With the correct assistive device, most mobility impairments can be overcome. PHILIP CASE reviews the Quadtools Reacher, which has helped him overcome his limited hand function
Mark Twain once wrote: “Out of all the things I have lost, I miss my mind the most.” As a quadriplegic with no hand function, I miss many things but the use of my hands must be near the top of my list. I had searched for and experimented with all kinds of solutions unsuccessfully until I finally stumbled upon a gadget that works for me.
It is called the Quadtools Reacher. You can find it and an array of variants on the website www.quadtools.com. All you require to use this nifty piece of engineering is some wrist extension. Even a weak pull will close the jaws with a fair amount of force. Believe me! I tried it on myself and have an impressive bruise on my leg to prove it.
It is an American product that you order directly from the website. You download a template, print it out and get someone to cut along the dotted lines. You then use the cutout to measure your wrist and around your palm. You also measure the length and circumference of your forearm. It sounds more complicated than it is and there are complete instructions on the website to
They use these measurements to create a custom fit for you that really helps it feel more like an extension of your arm. Pun intended. I ordered the medium length (28 cm) “heavy duty” Reacher as I wanted the option of picking up some bulkier, heavier items when needed. I was in luck, as a friend travelled to the United States and brought it back for me. So I saved on postage costs, but I did confirm with the owner that they are happy to ship anywhere.
The Quadtools Reacher is hardcore, with no flimsy plastic or wires that can break. It is made of laser-cut stainless steel and the quality is superb. I have no doubt it will outlast me. It uses a simple but highly effective lever, spring and rod system to actuate the jaws that clamp down on the object of your desire and spring back open as soon as you release.
I have tried the plastic alternatives that you can buy locally, but they require finger dexterity and what they can actually retrieve is limited. I have literally lifted a brick with the Quadtools Reacher. That said, you can easily manipulate and pick up tiny items as well, since the jaws have a unique wavy edge that facilitates some very fine movements.
If I could keep it with me at all times I would. I pick up things from the floor, take cups out of the cupboard, pull clothes from my wardrobe and more. I braaied completely on my own for the first time using these bad boys … Now that was a moment to savour. There are a number of videos on YouTube demonstrating its various uses, and all the reviews are positive.
There is one major downside – the price.
The version I bought cost US$ 189 (about R2 700). For many that is out of the question, which is heart-breaking as the independence that this tool has given me is priceless. Perhaps one of our budding entrepreneurs could come up with a local solution at a fraction of the cost?
Philip Case became a quadriplegic in the ’90s, when 56k modems were considered hi-tech. Over the years he has gained a reputation for a mild obsession with gadgets and accessibility devices. He has conquered a number of Quads4Quads rides on his adapted side-by-side and built a smart home in Paternoster on the West Coast, and continues to figure out ways to make the world more accessible using technology.