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High-tech and low-tech ways to make life easier.

Even though I live with the debilitating effects of MS, I feel lucky. I was born at a time when there are literally hundreds of devices on the market designed to help make my life easier.

I've turned looking for these unique products into a hobby and a profession. When I meet a challenge or face a task that's difficult because of my physical limitations, I dig in my heels and begin my search for a solution. It's like a game to me and I feel great personal satisfaction when I solve the problem.

Finding high- and low-tech items is my way of saying I'm not going to let MS rob me of my life. I'm going to do things on my terms and use whatever help is available to accomplish a task. I hope you'll do the same.

Below are some of the inexpensive devices I've found over the years.


A reacher is an important tool for anyone who is physically limited. They come in various lengths, weights, and means of operation. Some have trigger grips similar to a pistol that can be operated by squeezing your finger. Others have full-grasp hand grips which allow you to squeeze with all your fingers. I found one reacher with a locking mechanism that enables me to hold an object tightly without my needing to continue gripping the handle. Some have magnets at the end for picking up metal objects. Others have rubber or vinyl-covered tips for better holding power.

Battery-operated reachers automatically open and close their gripping jaws with a light push on a rocker switch. Some reachers fold in half for traveling or storage, and some come with carrying attachments so they can be clamped to walkers or wheelchairs.

In my purse, I keep a unique thin, telescoping wand that has a covered sticky pad at the end. I simply remove the cover and extend the wand to pick up small objects like pills, paper clips, or pieces of paper.

You can also extend your reach with long-handled shoehorns, sock pullers, dressing sticks, bath sponges, combs, and brushes. All of them eliminate bending or twisting.


Turning on lamps that have small on/off switches is easier if you install a device called a lamp converter. It works on metal-based lamp fixtures, bypassing the on/off switch and making the entire lamp base touch-sensitive.

To install the converter, unplug the lamp, remove the light bulb, and insert the converter into the socket. Then screw the light bulb back in. That's all. When you touch the metal part of the lamp base, a dim light will come on. Touch it again and the light will get a little brighter. Touch it a third time and the light will be its brightest. Touch it again and the light goes off. You'll never have to struggle to reach or turn a stubborn light switch again.

For non metal-based lamps a three-spoked knob turning device can be fitted over those hard-to-grasp lamp switches.

Door Openers

Round door knobs can be made easier to grasp and turn with a door knob extension. These devices create a lever handle. Installation is easy; they fit right over the standard door knob. To make grasping and turning the knob even easier, use a textured sleeve or cover called a Knobble.

Tap Turners

Like the door knob device, the tap turner creates a lever handle for easier grasping at the sink. Some tap turners are attached with clamps; others just rest on top of the tap.

TV Remote Controls

When you purchase a new TV, always check the remote control. Sizes and shapes vary greatly, so try before you buy. Are the buttons large enough? Is the remote too heavy? How easy is it to grasp and hold?

If you own a TV with a remote that is difficult to operate, try replacing it with an easier to operate "universal" remote.

For people who have trouble with fine motor movements and are unable to press the buttons on the remote, there's a large button adapter available. The remote sits in an attractive holder and large keys fit over and snap onto the small remote buttons. You can manage these buttons with your fist or the side of your hand.

The device called the "Big 'N' Easy Wireless TV Remote Control" replaces the remote entirely. A 12" by 15" plastic console contains 2" buttons that perform all the basic functions of a remote. The buttons are easy to see and easy to push with the palm of your hand. This wireless technology is compatible with most remote control TVs and cable boxes.

Where to find it

Some of the devices mentioned in this article are sold in stores in your community. For example, you can probably find universal remote controllers where TVs or electronic devices are sold.

It's always a good idea to try products before you purchase them. If you want to try scissors-type reachers, look in stores where aquarium supplies are sold. Or, use long-handled barbecue tongs as reachers. You can find them in most discount stores. You may be able to borrow samples from your local independent living center's assistive technology lending library.

If you can't find the things I've written about here, try the following mail order companies:

Enrichments for Better Living(*) P.O. Box 5050 Bolingbrook, IL 60440 Tel: (800) 323.5547

(*) A Sammons Preston Publication

Smith & Nephew, Inc. Rehabilitation Division N104W13400 Donges Bay Road P.O. Box 1005 Germantown, WI 53022-8205 (Tel: (800) 558-8633 Fax: (800) 545-77S8 fax

Independent Living Aids, Inc. 27 East Mall Plainview, NY 11803 Tel: (800) 537-2118 Fax: (516) 752-3135
COPYRIGHT 1997 National Multiple Sclerosis Society
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1997, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:for people with multiple sclerosis
Author:Schwarz, Shelley Peterman
Publication:Inside MS
Date:Jun 22, 1997
Previous Article:A philosophy for fitness.
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