Everyday Gear

Collapsible Travel Crutches

Image of a Black and Chrome Travel CrutchCrutches, like eyeglasses, are one of life’s little miracles. So simple, so straightforward, and so very good at what they do. But they’re a pain to travel with — too long and inflexible to stash conveniently anywhere when you’re not using them. The inventive Thomas Fetterman offers a different take on crutches — kind of a Swiss-Army-knife version — so that your trip can be more about the travel than it is about your crutches.

Image of Travel Crutch in a Mesh BagFetterman’s Telescoping Travel Crutches adjust to fit people from 5 feet to 6 feet 6 inches tall, but collapse into a column just 29 inches long — stowable in the overhead compartment in most planes. The configuration is more cane-like than like traditional crutches, with a sleek neoprene underarm pad, and a black foam pistol-style handgrip. They are, according to the website, “sturdy enough to use as full time everyday crutches”, and each crutch can be converted into a cane. The weight limit is 250 pounds; sold with a mesh travel bag.

Veddy, veddy pricey at $195 [USD] per crutch.

Everyday Gear

Countertop Vegetable Cutter for Knife-Free Slicing

Image of a Lever-Style Vegetable CutterCooks who have trouble cutting vegetables might want to take a look at this Jumbo Vegetable Cutter. I find this style of slicer easier (and safer) to use than the better-known mandolines. I haven’t used this particular model myself (though I think there may be one in my future), but there’s a great review up at Econerd Food. Econerd writes:

. . . the vegetable cutter is one of the unsung heroes of my kitchen. It saves both time and labor, it’s easy to clean, and fun to use – making a cool thwapping sound as the veggies are pushed through the blades, ending up in perfect uniform slices. The cutter is actually so powerful that it’s best to do it next to the sink with a big bowl to catch the vegetable projectiles.

Econerd recommends it particularly for chopping mass quantities, but it should do quite well for smaller portions as well. Dexterity is probably not required, but the ability to push down on the lever would be important. This could be an excellent tool for cooks with arthritis or other hand impairments that make chopping difficult. If the suction cups on the bottom are particularly effective, you might need only one hand to do your chopping.

Jumbo Vegetable Cutter, available online at Surfas

Everyday Gear

Flexible Reading Glasses

Image of a Set of Flexible Reading GlassesAfter my dad’s last couple of falls, one of which included a nasty skid across the floor with his face, my spouse and I were bemoaning the dearth of rubber-framed prescription eyeglasses. Rubber would presumably be a lot kinder to dad’s visage than his metal frames. And there’s that other issue — Dad’s titanium glasses have survived an appalling amount of abuse, but do have to be re-configured after the worst of his falls. We’re dreaming of rubber frames that just bounce back.

(Dad, by the way, unlike everyone who cares for him, is completely unbothered by his falls. No matter how dreadful the injury, he’s blissfully unaware of either the hazards or the consequences. Sometimes a high pain tolerance is just not a good thing.)

For others who might like reading glasses with a softish, flexible frame, these Flexies, made by Calabria, might do the trick. We ran across them in a museum shop recently; they’re not truly rubber-like, but the temples and frames do flex nicely. If you’re inclined to fall asleep while wearing your glasses, these might be a lot more comfortable against your face than a conventional pair. At about $20 [USD], they’re quite affordable.

Nontheless, I don’t recommend wearing them for falling. Preventing falls is a better idea, not that the suggestion has worked for Dad.

Available at, but this URL will only work until they change the site next time it’s updated. After that, you’re on your own. Bizarrely, there’s no search function on the website — good luck finding anything specific on your own.

Related: Why You Might Want to Pay $500 For Titanium Eye Glasses


‘Playgrounds’ for Older People

Image of Two Women at a Berlin Fitness ParkIn response to the perceived needs of an aging population, German municipalities have been experimenting with outdoor parks for their citizens. This past March, a new ‘playground’ for older people opened in Berlin’s Preussenpark. Designed and built by a company called Playfit, it’s modeled on exercise areas created in China to keep older members of the population in good health.

In China the emphasis is more on flexibility; in Europe and the USA, the focus tends to be more on strength-building. The Berlin park, and similar ones in Nuremberg, are adapted to focus more on the Western model, using isometric exercise to strengthen muscles and increase stamina and balance. Berlin’s Preussenpark has eight devices, some of them like conventional gym exercisers and others specially adapted, including one with a nubby surface to stimulate the back.

High Tech

Accessible Google

Image of Google LogoGoogle offers an extensive list of services that users with all different needs — particularly those who cannot see — may find useful. From the Google blog:

We provide a wide variety of services that are mostly accessed with a web browser. People visit Google from a large number of browsers and platforms; in addition, we also understand that every user is special and may have special needs. Accessibility at Google is about making sure that our services work well for all our users — independent of your needs and abilities at any given time.

You can view the complete list here. A certain amount of web expertise may be necessary to use the information, but anyone who hasn’t kept up on Google’s various expansion efforts may be surprised at how much more there is to explore beyond the familiar search engine.


Enabling Romance

Image of the Book Enabling RomanceWhen a spinal cord injury occurs, the first issue is usually survival. Once that’s assured, the next questions usually deal with quality of life. Whether spoken or unspoken, the question of sex looms large on that second list. Ken Droll and Erica Levy Klein, write, in their book Enabling Romance write:

. . . there are millions of people with disabilities who eventually discover they can enjoy sexual satisfaction despite their physical limitations. Unfortunately, they often receive very little support or information from parents or rehab professionals who may be too embarrassed to too uncomfortable to attempt a discussion of this issue. Even in an era of sexual enlightenment, a code of silence seems to envelop the issue of disabilities and sexuality.

High Tech

A Life-Like, Fully-Articulated Prosthetic Hand

Image of HandsIf ‘fully-functioning’ is the gold standard in prosthetics, then the new i-LIMB prosthetic hand must come awfully close to the platinum standard — form and function taken to new heights. Take a look at the picture above of the i-LIMB and the comesis that covers it. Can you tell which hand is the prosthetic?

Image of iLIMB Bionic Hand

DIY Home Modifications

Tools for Planning Accessibility

Image of a Blue Plastic Figure in a Wheelchair with a Handle AttachedThe Visualizer is a clever tool for checking wheelchair access on blueprints. A clear disk is attached to a moulded figure that is, in turn, attached to a wand. The figure — a representation of a person in a wheelchair — and the disk depict a wheelchair “footprint” of 30 by 48 inches, and a turning radius of 60 inches, in 1/8 inch, 1/4 inch and 1/2 inch scale. Running the tool along your building plans gives you a visual check — will the wheelchair fit or not?

At Home Nursing Home Travel Wheelchairs

Simple Two-Person Transfer Sling

Image of a Gimpgear Personal Transfer SlingPreviously, I’ve written about the hydraulic lift I used to transfer my dad from his wheelchair onto the seat of a car. It’s a great device, but cumbersome and requires installation in whatever vehicle is being used.

The sling in the picture above (left) is quite similar to the one my dad’s automatic lift. The difference is that the Comfort Carrier doesn’t require a mechanical arm. If you’re in situations where there are usually two people available to help with a transfer, this is a far simpler — and much less expensive — solution.

High Tech

Peng Shulin

Image of a Happy Man with a Whole Lower Body ProsthesisThe smile says it all. This man, Peng Shulin, spent 12 years in bed after an encounter with a truck left him with only half a body. Doctors at the China Rehabilitation Research Center in Beijing recently engineered the device Peng wears here so that he could finally ambulate again. Peng undertook extensive physical therapy to strengthen wasted muscles in his arms and trunk once the Center discovered him; he’s now learning to use his new prosthesis using a specially adapted walker.

A UK article calls the legs “bionic”, but it looks as if they may be a bit less complicated than than that; English-language media reports are a bit unclear as to exactly how the prosthesis works. Whatever the actual nature of the device, this is clearly a case where an indomitable will and human ingenuity have resulted in an astonishing reclamation of one man’s life. Kind of makes Heather Mills’ prothesis look like a bit of frippery, doesn’t it?

Via medGadget