Tag Archives: quadriplegic fingers

Crafty fixes make melodious sounds- Adapted musical instruments

When I started playing the clarinet in 5th grade, it was like the heavens parted in my brain – I became exponentially better at math within the year, not to mention falling in love with playing. The reeds, the cork wax, the delicate scales, I was obsessed (and 3rd chair). When I broke my neck, realizing my fingers were going to be paralyzed too, it was a sad sad day (especially when my Mom sold it at one of her garage sales).

But I gotta say, saying goodbye to my love of music was one of the stupidest things I’ve ever done after my injury. Maybe in my wildest dreams, jerry-rigging a clarinet (to work for my quad hands) would maybe work, but not all instruments are impossible to adapt. Take for example what Robb Madison, a T8 paraplegic, has come up with to still use his drumset.  I’ve seen some expensive drum mods, but this, almost anyone can do.

Since Robb can no longer activate the bass drum with his leg, he devised a way to hold three drumsticks to mimic the bass drum sound. He holds one stick in his left hand and two sticks (one with a larger rubber end) in his right. When he drums with his right hand, he applies the sticks to his drums just so, making sure they make contact with the drum separately (so you can distinctively hear the bass sound). And he’s also created several other smart drum stick variations to make up for his diminished mobility, including creating a drumstick with cymbals built into it.

And if you thought it was impossible for a quad of any level to effectively play a guitar, you gotta watch this video from blues master Tom Doughty, a C7 quad from the UK. He’s mastered the skill of “lap strumming,“ where you set your guitar on your lap and play.

And wow, watching him is so impressive, he hits so many notes (!) and his voice – absolutely beautiful. Who would’ve thought all of this instrument playing is possible despite paralysis? There are all kinds of adapted musical instruments!

What kind of adapted musical instruments have you played? Do you created your own adapted musical instruments?

Watch the videos

Robb Madison shows off his drumming technique

Tom Doughty lap strumming on his steel guitar

Quads who know offices: Accessible offices

Not even confetti and champagne can make paperwork enjoyable. And when you’re paralyzed, watch out for all the “fun” that comes your way when you go to use your office. You thought paperwork was fun before? Try doing it with paralyzed hands…

What’s great about a home office is that you can set up everything exactly the way you want it.  And there are two quadriplegics who’ve made videos of their accessible offices and how they work for their mobility.  Here are two of my faves!

The first video comes from Bonnie, a female quadriplegic with one of the most organized accessible offices I’ve ever seen. She’s a C6 quadriplegic and has baskets with handles on them throughout her office (easy to grab).  The baskets organize everything and she puts them on-top of her desk or places them in the desk drawers (so she can pull them out easily too).  In the baskets she stores everything from pens and papers to even her sprinkler remote controllers.  And for her wireless keyboard, she taped put a cloth loop onto it to mimic a handle (and used clear packing tape to adhere it to the back).

The second video comes from Mark Felling, a C5-6 quad and founder of Broadened Horizons. Before his injury, Mark was an engineer – and he’s created some amazing things since his plane crash One of the coolest things he’s made is an automatic height-adjustable desk.  The desk is moved using a remote control, so you can adjust the height depending on the chair you’re using.  This desk is ideal for anyone who uses a standing frame or a standing wheelchair regularly.  You can stand up your chair, then raise your desk to the level you need it.  In the video, you’ll also see how the middle section of the desk rises higher than the rest of the desk,  making it easy for someone in a wheelchair to see the monitor.

Working hard isn’t easy, but if you watch these videos you’ll have any setup that at least works just for you, making it possible to work just as hard as everyone else. Oh joy 🙂

Watch the videos!

Bonnie’s “Office Accessibility & Organization” video for people with hand paralysis
Mark of Broadened Horizons shows off his automatic height-adjustable desk for wheelchair-users

What accessible offices have you used? How did you adapt your home office?