1. Size Up: Next time you order a drink at your favorite coffee house or fast food joint, you may want to try asking for your drink in a size larger cup. For example, if you are ordering a small latte, you may want to ask them to put it in a medium-size cup. The extra empty space in the cup makes it easier to carry without spilling. The drink stoppers offered at most coffee shops are another amazing lifesaver.
2.Put It on Ice: Whether it’s the Fourth of July, or in the dead of winter, another coffee hack that has saved me time and time again is to always order my drinks iced instead of hot. If you have spasms like I do, iced drinks are definitely easier to manage. No more having to worry about burning yourself when you have a spasm. Besides, you can totally drink it faster, and use a straw.
3. Don’t Be Afraid to Rock a Water Bottle: This is a trick I discovered while going out to clubs with my friends. I got sick and tired of always spilling my drinks all over myself, or needing somebody else to hold them the entire time. I needed to come up with a practical solution, but I couldn’t quite figure it out. One day, I saw sports water bottle in the market, (you know those old plastic ones from like middle school?) and I realized water bottles definitely weren’t just for water. Now I bring my water bottle everywhere, and pour almost any kind of drink into it. Water bottles are cheap and portable, and function kind of like a grown up sippy cup.
4. “Can I Get That to Go?”: Whether you’re eating in, or taking out, another great tip is to always order your food to go. To go packaging is a lot easier to carry, whether you’re on wheels or just have trouble balancing. You can also always ask for a bag for your food which may help too. It’s also awesome because you don’t have to go up later and ask for a container for your leftovers.
5. Scarves, Bandannas, and Neckties Oh My!: Whether it’s summer, spring, fall, or winter I often rock some kind of scarf or other neck accessory with my outfit, not just because scarves and the like are super fashionable, but also because they are totally practical. Scarves, bandannas, ties, etc. are awesome because they can serve a double function as a bib, helping keep your clothes clean when you eat or drink. I almost always wear one if I know I’m going to be going out to dinner, because then if it gets messy I can just take it off and the rest of my outfit is clean. If not, it just looks like part of my ensemble.
6.Change up Your Cup: Over the past couple years I have learned that just because a drink is traditionally served in a certain type of glass, that doesn’t mean you can’t ask for it in something different. Let’s talk martinis, for example. Martini glasses are impossible for me to use, and I almost always end up spilling most of the drink, so for a while I just stopped ordering this type of drink, until one day I thought to ask for my drink in a wine glass with a straw, and VOILA! Problem solved. You can ask for whatever drink you want in whatever cup is easiest for you to drink out of, so just remember that when heading out with friends for the evening.
7.Dome Lids for the Win!: I recently discovered that getting a dome lid in place of a traditional lid on a drink can be an absolute lifesaver. Dome lids are larger, so that in the means that there is more space between the end of the cup and the top of the lid. I always used to spill things like soda and tea on myself when I would go to drink them from a straw out of a lidded cup because there wasn’t enough space to hold all the liquid when I would tilt the cup. With a dome lid, that is no longer an issue. My work clothes will be forever thankful for this discovery.
8. There’s (probably) an App For That: Things like mobile ordering coffee and movie tickets, and being able to pre-purchase lunch online from the nearest sandwich shop has completely revolutionized my life, and not just because it’s a major time saver! Since I am a power chair user, and also have pretty poor coordination, getting through lines, and then having to get my wallet, and potentially receive change used to be a nightmare! Inevitably, I would get stuck or dropped something. Now, thanks to mobile ordering, I can get what I need, okay and let’s be honest, or want without having to go through difficult lines or fumbling with my wallet. Also, in the case of stores that let you preorder and pick up your items, it is super convenient because it saves having to struggle to carry everything I need through the store.
9.“Can You Cut That for Me, Please?”: If you struggle with cutting up your own food when you go out to eat, never fear, I have a solution for you!. For years, I thought my only option was to rely on whatever was with me to cut up my food for me. As I got a bit older, I would avoid going out or ordering things I knew needed to be cut up because it made me feel uncomfortable to always have to ask whoever I was with to do it. And then one day somebody suggested to me that I just ask if it was possible to have my food cut up before it was served to me, so I did, and I have never looked back. Most restaurants have no problem cutting up your food before they bring it out. This allows you to be more independent, and have more menu choices when it comes to eating out. I guess in this case it really is true that if you need help, all you have to do is ask!
10. Soup… In a Mug?: I used to always avoid ordering soup when I went out to eat, even though I liked it. No matter how good it tasted, it always ended up being a giant mess. I had resigned myself to the fact that eating soup in a restaurant was a no go for me…. until I had a genius idea! Why not put soup in a coffee mug? This simple revelation changed everything! Now I can use my spoon if I am able, but I can also drink soup as if it was coffee or hot chocolate. It is a great way to turn delicious food into something that is socially accessible for me.
11. Bag it: Grocery baskets, shopping carts, and the like are a bit of a disaster for me. In fact, I almost always struggle to hold stuff when I am trying to go shopping, or even just carry more than one small thing at a time while driving my chair. Especially since I do not always have someone around to lend me a hand, I had to come up with a feasible solution. After some serious searching, I found a tote bag that works pretty well for me, and in my case, I am also able to put a backpack on the back of my power chair. This allows me to carry the things I need when traveling to work, going grocery shopping, or hitting the mall without having to struggle with hard to use carts and baskets, or adding a ridiculous amount of width to my wheelchair by hanging multiple bags on the back.
12. Dry Shampoo, Please!: Dry shampoo is a definite favorite of festival-goers and campers alike, but it is also been a major time and energy saver in my life, especially when I am not in my own home. Sometimes new environments like friends’ houses or hotel rooms are not always as accessible as we would like them to be in an ideal world, so our normal routines can get a bit thrown off. I love having dry shampoo always at hand for those times when the odds of accessibility are not in my favor. It allows me to keep my hair looking nice, without having to risk injury in an inaccessible shower in order to wash it.
13. Knot it up: One of my biggest struggles when I first moved out on my own was figuring out how to close my door behind me when I left my apartment. Being a power chair user makes it difficult to pull the door closed behind you in a typical way, but I was not really thrilled at the idea of having to deal with the time and expense it would take to have an automatic door opener installed, especially because I could open my lever door by myself. Thanks to one of the most ingenious people I know (my mom of course!), we came up with a solution. I have a bit of rope tied onto the lever on the outside part of the door so that I can pull it closed behind me when I leave with very little effort.
14. Tape it up: This hack is courtesy of one of my coworkers, who also has CP, although it affects us a bit differently. One day we were talking about utensils and makeup brushes and how to make them more accessible, and she gave me a great idea. If the end of a utensil or a brush is too difficult for you to grip, you can wrap it up with tape so that you have a larger base to hold onto. I tried this out the other day with my hairbrush and it worked like a charm!
15. Talk it out: Okay, so this last one is not really a hack, as much is a piece of advice that has served me well throughout my 25 years with CP. If you are struggling to figure out how to do something, there is no better person to ask than somebody else living with CP. Sure, we’re all affected a little differently, and everyone has their own way of doing things, but a lot of times somebody else’s little hack can be a life changer. I am so grateful to the other people with CP that I know who helped me figure out how to hack my way through life with a disability.
The hacks listed above are just some suggestions. Everyone does things their own way. Probably one of the most interesting parts about living with cerebral palsy, and meeting other people with CP, is figuring out the unique and creative ways people have found their way through our sometimes less than accessible world.
What would you add to this list? What are some CP life hacks you use on a daily basis that have completely changed your life?