Rachel’s Faves

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Assistive Tools Recommended by People with SMA

In honor of Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) Awareness Month, we asked two of our friends (and Disability community leaders!) to share the tools and gadgets that makes it possible to live independently.

What is Spinal Muscular Atrophy?
Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is a genetic disorder characterized by weakness and wasting (atrophy) in muscles used for movement (skeletal muscles). 
Learn more from someone living with SMA.

By Rachel Stewart
Co-Owner at Strapping Store and WorkAbility III Coordinator/Counselor at Los Rios Community College District

Rachel and her cat, Scout. (Photo by Hung Pham at California EDD)
Black wave style ergonomic keyboard, mouse, and number pad
  1. Ergonomic Wireless Keyboard and Mouse
    I like that this is very lightweight, and is wireless so I can move it onto my lap in order to type with ease and to keep my arms and wrists in an ergonomic position.

    Click here to find an ergonomic keyboard, mouse, and other adaptive computer equipment online for aFREE loan.
Long metal tool with a gripper and trigger for grabbing items.

2. Pincher-Style Reacher
This reacher is perfect for picking up almost all items – I also have several in all areas of my house, and one in my office hanging on a hook where I can easily grab it.

Click here to borrow a Pincher-Style Reacher for FREE for 30 days.

3. Paravan Space Drive System

Photo of a white woman smiling in the driver seat of an adapted van pressing buttons on the console.
(Photo by Hung Pham at California EDD)

I recently acquired an adapted Dodge Caravan van that I can drive myself… I control it through a 4-way joystick (left and right movements control the steering, moving the joystick forward controls the gas, and moving the joystick backward controls the brake). There is also a touch screen and several push buttons to control shifting, AC/Heating, windows, etc. It is super high tech and took a lot of getting used to (it’s VERY sensitive), but the independence I have gained has been amazing!
Get more info on wheelchair accessible vans: First Time Buyers Guide

Long metal device with a sticky disc at the end.

4. Telestick Reacher
This is great for picking up items that are hard to grasp with a regular grabber-reacher.  It has a sticky disk on it that is perfect for picking up my cell phone, remote control, or any small object that slips out of the grasp of a regular grabber.  I keep one hanging on a hook in my office, one at home, and one in my van. 
Click here to borrow a Telestick Reacher for FREE for 30 days.

5. Wheelchair-Accessible Stove Top and Kitchen Sink

We did a very low-budget kitchen remodel so I can easily roll under and reach the stove top and small (bar-style) kitchen sink.  All the knobs for the stove top are in the front, and the counter is held up by two sets of drawers which I can use to store and easily reach all the pots, pans, utensils, etc.  I also have a butcher block counter top space next to the stove and sink so I can prep/cut the food I am cooking.
Click here for more on Making the Kitchen Wheelchair Accessible.

Photo of red haired white woman in a wheelchair wearing a floral top and burgundy pants with a short haired white woman wearing an oxford shirt and khaki pants standing next to her with her arm around her. They are standing in front of a 1950s style one story blue house.
Rachel Stewart lives in Sacramento with her spouse Susan and their cats Scout, Unagi, and Flower. (Photo by Hung Pham at California EDD)