3dp_ten3dpthings_Handicapped_signHow many times have you watched a ridiculous late night infomercial for something like a Snuggie and make a joke about how stupid of a product it was? I mean, it’s just a backwards robe right? How lazy can people be, just use a regular blanket, right? And have you seen that Slap Chop thing? I mean, is it hard to pick up a knife and cut some veggies? Heck, do you remember the Clapper? Jeeze, just get up and turn the light off, it isn’t going to kill you to get some exercise.

I’m sure we’ve all heard the jokes a million times, every stand up comedian, late night talk show host and sitcom has mined products like these as joke-fodder for decades. Other than the silly, often times nonsensical infomercials, would you like to know something else that all of those products have in common? They weren’t actually made for lazy people, or for people too dumb to use kitchen utensils or even for people who think they are so busy that they don’t have time to do the simplest of tasks. All of those products were actually developed for the disabled as assistive devices, but in order to make them affordable they were marketed and sold to a mass audience.

Because of things like the economy of scale and the various development costs involved with traditional manufacturing processes, all of those products would have cost ten, even twenty times more had they not been marketed to a wider audience. So the next time that you hear a joke about the Snuggie remember that a person in a wheelchair or bedridden doesn’t have the option to easily put on a robe. The person using a slap chop may not have enough fine motor control to safely use a knife but would still like chopped vegetables. And the Clapper may keep a disabled person from hurting themselves trying to turn off a difficult to reach light.

So with that in mind, here are Ten 3D Printable Assistive Devices for the Disabled:

3dp_ten3dpthings_assistive_banner


SILVERWARE, PEN AND CUP SUPPORT HOLDER

3dp_ten3dpthings_spoon_holderPaper Cups Holder, Pen Holder and Fork and Spoon Support  by Luca Parmegiani

Found on: MyMiniFactory
Cost: Free

These great hand support items are perfect for anyone with limited control of their hands or with a weak grip. One of the things that I think is great about these devices is the fact that there are no annoying velcro straps that can be uncomfortable or get dirty, The device has just a simple hand clip that will hold everything in place and not look intrusive or like the user would need help putting them on.3dp_ten3dpthings_pen_holder

And of course as always they can be printed in any color for any specific taste, which is one of the great things about 3D printing — the ability to customize. They’re also small, so they travel easily, the design is slick and modern, they look comfortable to wear and durable.3dp_ten3dpthings_cup_holder


MODULAR VIDEO GAME CONTROLLER THUMBSTICK EXTENDER

3dp_ten3dpthings_xbox_extenderModular Thumbstick Extender by calebkraft

Found on: Thingiverse
Cost: Free

This thumbstick extender is great because it can be customized to suit any specific person’s hand limitations. The small pieces can be glued together into any shape or configuration to suit specific physical needs, making a video game controller usable by just about everyone. Unfortunately when it comes to disabilities there is no one size fits all, so being able to transform the controller into whatever is the most comfortable for the users is simply fantastic, and allows virtually everyone to play video games.


STYLUS CUFF FOR TOUCHSCREEN DEVICES

3dp_ten3dpthings_stylusTouchscreen Typing Cuff Stylus by mpapp

Found on: Thingiverse
Cost: Free

While this device could certainly be used by anyone, especially someone who has smaller hands who finds it difficult to use their touchscreen, it would be a lifesaver for someone with difficulties with fine motor control. And again, the design is super sleek and modern and doesn’t have any bulky parts or uncomfortable velcro straps so most users probably won’t need help putting it on. It can be sized to an individual’s hand simply by using a hair dryer to soften the plastic and then bend it into the desired shape. The designer added a small bit of sponge on the tip to work better on the touch screen, but other than finding the right sponge this is a super easy device to print.


RING PULL TAB CAN OPENER

3dp_ten3dpthings_can_pull_tab_2Ring Pull Can Opener by Luca Parmegiani

Found on: Thingiverse
Cost: Free

No joke I actually printed this device out for my mother because she has difficulty opening pull tab cans. It works exactly like it’s supposed to, and makes opening cans easier than her previous method which involved a butter knife. She can also take it with her when she takes a lunch and goes to work so she can just take the can of fruit with her and not have to open it at home and transfer it into a different container.

3dp_ten3dpthings_can_pull_tab_1By the way, this designer, Luca Parmegiani, who also designed the pen, silverware and cup supports, has a ton of great assistive devices up on his MyMiniFactory profile, so make sure you stop by and check them all out.


PRESCRIPTION MEDICATION BOTTLE OPENER

3dp_ten3dpthings_pill_bottle_helperMedication Bottle Opener by sauer

Found on: Thingiverse
Cost: Free

This device, designed by a high school student, just makes it easier for people to brace and hold on to prescription medication bottles, and it couldn’t be easier to use. It still requires a bit of fine motor control to use, but it’s perfect for the elderly who may not have as much strength or dexterity to easily open pill bottles. Any device that allows those with disabilities or the elderly to perform simple tasks on their own without anyone’s help is fantastic, because just like any adult all they want to be is self-sufficient. Objects like these can help make that happen.


APPLE TV REMOTE CONTROL ENLARGER

3dp_ten3dpthings_apple_remote_1Apple TV Remote Enlarge-Inator by matt448

Found on: Thingiverse
Cost: Free

Granted this is a little specific, but considering how small that Apple TV remote control is this is not only a great way to not lose it, but allow anyone in the house to use it comfortably. Yes, you do lose the beautiful and well-designed form factor of the Apple remote that probably took years to design, but you can always take the cover off when company comes over. That way you can use the remote in private, but you can also show off your fancy, high-end consumer electronics remote to your visitors. Which we all know is one of the reasons that you buy Apple stuff anyways.3dp_ten3dpthings_apple_remote_2


PORTABLE CURB RAMP FOR WHEELCHAIRS

3dp_ten3dpthings_chair_ramp_1Wheelchair Ramp for One Step by nanonan

Found on: Thingiverse
Cost: Free

When you’re disabled and confined to a wheelchair, there are daily difficulties that able-bodied people simply take for granted. One of the most annoying is basic public accessibility. Despite most countries having laws that require businesses to have disabled access, there are still plenty that don’t. When you’re in a chair, getting up a simple step or a curb is extremely difficult, and often requires help from others. But these great single step ramps designed by a Berlin-based chair user are a great solution to many of those accessibility problems.

One of the great things about the freedom of design that 3D printing offers is the fact that disabled people now have an active role to play in the creation of their own assistive devices. They don’t have to rely on companies or hospitals, usually staffed with able-bodied people, to come up with solutions to their limitations. They now have the freedom to make virtually anything that they need using their own specific set of requirements.3dp_ten3dpthings_chair_ramp_2


MODULAR WHEELCHAIR CUP HOLDER

3dp_ten3dpthings_handy_holderHackcess Handy Holder by Evavooo

Found on: MyMiniFactory
Cost: Free

And the award for “how is this not already a thing?” goes to this cup holder that was made to attach to a standard wheelchair. The device was designed during 2015’s Hackcess Hackathon event at Goldsmiths Uni and can be completely customized into any configuration that is needed. The really simple ball sockets can be printed to be as short or long as needed, so again it can be made to each user’s specific set of requirements. You can find out more info about the Handy Holder here.


EXTRA-LARGE ZIPPER PULLS

3dp_ten3dpthings_zipperpulls_2Easy Zipper by miginv

Found on: Thingiverse
Cost: Free

Again, zipper pulls are another thing that most able-bodied people would never think about, but the small ones that come on most bags can be difficult to open for someone with a disability. These 3D printed tabs are made to be easily attached to the pull with a zip tie and then can be looped around a finger, or gripped with someone’s teeth. A super simple design that can solve a lot of aggravation to someone who is disabled.

3dp_ten3dpthings_zipperpulls_1Of course anyone can use them, not just the disabled. They can be printed in any color to match the bag, and it could also be a good idea to print them in glow in the dark materials so they can easily be seen at night.

Here is some video of the pulls being demonstrated:


ADAPTIVE DEVICE HOLDER AND CAROUSEL

3dp_ten3dpthings_Device_Carousel_1Adaptive Device Carousel by ironchariot

Found on: Thingiverse
Cost: Free

Now if you need one of these assistive devices, then chances are you will need several similar devices. So where exactly are you going to store them where they are convenient and easy to find? This fantastic carousel is the perfect place. Just attach it to a counter top with a clamp so it can be moved if needed, or it can even be screwed down if you want it to stay in the same place.

The carousel rotates like a lazy susan. so each device can easily be grabbed and then returned when finished, and you won’t need to worry about trying to find a drawer or box of some sort to hold everything. With this, everything is stored right where you need it and still organized and out of the way.3dp_ten3dpthings_Device_Carousel_2

Here is a brief video of the carousel being used:


One of the great things about 3D printing is the virtual elimination of things like economies of scale, because it costs the same to manufacture a single object or a hundred of the same objects. That means companies that develop assistive devices don’t have to use silly infomercials to sell enough assistive devices to be profitable, the assistive devices can be customized and then 3D printed individually for specific needs. There are some great designers who have taken advantage of the potential of 3D printing and created some amazing gadgets that may look silly to you and I, but may be the difference between a disabled person being independent or not.

So next time, before you make that Slap Chop joke, remember that not everyone has the same luxury of using a tool like a knife that you probably take for granted. As always, please show off any prints that you make from this list, or if you’re disabled and you’ve made or found 3D printed assistive devices send them to me so I can revisit this topic for a future column. You can Tweet me @SJGrunewald or just email me.

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