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Assistive Devices and How They are Used

Minimizing Barriers and Improving Independence

Assistive devices have been used for centuries, with walking canes used as early as 1670. As technology advances, assistive devices are being used more than ever. Walking canes, prostheses, visual aids, hearing aids, wheelchairs, specialized computer software and hardware that improve mobility, and many other examples are assistive devices and technologies.

Assistive devices are tools or technologies that assist people with disabilities in performing activities they would otherwise struggle with. The goal of assistive devices is to give people more independence and improve their quality of life. Assistive devices also help to remove or reduce barriers that may prevent people from living safe and productive lives.

In this post, we will examine some commonly used assistive devices. Click or tap below to jump between sections of this post.

Assistive Devices for Dressing

Reacher or Grabber

A reacher device, also known as a grabber or an extended arm grabber, is a tool designed to assist people with limited mobility in reaching and picking up objects beyond their normal range. These devices typically have a long, lightweight handle with a gripping mechanism at the end, allowing the user to pick up objects without bending down or stretching too far. Reacher devices can be helpful for people who have arthritis or back pain, as well as those who use a wheelchair or have difficulty moving around.

Sock Aid

A sock aid is a device that helps people put on their socks. It is typically a long, plastic or metal rod with a curved end designed to hold the sock open, allowing the user to slide their foot into the sock easily. Individuals who have trouble bending down or reaching their feet frequently use sock aids. Some sock aids include a built-in strap or handle to help the user hold onto the device and maintain a secure grip while using it.

Long Handled Shoe Horn

A long-handled shoe horn is a device that helps people put on their shoes. It is typically a long, curved piece of metal or plastic with a handle on one end and a smooth, rounded end on the other. The smooth end is inserted into the back of the shoe, allowing the user to slide their foot into the shoe without bending over. Some long-handled shoe horns have additional features, such as a built-in brush or a foot scraper, to assist the user with other foot-related tasks.

Dressing Stick

A dressing stick is a device that aids people in putting on their clothes. It is typically a long, narrow rod with a hook or loop on the end that allows the user to pull clothing items onto their body without having to reach behind their back or strain their arms. Some dressing sticks have additional features, such as a button hook or zipper puller, to assist the user with other clothing-related tasks.

Assistive Devices for Bathing

Shower Chair

A shower chair is a device that helps people sit down while taking a shower. It is typically a chair or stool with a seat and backrest that is designed to be placed inside the shower to provide a stable and comfortable place to sit. Shower chairs are frequently used by people with difficulty standing for long periods. They may have additional features, such as armrests or a removable backrest, to provide additional support and comfort.

Grab Bars

Grab bars are safety devices installed in bathrooms and other areas of a home or building to provide support and stability for people who have difficulty standing or maintaining their balance. Grab bars are typically long, narrow bars that are securely mounted to a wall or other surface, allowing users to hold onto them for support when standing up, sitting down, or moving around. Grab bars can help prevent falls and other accidents in the bathroom and other areas of the home.


A commode is a type of portable toilet that is typically used when a regular toilet is not available. Commodes are frequently used in hospitals, nursing homes, and other healthcare settings, as well as in the homes of people who are unable to use regular toilets due to mobility issues or other disabilities. A commode is typically made up of a seat with a removable bucket or container underneath to collect waste, allowing it to be easily emptied and cleaned. Some commodes have additional features, such as armrests or a backrest, to provide additional support and comfort to the user.

Raised Toilet Seat

A raised toilet seat is a device that raises the height of a toilet seat, making it easier for people to sit and stand up from the toilet. Raised toilet seats are frequently used by the elderly or those with disabilities because the extra height can provide additional support and reduce the need for bending or straining. Raised toilet seats are typically made of plastic or other durable materials and can be easily installed onto an existing toilet seat without the use of tools or modifications. Some raised toilet seats have additional features, such as armrests or a lid, to provide added comfort and convenience for the user.

Non-slip Bathmat

A non-slip bath mat is a type of mat that is placed on the floor of a bathtub or shower to provide a safe and stable surface for people to stand on. Non-slip bath mats are typically made of rubber or other materials with a textured surface that aids in slip prevention. They are frequently used by people who are concerned about the risk of slipping and falling in the bathroom. Non-slip bath mats come in a variety of sizes and shapes to fit various types of bathtubs and showers, and they are simple to clean and maintain.

Assistive Devices for Feeding

Universal Cuff

A universal cuff is a type of device used to help people with limited hand mobility perform tasks that require grasping or holding objects. Universal cuffs are typically worn on the hand and have a flexible, adjustable strap that can be used to hold a variety of objects such as utensils, tools, or other items. Universal cuffs provide additional support and independence in daily activities. Some universal cuffs have additional features, such as built-in gripping aids or padding, to provide additional comfort and support to the user.


Dycem is a brand name for a type of non-slip material that is used in a variety of applications, including healthcare and rehabilitation. Dycem is typically made of a flexible, rubber-like material that prevents objects from slipping or moving when placed on top of it. It can, for example, be used to line the base of a tray or plate, preventing food from slipping or moving around while the user is eating. Dycem can also be used to create a non-slip surface on utensils such as forks or spoons, making it easier for people with limited hand mobility to hold and use them. Furthermore, Dycem can be used to secure a cup or glass to a table or other surface, thereby reducing spills and accidents at mealtime.

Build-up Utensils

Built-up utensils have been created to help people with limited hand mobility perform daily tasks like eating. Built-up utensils typically have a larger, more ergonomic handle that is easy to grip, as well as additional features that can help the user hold and control the utensil more easily. Some built-up utensils, for example, may have a built-in grasping aid, such as a loop or hook, to help the user hold onto the utensil without having to use their fingers. Others may have a weighted or angled handle that allows the user to position the utensil more accurately and with less effort.

Assistive Devices for Mobility


A cane is a type of mobility aid used by people who have difficulty walking or maintaining their balance. It is a long, narrow rod with a curved handle on one end and a rubber tip on the other that the user can hold onto and use to support themselves while walking. Canes are typically made of metal, wood, or other durable materials and come in a variety of styles and sizes to meet a variety of needs and preferences. Individuals with mobility impairments or other physical limitations frequently use canes, which can help them improve their independence and quality of life.

Rollator Walker

A rollator walker is a type of mobility aid that is similar to a traditional walking frame or walker but has wheels on the base. This allows the user to push the walker forward instead of lifting and moving each leg separately. Individuals who have difficulty walking or maintaining their balance but can bear weight on their legs and push themselves forward frequently use rollator walkers. They are usually equipped with a seat and hand brakes, allowing the user to rest and catch their breath when necessary. Rollator walkers, also known as rollators or rolling walkers, can provide users with increased mobility, independence, and safety.

Manual Wheelchair

A manual wheelchair is a type of wheelchair that is propelled by the user pushing the wheels with their hands. It is called a "manual" wheelchair to distinguish it from power or electric wheelchairs, which are propelled by motors. Manual wheelchairs typically have two large wheels in the back and two small wheels in front, and are propelled forward by pushing the wheels with the arms and hands. Some manual wheelchairs also have hand brakes for stopping, and some have extra features like adjustable footrests or backrests for added comfort.

Power Wheelchair

A power wheelchair is a wheelchair that is propelled by a motor rather than the user's own muscle power. Power wheelchairs are typically controlled by a joystick or other device that allows the user to easily steer and control the chair's movement. These wheelchairs are frequently used by people who have difficulty using a manual wheelchair, such as those with limited upper body strength or mobility. Power wheelchairs can be front-wheel drive or rear-wheel drive, depending on the design and needs of the user. They can also have adjustable seats, footrests, and backrests for added comfort and support.


McLellan, D. L., Pain, H., Gore, S. (2003). Choosing Assistive Devices: A Guide for Users and Professionals. United Kingdom: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Robitaille, S. (2010). The Illustrated Guide to Assistive Technology & Devices: Tools And Gadgets For Living Independently. United Kingdom: Springer Publishing Company.


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