AT for Frozen Treats in the Summer Heat!

Up close picture of a waffle cone holding ice cream.

By Jen Mullins, BS, CTRS, MATP Staff

The weather where I live in lower Michigan has been fairly hot lately (or at least, hotter than I would like!)  Frozen treats seem to help with cooling down, but sometimes aren’t the easiest to access. Typical ice cream scoops require a good amount of upper body strength, cold temperature tolerance in hands, hand strength & grip, and muscle endurance.  For someone who has a disability that impacts any of these areas, scooping hard, dense, frozen cream/sorbet/gelato/custard with a traditional scoop is not always possible. Thankfully, there are some great Assistive Technology supports available!  

Photo of a person using the Ice Cream Scoop & Stack in a carton of frozen ice cream. The device is then shown putting ice cream onto a cone.#1: The Ice Cream Scoop & Stack cuts slices of ice cream (instead of scoops): “Push the Ice Cream Scoop & Stack into firm ice cream.  The beveled front edge of the scoop makes it easy to cut through even the hardest ice cream. Twist just a bit and then lift. Press the button on the top of the Ice Cream Scoop & Stack to release the ice cream.”  No traditional scooping needed!

Oxo Good Grips I-Series Ice Cream Scoop#2: “Beaked” ice cream scoops like the Oxo Good Grips I-Series offer a more precise solution: the large, aluminum beak of this ice cream scoop breaks into hard ice cream and the ejector or trigger button on the scoop handle helps to get the ice cream out of the scoop.  I like that this scoop also has Oxo’s usual non slip coating; making it easier for my dry-skinned-hands to grip it while I’m scooping.

Zeroll ice cream scoops and spades, shown holding scoops of ice cream#3: Heated-conducting scoops & spades like ones from Zeroll have heat conductive fluid sealed within the handle.  The scoop or spade uses the heat from the user’s hand to warm the fluid in the handle which transfers to the scoop and glides thru the frozen ice cream with less resistance.  Something to note about this scoop is that it needs to be hand washed and can’t go in the dishwasher.

Graphic of an empty muffin panA low tech AT idea for scoops is to use a muffin tin.  Let ice cream soften for a while and then scoop soft ice cream scoops into muffin tins (lined with plastic wrap) & refreeze. When you want a scoop, it’s ready and waiting without having to fight with the chilled cream.

Oven mitt with grippy dots on the surfaceA piece of nonslip drawer liner or a silicone baking mat can be helpful when placed under an ice cream carton.  The liner or mat will do a better job of keeping the container stable while you scoop than a smooth counter surface. And, if the carton is too cold to touch with your non-scooping hand, consider sliding on a grippy oven mitt to better hold the container while you scoop.  You can put the other grippy mitt on as well to help better hold the scooper.

Home ice cream makers can also be great AT for frozen treats as they allow you to decide which ingredients to include to meet your specific dietary requirements.  I also like homemade ice cream because right after it’s done churning, its consistency is like soft serve and it can be “scooped” and enjoyed without the need for brute scoop force!  In a previous blog post, I shared about how I use my Kitchenaid stand mixer as one of my AT supports in the kitchen and it’s worth noting that Kitchenaid does have an ice cream maker attachment for their stand mixers.  A few years ago my sister gifted me the ice cream maker attachment and I’ve really enjoyed using it (plus, it takes up less space than a whole, separate ice cream machine).

Strawberry popsicleFor treats that you can enjoy straight out of the freezer like ice pops, Popsicles, Drumsticks, or my favorite: fudgesicles, there’s also AT that can help with holding, gripping, and cold temperature tolerance:

DripStiks holding a popsicle and an ice cream coneA DripStik can make a small treat handle larger/easier to hold while catching melty drips and can be used to hold larger treats like ice cream cones!  Bonus: you can easily set down your treat when it’s in a DripStik. 

Ice pop sleeves provide a layer of material between the frozen treat and your skin so it’s easier to hold & grip.  Bonus: they are reusable & insulated so they keep the treats colder!  If someone needs a thicker sleeve, duct tape can come to the rescue: position the sleeve on a frozen ice pop and gently wrap the tape around the sleeve until it’s at the desired thickness.  Be careful not to tape so tightly that the sleeve won’t come off of the pop.  

Ice pop sleeves, person holding a sleeve on an ice pop

If you’re  looking for AT supports for your whole bbq or picnic (and not just for dessert), check out our archived webinar: AT for Your Accessible Picnic.

I hope this information helps you stay cool (& frosty!) during this summer season! 😉  Do you use any AT supports for enjoying frozen treats or during a picnic? Comment below; I’d love to learn about them!

Two hands holding two chocolate popsickles together

Using Amazon Echo in an Emergency

Amazon Echo Dot

By Jen Mullins, BS, CTRS, MATP Staff

Earlier this year, I watched a very interesting video on the Pennsylvania Assistive Technology Foundation PATF’s facebook page.  Woman seated in a shower, her wheelchair nearby.The woman featured in the video is a wheelchair user and shared that she uses a shower chair while showering.  She said if there’s an emergency in the shower (such as if she starts to fall out of her chair) and she’s by herself, she can’t physically unlock her phone to call for help, but she can Amazon Alexa to call someone in her life for help.  I recently met someone who uses a powerchair and he communicated that he can’t afford an Apple Watch or a newer iPhone, but wants to be safe in his home. His solution was to buy 2, Amazon Echo Dots (about $49.99 each vs an Apple watch that is about $329-$399).  He shared that he knows that the two places in his home that he’s most likely to fall are his bathroom and his kitchen.  By putting 1 Echo Dot in his bathroom and 1 Echo Dot in his kitchen, he knows he’ll be able to call someone if he falls.

More and more, traditional Personal Emergency Response Systems (PERS) are being replaced by Smart technology (like Apple watches, Amazon Echo’s, and others) and being used in even better/more helpful ways.  Why the shift? I really think it comes down to cost and user interface. People who choose to use Smart tech to contact family/friends/neighbors/etc. in an emergency are:

  1. Talking to someone they know (who likely knows how to best help) versus strangers who are a part of a traditional PERS.
  2. Not paying any additional, monthly fees (other than what is included with the device in general such as an Amazon Prime membership or wifi or cellular data plan).
  3. Choosing how they get help (having more autonomy over their lives).

Amazon Alexa Echo Dot resting on a stack of books.Writer and podcaster, Brant Huddleston, shares in his recent article why traditional PERS systems/fall detection systems didn’t work for his older mother, but why the Echo Dot definitely does.  Huddleston writes, “My experience installing the Echo devices has been a sheer delight, and with their naturally intuitive voice interface (Alexa), my mom has taken to the technology like a duck to water. We are both continually surprised at the opportunities Alexa offers to engage her intellect, expand her world, reconnect her with friends and family, and generally improve her life. Voice first technology, like Alexa, is increasing the probability that my mom’s wish will come true, and barring a fall, that she can age in place with dignity until the day she dies.”

Amazon even has specific skills for the Echo that can help during an emergency.  I cheer when people don’t have to accept supports that don’t work for them and can “hack” the system to get the supports they need and how they need them. I’m glad more and more Smart supports are being created/finely tuned and offered to more users.  Apple watch on a person's wrist.If you’re interested in learning more about how the Apple Watch can be used in an emergency, read Kathryn’s blog post: A Personal Emergency Response Alternative.  

Do you use Smart technology for PERS?  Would you consider using it? Comment your thoughts!