By Élan Young
A life hack is defined as a strategy, tool, or technique adopted to manage one’s time and daily activities more efficiently. While people with limb loss may use prostheses or wheelchairs to solve basic mobility challenges, amputees of all levels of limb loss and mobility still need to find solutions specific to their situations to further increase efficiency in performing activities of daily living. Even with highly specialized prosthetic devices on the market, sharing innovative hacks for accomplishing certain tasks or enjoying a variety of activities is helping improve the lives of many amputees.
Stella Sieber, a bilateral above-knee amputee, has come up with a number of hacks since becoming an amputee in 2001. She alternates between using a wheelchair and foreshortened prostheses, also called platforms or stubbies, and offers a few hacks for lower-limb amputees.
To help share hacks within the amputee community, Hanger Clinic created an online contest at www.amputeelifehacks.com. Contestants were invited to submit videos specific to the amputee community for a chance to win a trip to Florida to meet Winter, the dolphin who wears a prosthetic fin. Hanger narrowed down the entries to display the top ten on the contest’s website, and chose a grand prize winner in November.
Carrie Davis, Hanger Clinic AMPOWER national coordinator and senior manager—patient experience, says that the competition was based on the powerful need for people in the limb loss community to experience independence. As someone who has personal experience with congenital limb loss of her left arm and as a mentor through her role at Hanger, she sees great value in community and idea sharing. “When we bring a community of people together who ‘get it,’ we take steps toward eliminating unnecessary suffering and empowering individuals to attain their potential—in spite of their losses,” she says. “No one needs to go through this alone.”
Here are five of the top ten hacks.
These and 65 more contest entries can be viewed on the Amputee Life Hacks YouTube channel at
Any lightweight, compact LED headlamp with an adjustable band can be worn on the head or attached to a wheelchair or crutch/cane cupholder.
Easy-reach Kitchen Set-up
Use an under-counter Lazy Susan to store frequently used items within reach. Sieber stocks hers with place settings for four; coffee, tea, filters, and mugs; an electric hand mixer, mixing bowls, a colander, and other things needed to quickly prepare a meal. For a better height to cut and prep, a cutting board can be laid across an open drawer.
Hands-free Dog Walking
Slide a carabiner through a Velcro D-ring wheelchair safety belt and the handle of a dog leash.
Extending Your Reach
Whether you are inside or outside, a quality grabber tool can help you reach items that would otherwise be out of your range.
Fast Way to “Tie” Your Shorts
Presented by Sami A., a 6-year-old with congenital limb difference. Use a drawstring cincher, called a cord lock, often seen on backpacks and bags. Place the ends of the drawstring through the hole in the cord lock and squeeze the cap to pull the string tight and loosen it.
How to Protect Your Knees
Presented by Jane R., who has both upper- and lower-limb loss. When Jane removes her leg prostheses, she needs a way to protect her knees when walking on them. Using her dad’s athletic sandals didn’t work because when she walked forward they flew off. Prosthetist Kevin Carroll showed her how to modify a pair of Crocs by cutting the toe area off. Jane places her residual limbs through the shoes backwards, and the backstrap fits over her knee so they stay put when she walks.
Opening Wine and Serving Guests
Presented by Courtney R., a bartender who went back to work after becoming an upper-limb amputee. While placing a bottle of wine between her residual limb and her body, Courtney uses an air pump wine opener in her other hand, which allows her to cut off the foil and remove the cork one-handed. She also found a round tray with enclosed walls and a vertical handle in the picnic section of a retail outlet. After putting non-skid material in the bottom of the tray, she is able to put her residual limb through the handle and use her other arm to place four glasses in the tray. This allows her to carry more glasses to a table at one time.
Presented by Ella R., who has upper-limb congenital limb loss. This hack involves removing the grip of the regular handlebar and installing a handlebar extension, also called a climbing bar, adjusted to meet the height of her residual limb. After tightening the extension, surrounding it with foam, and wrapping it with handlebar grip tape and electrical tape, it allows Ella to safely ride a bicycle.
Presented by Stephanie A., an above-knee amputee.Stephanie uses a skirt hanger with several clips to hang and store her gel liners and sleeves in one place. She also uses an iron and ironing board holder that she turned upside down and hung over a closet rod to hang her prosthetic legs.
Lazy Susan image by eImprovement.com.
Wine opener image by Heather Swanson.
All other images by Shutterstock.com