opener, an anti-slip coaster, an all-purpose knife, a one-touch can opener AND cutlery grips!
#8 Storage Pouch – this handy pouch can be used to carry wheelchair tools on a summer day out, carry around your sun-cream, or just keep your belongings out of the sand on the beach!
#9 Ungrip – not actually designed as a disability product, the Ungrip is great year-round. A handy loop which attaches securely to the back of your phone and helps prevent costly drops. Some designs now on sale!
#10 Push Gloves – wanting to get out and about as much as possible in the nice weather? The wheelchair push gloves we stock are designed to be more comfortable than most, allow you to use your wrists for braking, and the highly textured rubber palm pad has been positioned to direct your energy where ever you need it most.
Check out these products, and more disability and gripping aid ‘lifehacks’ on our website: www.activehands.com
Get a grip with Active Hands. Helping you live life your way.
If you’ve been keeping your ear to the ground you’ll probably know that we released our Limb
Difference Aid in September 2017.
This year, we entered our Limb Difference Aid into the Blackwood Design Awards competition, and
we made the final! Check us out alongside the other finalists here.
Since its release last year, we’ve sold loads of Limb Difference Aids to grateful customers, allowing them to grip things they never could before!
Take Fiona, who was able to work on the bar in her gymnastics training with the help of the Limb Difference Aid…
Or Tina, who has gone from strength to strength in her Crossfit training with the help of the aid, and came second in the adapted division in the Battle of Britain Throwdown 2018…
The Limb Difference gripping aid is designed for users who have a limb difference affecting their hands or fingers. This may include those with dysmelia (conditions from birth), or those who have sustained a limb difference through amputation, injury or illness later in life. The gripping aid is perfect for those who have some or all of their fingers, or parts of their hand, missing. As long as you have at least some widening at your wrist, our grip should work for you (A wider section of the wrist is required as an anchor point to transfer the pulling force to when using the gripping aids). If you have reduce grip but have all your fingers then our General Purpose Aid will work best for you.
You can check out our Limb Difference Aid on our website here.
By Jo Walters
If you order a Hot Pink or Mini gripping aid from us, you’ll probably find something unexpected arrive in your parcel!
Here at Active Hands we’ve been supporting Breast Cancer Care UK for several years, in honour of our founder Marion who lost her battle with breast cancer in 2008.
Breast Cancer Care UK are the only UK wide charity providing care, information and support to people affected by breast cancer. We at Active Hands want to support their goal to help every person affected by breast cancer to get the best treatment, information and support.
If you choose to order our Hot Pink gripping aid, you’ll also receive a small Breast Cancer Care badge, representing the £2 donation we have made to Breast Cancer Care to make a difference.
For the last year we have also been making donations for every Mini aid sold. Our Mini aids are designed for children with limited hand function, so we decided to make the donations to Back Up Trust Kids.
Back Up works with children with spinal cord injuries. They provide wheelchair training, telephone support, and even courses in new activities like canoeing, climbing and abseiling!
For every Mini aid sold, you’ll receive a Back Up bug in your order to represent the £2 donation to the Back Up Trust.
From all of us at Active Hands, and on behalf of Breast Cancer Care and the Back Up Trust – thank you, for your support.
Adam (thecpsavage) is a 30 year old from North West England with Cerebral Palsy. He can be found listening to rock music, binge watching TV shows, or playing playstation. But mostly, he enjoys lifting heavy things. Very heavy things.
How does your cerebral palsy affect you?
Adam has Cerebral Palsy (left sided hemiplegia). He explains, “it affects my balance on stairs, I can’t ride a bike, or run fast, that sort of thing.” However, the main area that is affected is his left arm, which lacks muscle mass and grip strength as well as being shorter than his right arm, meaning holding things without handles or pressing weights overhead is not possible. “My right side compensates a lot for this, hence why it is really strong.”
What sport can you access with Cerebral Palsy?
Keen to be active, Adam spent years training in boxing and mixed martial arts 5-6 days a week. But while browsing Facebook, he came across an advert for the World’s Strongest Disabled Man 2016 being held in Manchester. “Until that point, I was oblivious to the sport. I had always loved Strongman but thought I’d never do anything like that as I thought there was not a disabled category – I was wrong. As soon as I saw the event in Manchester, I knew this was what I was meant to do!”
Adam attended Trojans Fitness Gym in Bristol for a strongman event in November 2016. While there he met Gina, an adaptive martial artist who was using Active Hands gripping aids to do seated deadlifts.
“I asked her via Facebook, a few weeks after the event, what the gripping aids were. She sent me the link and I ordered one then and there. They help me loads with things like deadlifts, rack pulls, cable rows and smith machine overhead press, as these require grip from both hands to be done effectively. They can all be done with one arm, but using two helps to activate more muscles and maintain balance throughout the body.”
What is coming up for you in the future?
Adam’s first Strongman competition is England’s Strongest Disabled Man on Monday 2nd April at Brands Hatch Racecourse. “I’ve been training hard for this competition ever since I decided to back out of Britain’s Strongest Man last year, as I felt I needed more time to prepare.”
Adam’s training takes him to the gym 4 to 5 times per week. “I don’t really train Strongman events. I just lift a lot of weights and have fun doing it. I train certain body parts on certain days and adapt things that need adapting. Otherwise I’m like everyone else – I love to lift and to get bigger and stronger. The gym is my second home.”
What are your goals for the future?
“This sport is my life now and I want to get to the top of the mountain one day and be the World’s Strongest Disabled Man. But I have to start small and be realistic that it’s going to take time, effort, determination and a fair few more years competing to achieve that goal. I want to be known as the strongest Cerebral Palsy athlete in the world. I’m working on it!”
What advice would you give to someone with a disability, looking to start out in sport?
For Adam, the Strongman events provide a community that is encouraging and motivating. Finding the community, and playing his part in it, has been transforming. “My advice would be, don’t be afraid to start training and competing. You will be amazed by how supportive and encouraging people are.”
The gripping aids that Adam uses, along with our full range of gym aids, are all available on our website activehands.com. Adam now trains at The Warehouse Gym, Southport, which can be found here, or you can follow him on instagram @thecpsavage. If you would like to share your gym photos, we’d love to see them! Send them to email@example.com or post them to instagram and tag @activehandsco.
Getting to grips with cooking can be really challenging with reduced hand function – it can be hard to feel independent when it comes to making meals or enjoying baking. Earlier in the year, we set Nino, a quad/tetraplegic from Slovenia, the challenge of baking us something delicious, completely independently, using kitchen products from our website. And we can’t stop watching the result!
As Nino shows, with the right tools, the kitchen can become accessible and you can discover a passion for cooking. All of the products Nino uses are available to buy on our shop page. To help you get started in the kitchen, we now offer all of these items in one handy Kitchen Pack, giving you a massive saving of over 20%, compared to buying the items individually.
The Kitchen Pack includes:
– One-touch can opener; Jar opener, anti-slip coaster, all-purpose knife, push whisk, nimble and a set of cutlery grips, all for the fantastic price of £54.95/$94.95/€74.95.
Kate Farley, known as ‘Girl boxer with CP’, is one determined athlete. Keen to train hard and push her boundaries, Kate met with personal trainer, Matthew Furnell. She quickly showed an interest in boxing and together they adapted their workouts to develop her passion, with their eyes set firmly on the Paralympics.
“Love pushing my abilities to discover different pieces of apparatus I can go on. Again, this is all thanks to my hand aids from Active Hands which allow me to hold onto anything with ease whilst I train. Always be determined and never say never!”
Now, Kate’s story has been picked up by Unilad who have produced this documentary, detailing Kate’s impressive training regime. Check out her story below (or if you’re pushed for time and just want to see our gripping aids in action, scroll to around 3 minutes 50!)
Alex Turley embodies all that we at Active Hands strive for; determined, strong-willed and very, very active! Alex is a 26 year old from Essex who is currently following her interest in animals by studying for an equine science degree. Not content with just studying however, Alex also trains and competes in horse-riding (including dressage), swimming, wheelchair racing and regularly completes weights-based workouts in the gym.
Born prematurely, Alex’s doctors hypothesise that some of her neuropathic pathways did not fully form: a condition so rare, it remains unnamed. As a teenager, Alex lost the use of her left arm and was paralysed for a year, before finding a surgeon who could help. Four years ago, Alex also lost the use of her left leg and her foot has twisted from dystonia.
Although she has regained a lot of the function in her arm, she still struggles with grip, in particular holding heavy items in her hand or raising her arms above her head whilst gripping.
But none of these challenges have prevented Alex from taking an active part in a wide range of sports. She began swimming at a young age and continues to find it relaxing, as well as a great way to exercise without needing to use her legs. She also rides with Barrow Farm RDA and takes part in dressage competitions. “I enjoy [these] as it gives me clear goals to work towards and a sense of achievement.”
Most recently, having seen a facebook post asking people to trial wheelchair racing, Alex has begun training at Harlow racing club, coached by Richard Chiassaro. “I’ve been doing it for a few months now and have found it difficult but rewarding. It gives me some bigger goals to set myself.”
To support her achievements in these sports, Alex’s physio suggested she try weight training. Having joined a new gym and eager to begin, Alex was introduced to Active Hands. She quickly found that the General Purpose gripping aid gave her the confidence to carry out her exercises without worrying at all that she would drop the weights or lose grip on a bar, which would cause more injuries.
“When I first used the gripping aid, I found them to fit comfortably, which is important to me. Once they were done up around a dumbbell they felt secure and didn’t slip, move or undo. All these things have given me the confidence to trust in the aid, especially inside the gym.”
Over the next year, Alex is looking forward to competing in the Dressage Anywhere Championships and is hoping to gain funding for her own race chair and rollers to enable her to progress in her newest sport. If you would like to read more about Alex, or to help her fund her race chair, you can find her on facebook, her own website, or head to her Go Fund Me page.
Alex is clearly a very motivated and determined athlete who is achieving big things. But her advice for others is simple.
“Remember that everyone starts somewhere and everyone has at one stage been at the beginning and new to their sport or activity. Give yourself goals to work towards so that when you complete these it’s an accomplishment.”
Always on the lookout for new, well-designed and high-quality solutions for those with reduced hand function, we were especially excited when we came across our latest product.
Reaching and picking up items from the floor, or up high, can be really tricky when you have reduced hand function, and potentially reduced balance or core strength too. How many times have you dropped keys, or coins, or needed to grab an item from the fridge, or a high shelf? It can be a real challenge and we know many people look for a reacher tool to assist them. However, these can be heavy, weak and crucially involve a ‘gripping’ action to operate.
Our new reacher/grabber is uniquely designed by and for users with little or no hand function. Unlike other reachers on the market, this one requires no ‘gripping’ action and is operated simply by flexing the wrist.
Precise enough to pick up small items such as a coin, pen, set of keys or allen key, yet strong enough to handle larger objects such as reaching your coat from a hook or lifting milk cartons from the fridge – this reacher will lift items up to 3kg (6.6lbs) in weight.
The reacher is fully adjustable to fit the width of your forearm, wrist and palm, enabling you to comfortably pick up items dropped on the floor, or placed out of reach, with no need to grip at all. It comes ready for use as either a right or left handed version (although it is possible to change the reacher from one to the other if desired).
Gareth tested out our new reacher when he was last in the office (in fact, he loved it so much, he even brought it along to our staff Christmas meal!). Check out his video below for a great demonstration of its capabilities.
The reacher is brand new to market and we are very excited to be one of the first companies worldwide to offer it for sale. This is by far the best solution we have ever seen for this frustrating problem and is available on our website – www.activehands.com – alongside a wide range of solutions for overcoming reduced hand function.
Oksana is the person behind Association Kondor – a website that aims to provide detailed information to assist disabled people in planning their travels. We spoke with her about her own disability, rehabilitation and how her new outlook has led her to create her website.
In 2013, after sustaining a rare kind of spinal cord injury resulting in tetraplegia, Oksana found herself facing a new world of disability; “My family and I found ourselves alone against the medical world; alone with our questioning and alone in the process of adapting to the constraints of everyday life.” Passionate about dancing, she struggled to adjust when doctors could provide few answers about her disability or rehabilitation. ‘I felt I could never be myself anymore if I had to stop my favourite hobby.”
After two years, Oksana began to look around for a new sport. Having tried several adapted sports, she still could not find one that really motivated her; until a friend suggested she joined her for a Crossfit session. “It was a revelation for me because I had never found a sport before which stimulated all my muscles like this.” After just a short period of training, she began to feel stronger and this translated into feeling better overall in her everyday life.
As a result of her disability, Oksana cannot close one hand. This began to limit her crossfit training and so she began to look around for something that could help. Whilst browsing instagram, she came across the account of AdapttoPerform; an athlete we have featured before who creates adapted workouts for people with disabilities.
Here she saw Active Hands gripping aids in action and after a year of searching, hoped she had found the thing to help.
“When I put Active Hands on for the first time, I realised that I could do everything, like carrying a weight of ten kilos with what I used to call my ‘useless hand’. And above all, I can do the same exercise with both my arms.”
In addition to her sport, Oksana is passionate about travelling and meeting new people. As she began to feel more confident in her rehabilitation, her mind turned again to travelling and she began to plan a trip with her sister. However, she struggled to find reliable information about travel for wheelchair users and the accessibility of destinations. After this first trip, she decided to create something to make the life of people with disabilities easier when travelling.
“Taking action became our creed and we decided to create the Association Kondor. It’s a website that gathers useful information to provide solutions to many of the troubles disabled people face when they travel. The association wishes to integrate disabled people fully into society, but allow them to have comfort and mobility in as many destinations as possible.”
As her project grows, Oksana is keen to work alongside other organisations to organise projects such as sports weeks that will help disabled people to connect and motivate each other. She remains determined to encourage others through her website and instagram account (iwheelfly) and explains, “sometimes it takes time to find our way, to find our sport and to find our motivation but if in the end you find your own passion, you will do whatever you want. Even if at first it is difficult to imagine yourself in a wheelchair, now you have to be able to look at yourself in the mirror and see how strong and motivated you are. Your life doesn’t stop: you just have to reinvent it.”