Let’s Play! Part 4: Creative Recreation

Welcome back to Let’s Play! Part 4: Creative Recreation!

One of my favorite books in recent years is UnThink by Erik Wahl .  That is right, UnThink.  Not stop thinking, but UnThink.  UnThink the way we approach problems.  UnThink what we accept as the norm.  The result?  We regain access to our unrestrained inner creative capacity. By opening this window into our younger, less restrained self we can further develop ourselves, our skills and tap into talents we forgot we had.

In Let’s Play! Parts 1, 2, & 3 we covered a lot of very active recreational activities.  While I am creative, I am not artistically or musically inclined.  Music and art based activities can offer a lot of enjoyment, stress relief, rehab and other benefits.  I am excited to share some innovative ways to experience these activities and not let barriers stand in your way.

I still have not found my artistic ability beyond stick figures, but I recognize that there is a sort of magic in the creative arts.  This is what makes it so important that all individuals realize there are solutions out there to remove barriers to accessing art and music activities.  And if they are not readily available, they may be able to be created!

Let’s start with MUSIC.  I mean, even my 1 year old drops everything – even her coveted Goldfish crackers – to dance when music comes on.  Personally, I listen to music all day while I work.  I NEED it to be able to function and access my creativity.  Music is good for the mind and soul.  

The benefits of music therapy have impacted children and adults alike, including enhancing recovery from injuries.  Whether used as a therapeutic tool or for recreation there are options for children, adults, casual and serious musicians alike. For the recreational musician just looking to have some fun and make some noise there are musical toys that are switch activated, providing a medium individuals with all levels of abilities can access.


For the more traditional or serious musician there are many ways to gain access to your favorite musical activity. The Orbit is an example of an adaptive guitar pick that reduces the grasp demand when strumming the guitar strings.  There are many other ways to make this activity accessible utilizing a standard universal cuff, Instamorph or other things around home.  

If the barrier is related to balance, stability or strength to stabilize an instrument, there are quite a few musical instrument stands available for stabilizing a variety of wind instruments.  Emily Ziegmeyer shows us that there is no reason to let not having arms stop you from pursuing your dream of being a Cello player.  In addition to physically accessing the instruments, sensory impairments should not be an insurmountable barrier.  Blindness should not exclude musicians from getting their groove on – Braille sheet music is readily available!

If you want to learn more about the myriad of applications for music therapy check out the American Music Therapy Association .


There are so many ways to make ART activities accessible..  Let’s start low tech and the most simple.  Using a foam hair roller, tennis ball, Instamorph, some variation of a universal cuff you can easily create a larger diameter for a paint brush, marker or other art utensil.  You can also purchase commercially available adapted paint brushes, scissors and other art materials.  

If the barrier to participation is related to accessing the art surface, using a drafting table or table-top easel provides flexibility in the positioning of art materials.  

Since pottery wheels are already foot-switch activated it is feasible to create accessibility through moving the activation location or further switch adapting this apparatus. For someone with limited motor control in their lower extremities who is unable to activate the traditional foot pedal for the pottery table, using another activation location or alternative switch could remove a barrier and open the door to the pottery world.

Have you ever wanted to bring your friend, child, sibling or other individual to an activity based event, but the activities were not accessible to them?  It’s heartbreaking to me when people who want to share an experience are excluded because the activities were not designed with all individuals in mind.  While disappointing, these instances also inspire and motivate me.  They are fuel for creativity and a driving force for creating better solutions for our communities.

One of my passions is creating ways for activities to be accessible and inclusive.  Another passion is rooted in my love of engineering – creating or modifying equipment to make things more accessible.  

Zot Artz embraces both of these concepts and the result is amazing!  Zot Artz exists to “create adaptive art tools and make them available to teachers, therapists, residential providers, hospitals, parks, and other facilities who could offer art experiences to children. Zot Artz currently has a complete line of adaptive tools that make the creation of art possible and fun for children with and without handicaps.” They do more than sell adapted art tools – they also host art events where they bring all the tools and facilitate an art experience accessible for all members of the group.  (  

Are you inspired yet?  Did you UnThink what you thought you knew about accessible art activities?

If you want to see an activity adapted to be more accessible – Assistology would love to help you!

If you have an idea for an inclusive, community based recreational event, but do not know how to make it happen – Assistology would love to partner with you to bring it to life!

We strive for collaboration and impactful partnerships that result in a more inclusive community.

Let’s work together to expand the accessible opportunities for individuals in our communities!




Let’s Play! Part 3: Adapted Fitness

Being active not only helps maintain a level of physical health and wellness, but can have a significant impact on mental health and wellness.

I am not a psychologist and I don’t play one on television, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that when we get to actively participate in activities and positively engage with people, our mental health improves.  Lack of and access to options play a large role in isolation and declining mental health for individuals with disabilities and their families.

In this blog there may be some overlap from Let’s Play! Part 2: High tech and adapted Outdoor sporting, but there is also lots of new AT options to explore.

Adaptive Bikes are a great therapeutic tool often used in a rehab therapy setting, but these same bikes are available for consumer use and can open doors for engagement previously not accessible.  Having an adapted bike allows an individual who may typically be excluded from traditional bike riding activities to participate. This could mean a family can now ALL go together for a bike outing. Or a child now has a means to play with the other kids in the neighborhood.

Additionally, here in Omaha, there is the Wheel Club through the Monroe Meyer Institute that provides tandem bikes and a buddy to do most of the work, giving individuals with disabilities another great opportunity to experience bike riding.

It is true, these bikes are expensive.  The Friendship Circle does an annual event called Great Adapted Bike Give Away where they give away dozens of adaptive bikes every year.  The event happens in the Spring so now is a great time to start exploring the options!

Not all solutions to exercise equipment have to be high tech.  For example, you can use cuff weights as an alternative to traditional dumbbells or use resistance bands on a rod system for increased ease of use and safety.

If you have access to a gym or professional recreation facility you may find higher tech options like the FES indoor rowing machine or the ICARE motorized elliptical (developed right here in our home state at the Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital’s Research Institute in Lincoln, NE) that offer additional points of support to allow individuals with limited strength or balance to successfully use the equipment.

There are several companies who offer adaptive aquatics classes, but there are also adaptive equipment you can purchase for use in a pool independent of a paid program. Foam pool “noodles” can be used in a variety of innovative ways to create a buoy system to help support swimmers of many ages and abilities.

There are more things out there than I can cover.  A blog “Teaching Learners with Multiple Special Needs” provides an expansive list of equipment and supplies.  I mean, check out the floating pool mat!


Many dance, music, theater and gymnastics programs and working to create programs that are more inclusive and accessible for participants of all abilities.  Some of these programs are designed specifically for individuals with special needs, others are designed with an inclusive model where children with and without special needs participate together.  There are also programs that offer adaptive dance where the entire class participates from a seated position, making the activity even more accessible for persons of any age and ability.

Here are a few options in the Omaha/Lincoln area:

  1. Metro Stars Gymnastics offers a “Special Starts” program, gymnastics taught by Occupational Therapists.
  2. Rennae’s School of Dance offers “Special Expressions Dance,” classes for children with special needs.
  3. X-treme Dance Force offers a special needs dance class.
  4. The Rose Theater has theater classes adapted for children with Autism, Down Syndrome and American Sign Language Interpreted.

And while this program is not in the Omaha area, this video is so feel good I had to share!

When kids with special needs get ‘A Chance To Dance,’ just watch them shine

With the right coach and determination champion athletes are developed.  Check out this inspiring story of Chelsea Werner’s rise to an USA Olympics team!

If you are looking for a well established program with dedicated coaches, I suggest exploring opportunities with Special Olympics Nebraska.  If your child is under 8 check out the Young Athletes program within Special Olympics .

To close, I want to share one of the most inspiring adaptive fitness stories I have ever followed has been the journey of Team Hoyt.  Dick Hoyt (father) has made it his life practice to participate in high level competitions in tandem with his son, Rick.  They have not let anything stop them from running, biking and swimming together. It just goes to show that truly, if there is a will, there is a way.

“Dad, when I’m running, it feels like I’m not disabled.” ~ Rick Hoyt


Moral of the story? Don’t be afraid to DREAM BIG and get out there and PLAY!

Be on the watch for Let’s Play! Part 4 where we explore Assistive Technology options for arts and music!

Let’s Play! Part 2: High Tech and Adapted Outdoor Sporting

I hope you enjoyed Let’s Play! Part 1. In Part 2 of our Blog series Let’s Play! we are going to explore higher tech Assistive Technology for outdoor recreation.

As we all know, sometimes the most fun recreation requires more extensive or advanced technologies.  A lot of options exist in the marketplace that are designed to enable individuals to get outside and get active – whether alone, or with family or friends.  Just about any activity you want to do has equipment available.  

Fishing, Hunting and Boating, OH MY!

First, let’s talk about water activities.  Many people just assume that if an individual has an impairment, especially a mobility impairment, they are excluded from participating in water based activities.  Not so my friend!  Get ready to be inspired!

Whether you simply enjoy the wind in your hair only a speed boat can offer, enjoy kayaking or live for fishing, there are options for seating, positioning, paddling and more! Let’s check out a few.  (This is a great website with more extensive information on options: )

There are several variations of a wake board and/or skis with the addition of a chair that allows individuals unable to use a standard wake board the opportunity to experience the thrill.  Ann O’Brine Satterfield became the first female with a disability to land a jump in a sit ski. Similarly, where are wake boards designed for use by an individual in a seated position, such as the Swaik – Sit Wake.

For a more relaxing adventure, try an adapted kayak and paddles.  Adapted seating allows for added stability and postural support.  Varieties of adaptations for paddling result in one- or two-handed paddling, or paddling via feet.

I caught my first fish in a Walleye tournament at 5 years old – and it was the biggest in our group!  I love everything about fishing and if I acquired a disability that impaired me from participating I would be so excited there were options out there to enable me to still participate in something I love.

The pictured one-handed reel by Achievable Concepts can be a great solution to give someone who needs to perform tasks one-handed.  For an individual with higher levels of impairment related to mobility, there is the Low Mobility Rod Mount by Be Adaptive Equipment.  And maybe the coolest adaptation I discovered when researching these options is a fishing boat with wheelchair ramp access, allowing those individuals using a wheelchair to get out on the water without transferring out of their wheelchair.

Here is a resource on places to find more information on where you can purchase water sport equipment:

From sea to land.  

Other than fishing, I pretty much prefer my feet on solid ground.  

For my like minded readers, let’s explore Adapted Rec Equipment for land based activities.

Young children with mobility impairments shouldn’t be left out of the outdoor fun.  Thanks to Cole Galloway and the Go Baby Go!  Program that developed out of the University of Delaware children all over the world are being given the opportunity for independent, recreational mobility.  Added bonus, it also helps them reach developmental milestones!  There are sites all over the world where you can obtain one for a child in your life.  To read more about the program and its benefits check out this video: 

Wheelchairs are just for smooth, even surfaces!

All terrain wheelchairs exist for beach goers and off-roaders alike. Just like other wheelchairs, they come in simple, lower tech models and advance to about as high tech as you can imagine! Whether high or low tech,  these all terrain wheelchairs feature more durable wheels and frames ensuring stability and safety while exploring. 

Snow bunnies unite!

Whether you want to go down the mountain solo or with a partner you have options!  

For you independent souls the Uniski and Dualski are examples of adapted ski equipment for you to conquer the slopes. If you are like me and prefer to have someone else around to make sure you don’t fly off the edge of a mountain, or you just need a second set of hands to help you navigate the slopes, something like the Tandom Flex is a great option.

I won’t pretend that my knowledge base for hunting and fishing runs anything but superficial, but I did want to present a couple of cool options I found to allow individuals with varying levels of impairments participate in rifle, pistol and archery related activities.

Be Adaptive Equipment has some unique options for rifle and pistol mounts that increase the accessibility of firearm shooting activities, whether for target practice or hunting.  Their High Quad Pistol Mount allows for trigger access using mouth controls. They also have a wheelchair mounted bow stand that allows for stable positioning of the bow for an individual using a wheelchair.

Photo Credits: Be Adaptive Equipment

Don’t be deterred from trying something new if  you cannot personally afford these higher tech, higher cost items.  There are many community based programs that have equipment you can rent for the activities you love.

For example,

  • Mountains have adapted ski equipment and guides
  • Cities have recreational programs
  • Many rehab centers have adapted sports leagues
  • Organizations that serve and employ individuals with disabilities often have adapted sports clubs
  • Association chapters that focus on a particular population within the disability community, such as – United Cerebral Palsy, Multiple Sclerosis Society, Muscular Dystrophy Association, Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired

In addition, many of the regional Associations or Societies offer individual grants to members to pursue activities they enjoy, which often includes financing.  Easter Seals has low interest loan programs that make purchasing larger ticket items more accessible as well.

For those of you around the Omaha, NE area, check out this non-exhaustive list of options in our community:

Outlook Nebraska, Inc – Tandem bike, golf and Goalball:

CHI Health & 

Madonna Rehab:

Special Olympics Nebraska:

Paralyzed Veterans of America :

The Eastern Nebraska Wheelchair Athletic Association:

Adapted ski programs by state:

Get out and try something new!

Be on the watch for Part 3 of the series where we explore high tech assistive technology options that are all about accessible fitness!


Let’s Play! Part 1: Low Tech Recreational Activities

Recreational activities are so important for individuals of all ages for maintaining social engagement, reducing isolation and maintaining a positive quality of life.  Whether you prefer solitary activities like gardening or cards, or more active, group centered activities like bowling or board games there are many accessible options available.

Advancements in assistive technology (AT) have led to adaptive equipment for just about any activity or sport.  I cannot possibly cover it all, let alone in one Blog.  In this 4 part Blog series – Let’s Play – I will offer examples for many inclusive, accessible options for recreational activities for all ages and ranges of abilities.  

In the past, it has often been difficult for individuals with impairments to participate in outdoor activities.  I cannot  wait to show you the possibilities that exist to remove barriers to play!

In Part 1 we will focus on a variety of low tech assistive technology and adapted recreational activities.

For the go-getter wanting physically active social engagement

Yard Yatzee and adapted volleyball are  great options for the backyard get together! They can also be played indoors for year around fun!

Large dice Yard Yatzee allows participation for individuals of all abilities.  If the player has limited upper body strength or mobility they can roll the dice right off their lap or a table. Additionally, a handle can be added to the side of the bucket for easier access to pouring the dice.

yard yatzeeImage Source: Farkle

With adapted volleyball you can play from a seated or standing position, creating an accessible activity for individuals of all ages and abilities. Lowering the net and using a beach ball removes many barriers associated with the standard game of volleyball.

If you have a child with special needs attending your gathering, having a full support swing that accommodates an individual up to 120 pounds is a great way to include them in the festivities.  It could also be used with an indoor swing system or hung from metal ceiling beams in a basement for indoor use.

child-full-support-swing-seatImage Source: eSpecial Needs

I know that I would go stir crazy if I had to see only the inside of my house day after day. For those who want to get out in the community, bowling and swimming are great options.  Who doesn’t love a bowling alley birthday party? The use of a bowling ball ramp allows access to a fantastic social activity for individuals of all ages who lack the strength or skills needed to send the ball down the lane in a traditional manner.  Most bowling alleys should have a bowling ball ramp, but be sure to call ahead.

adapted bowling1

Swimming in a staple of summertime activities.  The Firefly Splashy Chair allows for a young child with postural instability to be included in the fun.  It would be great for a beach or zero-entry pool, indoor or outdoor.

fireflysplashychair.pngImage Credit:

For those who just like to chill out

Physically active social activities are not for everyone.  For something a little more low key, but still social, there are many options for adapted games.  A great option is cards with large print and table top holders to hold the cards.  These reduce the barrier to playing for individuals with low vision, arthritis or other impairments limiting their ability to hold and manipulate cards.  For the child that loves friendly competition, an adapted version of hungry hungry hippos is a great option.  You won’t even mind the racket caused by the marbles because the sound of their laughter will be amazing.

                      Image Credits: Enabling Devices and Rehabmart

Gardening is an activity many people enjoy, and even find therapeutic.  For an individual who has had a stroke, struggles with arthritis or has impairments related to other conditions, gardening can present a number of challenges related to positioning and using the tools. A variety of gardening tools with different handle positions are available and can relieve barriers to gardening associated with hand or joint mobility. Adapted gardening tools allow you to do those activities that have brought you joy over the years.

The Garden Rocker by BlueSky Designs can help give seated stability, yet flexibility to relieve some of the physical demands.  Added bonus, it can be used for any activity where someone needs to be near the floor, like petting a dog or playing with a baby.  

Image Credits: Easi Grip Gardening ToolsLee Valley Tools Ltd and BlueSky Designs

Check out many other options at:

Whatever the activity or your level of ability, chances are there is assistive technology or adapted equipment available to help increase access to recreational activities.  If it doesn’t exist, it can likely be modified – or even custom made for your needs.

Be on the watch for Part 2 of the series where we explore high tech assistive technology recreational activity options that make play more accessible!


AT for Independence in the Kitchen Part 3: Assistive Technology for Eating

Together in Parts 1 and 2 of the AT for Independence in the Kitchen blog series we have envisioned an accessible experience with preparing and cooking our food, and now the next phase of cooking is the best – eating!  If you haven’t had a chance to read about methods to adapt the preparing stages of a meal experience, please catch up with Part 1: Adapted Meal Prep Devices and Part 2: Adapted Measuring of our AT for Independence in the Kitchen blog series. 

I don’t know about you, but if I am unable to enjoy the fruit of my labor it is not worth spending hours slaving over a hot stove!  In Part 3 of our blog series we focus on how to make the best part of the cooking process more accessible.

If the experience of collectively cooking a meal brings a family together, the experience of sharing a meal takes the experience to the next level.  Making and eating a meal with increased levels of independence can unify family, raise spirits and increase quality of life for all members of the family.  It would be a shame if you or a loved one weren’t able to fully enjoy the wonderful meal because your dinnerware, seating or utensils were not fully accessible.

There are many types of physical limitations or restrictions that can result in an individual facing challenges with independently eating.  Complicating the solution to making eating an accessible activity is that there are many individual tasks that must be completed in order to succeed in the self-feeding or drinking processes.  For example, when you eat you have to be able to maintain functional positioning, grasp the utensil, have sufficient visual skills or strategies to locate the desired food item, have motor skills to engage with the food on the plate, bring the food to mouth and return to the starting position.  The tasks are similar for drinking, but instead of locating, engaging with and manipulating silverware and food, you are focused on a cup of some sort. Visual, motor and dexterity skills all come into play with the “simple” task of eating or drinking for yourself.  A deficit in one or more of these areas and your ability to consistently and independently complete a meal may be compromised.

As has become the theme in this blog series, fortunately there is likely assistive technology that can help. Let’s explore some assistive technology and strategies to make eating a meal more independent and enjoyable.

Adapted Serving utensils

Part of hosting a meal or dinner party is serving your guests.  The host, whether an elderly relative (Think Mary from Part 1) or a group of friends (Think Laura from Part 1), should not be excluded from this common practice.  The most common challenge faced is related to gripping and maintaining grasp of the handles.  Commercially available Adapted serving utensils can be hard to find, but there are many do-it-yourself options.  Increase the diameter or make a change to the grip using a foam hair roller, PVC or other readily available material.  A universal cuff can provide assistance in holding the utensil in a position to allow for serving food. The utensil could also be adapted to add a permanent raised handle or cuff. 

Adapted Eating Utensils

For many people who face challenges at mealtime, physically eating may be the most significant challenge faced.  Tremors, joint restrictions, muscle weakness, visual impairment and other conditions can all negatively impact one’s ability to independently eat a meal.

For general grasp or grip strength challenges, using a universal cuff that secures the spoon or fork may be all that is needed to enable the individual.  However, similar to serving utensils there are many creative user interfaces that can easily be constructed.

If in addition to grasping challenges a person also experiences tremors,  it may be beneficial to use a large grip, weighted utensil to help minimize demand on grasping muscles and help stabilize the tremors.  There are many commercially available options, with and without an angled shaft.  One really impressive, newer to the market device that is designed to enable independent eating for someone with tremors (even moderate to severe tremors!) is the Liftware Steady device.  This devices dampens the effect of the tremors making the spoon or fork more steady.

If challenges at mealtime are related to Arthritis or other joint restrictions, Liftware also has a device called the Liftware Level that has a shaft that self-adjusts to a functional position of the person’s arm or hand, and maintains a level fork or spoon position.  

If a person’s feeding challenges are related to significant motor limitations and/or muscle strength, the individual may benefit from using an electric self-feeder. These devices are comprised of a rotating plate, a switch and an articulating arm.  The person activates the switch to control the rotating plate and articulating arm to move the desired food into position and bring the food to their mouth.  In many cases it may be possible to obtain this device via health insurance.  Acquisition of this level of complex assistive technology should be obtained with the assistance and oversight of an Occupational Therapist.

Adapted Dinnerware and Accessories

Next to holding onto the eating utensils, not being able to get the food off the plate or out of the bowl can ruin a potentially meaningful experience.  Standard size, open cups can also present a series of challenges for individuals with grip/dexterity issues, muscle weakness or general deficits in motor control.  These types of challenges and potential resulting situations can result in embarrassment and disappointment. Let’s consider a couple more personalized situations.

Imagine that your grandfather has had a stroke and is only able to consistently use his right hand for all tasks.  Your family is all gathered for a holiday meal using the good china.  As he tries to scoop his delicious, gooey macaroni and cheese it keeps sliding off the edge of the plate.  Additionally, he needs to drink from a straw, but it becomes difficult for him to constantly suck fluid up the full shaft of the straw.

Imagine that you have a child with special needs and are working really hard to establish a family meal time, but all your focus in on helping them learn to hold onto their fork/spoon, get a bite without the food falling off the plate, and take a drink without spilling.  You want to offer him the most normal eating experience you can with regard to silverware, dinnerware and drinking cups.  Ideally, you would also love if you could enjoy a family mealtime out at a restaurant, but eating supplies at a restaurant are not conducive to this experience.

Let’s look at some categories of assistive technology that could help remediate the challenges for individuals across the lifespan, as well as those in the two scenarios above.


To help keep plates or bowls from moving there are many options of dinnerware with suction on the bottom, and many are even at an angle to further assist the scooping process.  Some options have partitions to keep food separated and offering multiple extra contact points. In addition you could use a non-slip placemat to keep the whole place setting from moving away.

A great development has been the wide range of plate and bowl options that have an elevated ledge to help provide support scooping or loading of food.


Drinking beverages can present a range of challenges from physically holding the cup, tipping the cup to drink, maintaining seated positioning in the act of drinking, setting the cup down and physiologically taking a drink. Let’s look at some options for individuals across the lifespan that address several different areas of challenge.

The Nosey cup has a cutout on the opposite side from the user.  This makes room for the individual’s nose, allowing for drinking without lifting the head.

Using a two-handled Dignity mug allows for multiple gripping and lifting options,  offering an increase in stability for those who experience reduced muscle strength or decreased dexterity in their hands.   A great option for someone facing challenges associated with Arthritis.

If in addition to benefiting from a handled cup, there can be challenges with securely setting down the cup without spilling.  In these cases it may be beneficial to use something with a wider base, like the Halo cup.

When seeking an alternative for physically holding and tipping a cup to drink, there are a couple of straw options that can be considered.

A great invention for parents of young children or someone of any age needing a little extra defense against spilling a standard cup is a Silicon lid with straw hole that converts ANY standard cup into a spill-proof, straw accessible option. One example is the SipSnap .

As far as straws go, the One-way straw makes drinking easier for individuals with a weak suck, oral motor difficulties, and/or problems generating and maintaining suction. The straws have a built-in valve that controls the direction of fluid one-way – fluid flows up into the straw, but does not empty back into the cup. With fluid remaining at the top of the straw, less air is ingested and less effort is required to drink.  There are also extra long, flexible straws that are longer and can be flexed into the ideal position for someone to reach without lifting the cup or requiring much change in postural position.

In Part 1 of the blog series we discussed adapted cutting boards and knives for accessible and safe access to cutting and food prep activities.  In Part 2 we discussed assistive technology for measuring and manipulating our ingredients.  And, finally, in Part 3 we got to the fun part of cooking and explored assistive technology that can help enable individuals to have greater independence while sharing a meal with their friends or family.   Additionally, most assistive technology for mealtimes are easily portable to expand accessible eating to picnics and restaurant experiences.

Putting small measures in place to offer any amount of increased independence can have a significant impact on the individual and the family.  An inability to use existing kitchen or eating apparatus should not be the limiting factor for an individual or their family.  

If you don’t know where to start or want guidance on making a decision please contact me.  I would love to help you give someone in your family greater independence and an increase in their quality of life.