As a person with disabilities, I have so many new supports and clothing options compared to when I was a kid. I remember trying to shape my sense of style and the amount of independence I wanted as I transitioned from high school to college and even into my graduate career. Body positivity is important for all bodies, and especially for persons in marginalized communities. For me, clothes and being able to move around in a world not created for my body or ability are sewn together. Sometimes the right coat or gadget can make my day a little easier.
This article provides an overview of useful items that can support students with disabilities in their daily activities. Many tools can make managing daily life with disabilities easier, but there can be a lack of visibility of these products in media.
Disability is often portrayed as what happens to the elderly, but anyone can become disabled. In the U.S., 61 million adults have a disability. Out of those 61 million, 23% are students.
Please note that this is by no means a complete list of tools, tips and tricks. Every body is different, and ability can shift. What might work for some may not work for you. The items in this article can be found online or in stores.
Revamp Your Shower
- Do you struggle to squeeze your shampoo bottles? Switch out your bottles for pumps to help with hand weakness and pain. If the texture of body wash or soaps is problematic, try foaming soap.
- Nowhere to put the containers? Try a cabinet organizer that sticks to a wall or wall attachment.
- Drying your hair leaves you more fatigued than normal? Try a hairdryer stand or hands-free hairdryer
- If you have difficulty putting lotion on your back or body, a lotion applicator is your new best friend. There are different types of applicators, such as a long-handled roller or angled oval foam pad with a long handle.
Personal Products and Makeup
Some adaptable makeup fixes include Drunk Elephant products with easy-to-remove caps, Haus Laboratories, Tarte Babassu, Milk Makeup products, W3LL People and Rare Beauty.
The Flex Cup is a great menstrual cup for individuals who have limited hand function or trouble with motor functions such as gripping or pulling or difficulty with pressure control. For standard cups, bendy silicone walls taper into a stem. Users must fold the cup before inserting it into the vagina, where it typically opens with a slight pop. The Flex Cup gets around that by featuring a stem that breaks the cup’s seal only when pulled. The pull-tab is attached to the rim of the cup and threads through a hole in the bottom, so when you pull it, the rim folds inward and breaks the seal.
Menstrual Discs are similar to Diva and Flex Cups. The disc may also be a good choice for people who have moderate hand mobility. Discs require less finger dexterity than a cup. There are silicone discs and discs with a film similar to plastic that is disposable.
There’s also a line of underwear and disposable underwear for those who menstruate from Period Underwear and Always Discreet Underwear.
For underwear you don’t have to pull up, Slick Chicks adaptable underwear has a hook similar to bras. The underwear can be laid on a flat surface and fastened. Slick Chicks also has bras and other undergarments.
UnderCare Unisex Boxers use velcro and a wrap method, which make them great for people who struggle with buttons, order processing (i.e., what to do first, second or third) when dressing or doing other tasks. They are also very comfortable.
Apartment Fixes, Travel supports and Cookware
The Wright Stuff Healthcare Products that Make Life Easier is a great resource for finding adaptable cookware, silverware and accessories for people with disabilities who enjoy cooking and need additional support. They offer two-handle mugs, suction-base vegetable and fruit holders, weighted spoons and forks, non-slip trays and angled measuring cups with grips.
Do you struggle with your handheld can opener? Are traditional electric ones difficult to use? The palm-size One-Hand Touch Free Can Opener is great for noise and function.
Unlike traditional sheets, Quick Zip bedsheets allow you to zip quick and get comfy. No more pulling, tugging and fighting to get the ends of your sheets to stay down. Once you add the quick zip base sheet once, you can zip, unzip, mix and match the changeable tops.
Plug pullers are handy if you struggle to remove cords from outlets. If you worry about falling when you have to get up at night, Touch Lamps can help.
If you are a chair user part- or full-time, Backpack Covers keep your books and laptop dry on the go. They come in different sizes, depending on your backpack size.
There are a few options if you can’t hold an umbrella. If your chair supports attachments, buy an umbrella holder. There’s also Hairbrella, a hat umbrella with a visor that works great as a hands-free rainy day option. It is also great for low-vision individuals who need to wear their glasses at all times and have issues with rain and glasses fog. Hairbrella comes with a visor and comes in different sizes.
Shoes and Clothes
Clothes and shoes are often not made for different bodies when it comes to ability, size and sensory needs. Thanks to new clothing lines made by people with disabilities, for people with disabilities, limited and limiting clothing is changing. There’s Tommy Hilfiger, GAP, Ffora, CareWear and Yarrow. If magnets work better than velcro, try Magna Ready. Need swimwear? Splash About has you covered.
Billy footwear is a game-changer for people that need easy-access shoes. You can unzip the shoe, put your foot in and go. Billy Shoes are available for kids, women and men, including boots, flats, rain boots or sneakers, with new styles appearing often.
Be mindful of your sensory needs. Shop for what suits you best.
Alexus Smith is a graduate assistant in the Women’s Center.