There are a number of one-handed assistive devices available in South Africa but we are a resourceful nation and many home-grown inventions and adapted ways of doing things have developed. The most common assistive devices can be used left orright handed and are available from local suppliers such as Sanbonani and Clinical Emergencies, but they do import them so there is often a waiting period, and the cost may be high.

Work & Play

Book supports/holders are easily made, or can be bought, as holding a book with one hand can be tiring and the book has to be put down to turn pages. You can also rest your book against a heavy object and use clothes pegs to hold the pages open. Most bookstands adjust to the thickness of the book, and can hold books of up to 1kg.

An automatic card shuffler is a useful and clever device for card players and is available from assistive device companies. Card / domino holders are also very practical. Commercial versions are usually made of Perspex, but homemade versions from blocks of wood or foam, or cards held in the bristles of an upturned scrubbing brush also do well. A non-slip clipboard is a must have of you need to keep score. A phone headset or hands-free phone is a must if you want to phone absent friends and brag about your winnings!

You can never have too many magnets. Magnets can hold down paper on guillotines but I’m sure you can find many more uses for them. A steering wheel knob is obviously a must for one-handed drivers, just check Rolling Inspiration’s Auto mobility booklet for suppliers. The Brella Bag for umbrellas is found in overseas catalogues but I’m not sure if you will find them here. Business opportunity? For more ideas of one handed devices I suggest you visit some of the following websites:

Dressing Aids

Elastic shoe laces can be bought from most shoe stores. The button hooker is not much easier than un/doing manually so Velcro or press studs are often a good alternative.

People who have mastered the button hooker say they couldn’t live without it. The extended shoe horn sometimes comes with a dressing stick hook at the other end to pull clothes over shoulders and shoes.

Women find doing up a bra the most difficult and either get help or go ‘bra-less’! The Buckingham Bra-angel holds one strap in place whilst hooking up the other. You can source it on the internet for about £25 (excl. shipping). 

Bathroom Aids

If you only have one functioning hand it is important to keep that hand as free as possible in the shower for maintaining balance. A plastic seat in the shower is an excellent idea.

Wash mitts and extended sponges are made specifically for disability. They are usually available from OT departments at rehab units, as well as regular suppliers. They can be used in the shower, but are better in a bath. The wash mitt (terry cloth glove with a soap pocket) helps keep the soap in the mitt for lathering. Extended sponges and brushes help to wash hard to reach parts of the body. A sponge on the end of a coat hanger works well too. Get a shower head that can be adjusted up and down on a vertical pole AND hand held that way you don’t have to hold it all the time. Fitting single lever taps or heat/ motion sensing taps is also a must.

Liquid soap dispensers that attach to the wall are also available. Many companies provide rails for the bathroom/toilet, but see the Rolling Inspiration A-Z Guide for outlets that provide specifically for people with disabilities. The important thing with rails is to secure them to the wall correctly. Suction grip handles are available from stores such as Clicks and Mica but I have been told that the suction doesn’t cope too well when the bathroom/shower is steamy.

A commercial L-shaped toilet roll holder makes for easier changing of the toilet roll. The flap helps tear off paper. The 1-handed nail clipper takes practice to work, especially for the toenails. A fixed emery board helps and a suction nail-brush can be made by attaching rubber suckers to the brush.

Kitchen Aids

The most popular device is the1-handed bread board with a raised rim for buttering. It is quite easy to make at home using a wooden bread board and some long nails that you blunt after they are driven through the wood. Two “fingers” of wood in one corner at 90o to each other hold the bread in place for buttering and four squares of non-slip material (Dycem) glued to the underside stop the board from slipping around.

Pot handle stabilisers keep pots still as you stir, but the same can be achieved with two bricks. Wall-mounted jar openers with v-like arms grip almost any size lid as you turn the bottle. Handy trays have a single handle over the centre of the tray and often have a non-slip surface so the contents don’t slide around.

Many kitchen devices are available from retail outlets. Electric can openers (preferably automatic, wall mounted or with non-slip feet), electric carving knives (you press down and the blades do the cutting) and Twista choppers (one-handed plunger handle with blades that chop contents of the plastic container) are all common gadgets that are user-friendly for 1-handed function.

Eating Aids

It appears that people are embarrassed to bring out their devices when eating out, so they opt not to use them or change how and what they eat.

Plate guards really work well, but eating out of a deep bowl has the same effect. The Nelson knife and splayed fork (a spoon-shaped utensil with one sharp edge and fork tines cut out) are really useful but seem underutilised. Water bottles with a ‘waist’ are also easier to hold with only one hand.

Non-slip mat (Dycem is the most commonly used) comes in all shapes, sizes and thicknesses. Bowls, cups and plates with a non-slip rim/ring on the bottom are also available but a roll of Dycem and some glue will never go amiss.

Bedroom Aids

Easy (EZ) Reacher’s come in a variety of lengths and with various heads: rubber suckers, plastic claw etc. and open by pulling a trigger - which may require a strong hand function to open the claw and then lift the item. Try them out before buying. Some people find braai tongs easier to use.

A hair drier clamped onto the side of a mirror or pushed between two fixed surfaces will hold steady but it’s probably easier to use a hot brush with a built in drier and brush.

A home-made or bought monkey chain can be attached to your headboard or base of the bed to make it easier to raise and move your body. If buying one, check the attachment and the length of the pole first. Over bed trolleys (there are tilt able versions too) are more stable than lap trays and make it easier to read, eat and work in bed. Hanging up clothes with one hand is tricky. People tend to make their own devices for hanging up clothes within easy reach or so that they are easier to get from the cupboard with one hand. Two nails about a ruler length apart are great for hanging up skirts and trousers. Clever tip – put the belt into the trousers before dressing!