Category Archives: Dressing/Grooming

Thankful for Assistive Tech!


Happy Thanksgiving everyone from everyone at Michigan Assistive Technology Program! We all have so much to be thankful for this year, and with Thanksgiving coming in a few days, I am thankful for devices I use just about everyday.

First of all, I’d be lost with out some devices for low vision. For me, it’s not a technical disability, just eyes which are aging. I would be lost without Control plus the + key to enlarge websites so I can read the text.  I would not be able to indulge my creative side without magnifiers for those small seed beads and my Ott light.  For reading, my Kindle and the ability to enlarge the text size has me reaching more often for this digital text than the traditional books.

As I was just reminded, the auto-correct as typing for spelling errors in Firefox settings is great! I often mistype and well, sometimes just can’t spell words correctly. For that matter all spell check is wonderful.  Voice input too! A combination of meeting needs related to low vision and can’t spell, I use the voice button on my android phone more and more, especially when I can’t find or just don’t want to pull out my reading glasses.

I am grateful for bright light therapy! When I have trouble sleeping, a lifelong issue, I become unfocused and forgetful. I have delayed phase sleep syndrome, (I am a real night person) which is only a disability if you don’t have a night job I suppose. I also have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) I use a light box this time of year to keep my circadian rhythm on track.  I have the Amazon Echo and like to start the day asking “Alexa, what’s on my calendar?” so I don’t forget appointments. Thank you Google calendar and Alexa! Thank you for all devices and techniques to help me remember!

I am short, and no, that’s not a disability! It can be an advantage, like if you are on a budget airplane for example – leg room? No problem!  However, there are some situations and environments built for so called “average height” people that don’t work for me. For example, we have a four wheel drive electric vehicle which doesn’t have adjustable seats. So I’ve duck taped a block of wood on the accelerator petal so I can reach it with out sitting on the edge of the bench seat. Grateful for duck tape, yes!  I also have a reacher I use to get things down off tall shelves and to reach for things like socks that fall behind the dryer.

With chronic neck and shoulder pain, I sometimes have trouble reaching by back to wash or apply lotion, so I am grateful for longer handle brushes and lotion applicators.

I know there are more devices I am thankful for, but need to get going! A busy week for everyone I am sure. What AT are you most thankful for? Have a wonderful holiday!


Dressing For The Dream (Part 2)


By MATP Staff Member Laura Hall

In “Dressing for the Dream Part 1”, I shared my experience as I searched for that perfect wedding dress, and the assistive technology that helped me achieve the look.  I simply don’t believe that weddings are all about the bride.  Our partners are an equally important on the wedding day and they may feel equally as passionate about what they wear.  To help you to look your best, feel comfortable, an take the stress out of dressing for your big day, here are some tips and assistive technology to help.

1.  Make an Appointment

I stressed this when discussing the bridal gown, but it is true when shopping for a suit or tuxedo as well.  It is much easier if you are aware of any accessibility issues in the store and staff is aware that your needs might be somewhat different.

2. Designs for Disability

Searching Google for “disability clothing” can really give you a mixed bag of options.  Many sites with adaptive clothing are meant for older adults and for the ease of caregivers in aiding with dressing.  However, some sites truly are focused on styles that are fashionable, tailored toward the AT (in most cases, wheelchair) user, and with elements to make dressing easier.  One that I recommend checking out is IZ Adaptive Clothing.

3.  The Zipper Tie

This tie is specially designed to make wearing a necktie extremely easy.  The Zipper Tie has a zipper sewn to the back of the tie that unloosens the tie when you upzip.  You then simply put the tie over your head, zip it back up and adjust the collar.  This YouTube video on the Zipper Tie will take you through it step-by-step.

4. Magnetic Enclosures and Open Back Dress Shirts

As someone with difficulties with fine motor activities, shirt buttons are the bane of my existence.  I was excited to learn that magnetic dress shirts really did exist for men as well as woman.  MagnaReady is one vendor but you can find others online at sites like Amazon.  For those who need assistance in dressing, the open back dress shirt separates into two halves, so it can go on one side at a time.

Remember, it’s your day too!  Look your best and make it easier at the same time…






Dressing for the Dream (Part 1)


By MATP Staff Member Laura Hall

You know how they say that women plan their weddings (and particularly the perfect wedding dress) from the time they were little girls?  I am not one of those women.  In fact, as soon as I got engaged, anxiety about the dress began creeping in.  My mind flashed back to the last time I was a bridesmaid.  The wedding was out of state so we had to send our measurements to the bridal shop via phone.  When I gave my measurements to the seamstress, she gasped and told me the measurements couldn’t possibly be correct as they were so disproportional.  I tried explaining that I was in a wheelchair but she still just couldn’t believe it.  I was humiliated and shamed.

People told me to start looking for ideas online.  This confused me even more.  All of the dresses looked fabulous on the models who were standing, but how would they look on me?  I waited as long as I possibly could, and resigned myself to the fact that I would probably end up wearing something non-traditional, loose-fitting, and frumpy.  My friends eventually convinced me to look at a bridal shop, and from there I learned several important lessons about making the dress work with my assistive technology (in this case, my powerchair).  If you’re a bride-to-be, preparing for prom, or just dreaming I hope these tips will be helpful.

1. Make an Appointment and Ask Questions

I found that making an appointment at the bridal store was critical.  I knew I would need extra time, and wanted them to be aware of the fact that I was in a wheelchair ahead of time.  I asked if their shop was accessible, had larger changing rooms, and if they had someone who had worked with brides in wheelchairs before.  When I arrived everything had been pre-arranged.  They ensured that aisles were wide enough, that the larger changing room was available, and my consultant seemed to have a few ideas ready ahead of time.  I also brought along several friends, both with disabilities and without, both to help with dressing and to help me think through any issues with the wheelchair.  It was also great to have support from people I knew would be honest, but also loved me for who I was.

2.  If You Have AT that Would Allow You to Stand – Bring It!

Even though I’m not using my walker in the wedding, I really wish I had brought it just to help get the dress on and fitted properly.  When I went in for alterations, suddenly the undergarments that fit before were not fitting!  I panicked and was sure that I gained 20 pounds in three weeks.   In reality, the clothing just wasn’t pulled down properly…something difficult when you’re sitting.  Once I stood with the help of a friend and got everything situated, things fit perfectly.

3. Alterations Can Work Magic

I was surprised at the creative ideas the tailor came up with to add comfort to the dress and ensure it would work with my powerchair.  For example, because I’m sitting and have supports at my sides, the top of the dress rode up a bit and caused irritation at the neckline and armpits.  He told me that reshaping the neckline and armholes was an easy way to deal with this problem.  In addition, in order to keep the dress from getting caught in my wheels, he is adding buttons and loops (similar to a bustle) behind my legs to pull the sides inward a bit.  That brings me to another point – comfort.  Do you really want to be sitting on a dress with tons of beading on the bottom?  Is it practical for the back to have 100 hook and eye enclosures?  How do you plan to use the bathroom?  Are your feet and legs spastic?  Will those amazing shoes cause welts by the end of the night?  Personally, I’m opting for some bedazzled canvas shoes (no one will be seeing much of my feet anyway).

4. Accessorize, Accessorize, Accessorize!

Like everyone, I have areas of my body that I’m uncomfortable with, (in my case, it’s the mid-section) and I was worried that sitting would only accentuate this.  I was able to address this simply by adding a sash around this area.  The color really makes the dress “pop” and it has become my favorite part of the dress.  Jewelry and other accessories can also add to the look and draw attention to different areas of the body.  There are some great jewelry aids available to help with donning these important pieces of flair.  Extenders, magnetic clasps, and clip on adapters can make this process much easier as well.

5.  And Finally…..

If you’ve read this far, you probably want to see the dress, right?  Hey fiancee, if you’re reading this….stop now!  

Grooms – I haven’t forgotten you…stay turned for more blog posts about clothing and other ways that assistive technology is influencing my wedding adventure!


Finally! AT to help with compression stockings


In meeting with groups of seniors and people with disabilities around the state I am often asked about assistive devices that help people put on compression stockings (sometimes called TED hose or Jobst stockings). I have never had a good answer on this until now.

I was complaining about this need to a colleague from a partner organization, Greg Newman, from Airway Oxygen, and he told me there is an answer—a newer product called a Doff N’ Donner. Shaped like a very large, ribbed, rubber cuff for a sweatshirt, this product helps put on and take off stockings. It can be used with an accessory called a cone (the cone really just looks like a mini Washington Monument to me with a suction cup base) to load the stocking on the cuff. Greg said you can also use a baseball bat or your arm to load the stocking on the cuff. According to the manufacturer’s website, people can use the Doff N’ Donner themselves or with the help of an assistant. It can be used with a sock aid to reach your foot with practice as well.

It’s hard to describe the action needed to make the Doff N’ Donner work but there are great videos on the manufacturer website and a couple on YouTube. There is even one showing how the Doff N’ Donner can be used to put stockings over bandages.

Basically the stocking rolls smoothly onto the cone or your arm and then the rubber-cuff Doff N’ Donner is loaded with the stocking rolling through and around it. You then line up your toes with the seam in the stocking, make sure the heel of the stocking is facing down,  and slide the cuff up your leg unspooling the stocking, then rolling the cuff off of your leg. To get your stocking off, you put the cuff back up your leg to near the top of the stocking, pull the top of your stocking over the top of the cuff and roll the stocking onto the cuff while pulling the cuff down your leg.

I read reviews of the product on Amazon and they were mixed—I think mostly because there is a learning curve. Watching the videos online was suggested by several people to aid in understanding how to operate the device.

We are looking into buying this device for each of our AT kits throughout the state so you can see and try it before you decide if it works for you. Our website lists locations for these kits.

In the meantime, this is a great device to check out at your local durable medical equipment provider. The staff there can demonstrate the device for you and you can try it out yourself.

Do you use compression stockings? Have you tried the Doff N’ Donner or other products to help you get them on and off? What has worked? What hasn’t worked?