Holding phones in an awkward way can cause pain flare ups for those with chronic hand and wrist complaints like arthritis, RSI, carpal tunnel or EDS.
Smartphone grips for small hands, weak grip or subluxing joints can make holding a phone more secure and comfortable. Below are some of the different options for phone grips and key search terms to help find them online. Adhesive grips can be positioned in the optimal place for each individual’s hand size and left- or right-handedness.
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links and I will earn money from qualifying purchases. I use and would recommend the Frienda elastic straps linked below but have not tried the other products. Clicking on an image will take you to its Amazon product page.
Search for: Adhesive elastic strap, phone finger grip, phone stand
Relatively slim, and can be used with one to four fingers. Some come with a kickstand, and/or a card holding pocket. I find this type of strap comfortable and secure, making the phone easy to hold without having to grip.
Search for: Popsockets, popup grip
This plastic grip is adhesive and is clasped between fingers. It can be flattened or extended with a push, and can double as a prop stand. There are lots of different colours and patterns and they are widely available on Etsy and Amazon.
Search for: Phone ring kickstand, adhesive, magnetic
A metal or plastic ring that can be folded flat into the phone, for one or two fingers. Some can be used as a stand when folded out, and may contain a magnet for mounting onto an in-car stand. Rings can be adhesive or come as part of a case. Many have 360 degree rotation allowing different holding positions.
I used to enjoy drawing and painting before my injury and have tried since, but found it too painful for my injured hand and too difficult with my non-dominant hand. I wanted to find something creative that would be fun and easy to do, without needing very fine motor skills.
I dug out a bunch of art supplies from my Art GCSE days and tried them out to see which techniques lend themselves best to non-dominant hand use. I decided to avoid using my dominant hand altogether which left me with my uninjured left hand that’s bad at aiming and still not used to holding a pencil.
Pastels seemed like a good idea because there’s no equipment needed and no washing up. They’re also chunkier than pencils or paintbrushes. They needed more pressure than I had thought and I found them difficult to manipulate. It was also hard to aim because of the pastel’s blunt style combined with my lack of precision. The difficulty caused my right hand to tense up and move around in sympathy, so had the unintended effect of causing pain anyway. I was happy with my picture but I found the style frustrating and painful so I won’t be trying them again soon.
These paints need water to be picked up and mixed in with the brush, which is difficult if you have problems stabilising your arm. A solution to this could be to add in water with an eyedropper, or to use tube watercolours. The paintbrush was thin and difficult to hold, so wrapping tape around it or using rubber pencil grips might have helped. Watercolours were good because very little pressure is needed, but adding details was hard and needed concentration to aim. It’s also not a very forgiving type of paint- if you make a mistake, it’s tricky to cover up. I think I’ll try again with watercolours, but using a different technique and style.
These paints are thick, squishy, and slow to dry so allow lots of corrections and alterations as you go; I used a palette knife to spread and mix the paints together on the page. I found this easier than using a brush because I didn’t have to be as accurate and the movement didn’t need as much dexterity. The only problem with oil paints is that they are tricky to clean up if you don’t have the water-soluble kind.
Acrylic paints are faster to dry than oils but still thick. I premixed some different colours, dotted them randomly on a canvas board, then spread them with a palette knife for an abstract effect. This was quick, fun, and easy to do. It is also easy on the hand and wrist joints and didn’t need much pressure.
I found the thick paints to be easier to use than watercolours or pastels which needed greater accuracy. I liked the tactile (but low pressure) approach.
An easel would have been useful to stop the paper or canvas moving around on the table and I’ll look into that in future.
Working on a bigger scale would make adding details easier. I was working on A6 size paper for all except the acrylics (A5).
I did all my research online with the help of Motability online resources. If there hadn’t been a pandemic I would have preferred to try a range of aids in person as I had a bit of trial and error to find the best steering spinner and indicator extension. Steering spinners bolt onto the wheel and rotate so the driver can keep turning without letting go. An indicator extension allows control of the lever from the other side of the wheel. Having help to fit these tightly was essential as I couldn’t have done it by myself (thanks family). These steering aids, along with automatic transmission enable me to steer left-handed, while my right hand controls the indicator and windscreen wipers without the need to grip anything.
Not for me: The steering peg (£59 + £6 postage with VAT exemption, Alfred Bekker)
I liked the quick-release feature, and it felt sturdy and well made. Unfortunately the angle for my wrist didn’t feel comfortable and it was difficult to turn the wheel by pushing upwards. It also stuck out from the steering wheel more than expected (~15cm) so I had to sit further back. This might not be such a problem if you have long legs. (Hex key needed but not included).
Other variants of steering peg exist, including a version with attached glove for extra support.
The wrist position for this one was much more comfortable and it was easier to push the steering wheel upwards by using the heel of my hand. The size was fine, even for my small hand. The head isn’t padded and feels a bit flimsy but the bolt on part is metal. I drove using it about 10 times and it didn’t slip on the wheel at all. there is some play on the spinner head itself which made it a bit difficult to make very small adjustments. Hex key included.
Best investment: Steering mushroom (£59 with VAT exemption, Alfred Bekker)
The customer service team for this company were honestly so helpful and agreed to exchange the steering peg I’d bought for a mushroom one. It felt more sturdy and hard wearing than the Hypersonic one and didn’t wiggle at all. I like the quick-release function in case someone else needs to drive my car and I want to remove it temporarily. It sticks out further than the Hypersonic spinner so it can be gripped from the top or the side. (Hex key needed but not included).
Steering spinner installation
This was a bit of an issue, each spinner came with minimal placement instructions. I originally thought the ideal place to install would be at the bottom of the wheel at 6 o’clock but it was actually 10 o’clock for me, steering left handed.
Fitting this was a nightmare! The indicator extension comes as a long, straight wire that requires bending to fit it over the back of the steering wheel, to the other side. Someone strong had to do this for me using a vice and pliers. Again, it came with minimal instructions as all car indicator stalks are different. The indicator stalks in my car are tapered and the extension bolts on, so it kept sliding to the centre where there was no leverage for it to work. Attempts to pad the stalk with electrical tape were partly successful, until we had a hot day and the tape melted and everything slid off.
The solution was to cut some bike inner tube to the exact width of a thin, non-tapered part in between the twisting parts of the stalk controlling the lights. This allowed the extension to bolt on to the stalk without restricting the lights controls.
When it was finally fitted it was great and worked just as hoped. It’s very easy to flick up and down and doesn’t require gripping. Fitting was incredibly difficult and time consuming (may be different for other vehicles) but there’s no better alternative in this price range.
The dream: Wirelessly controlled indicator and lights system. Price on application
Car functions like indicators and lights can be mapped to buttons on a steering spinner, or elsewhere in the car. I couldn’t find any prices for these online, and they require professional installation. This would be a big investment but I imagine with some customisation this would enable total one-handed control of the car if needed. I’ll be sticking with my £25 alternative for now though!
The Finalised Setup
Research and try things out if you can
Allow some time to get things fitted correctly
Get help with the installation
Check back soon for my article about my experiences getting to grips with driving with one hand!
My main barrier to driving was the instability in my right wrist which can cause sudden subluxation or partial dislocation when I put pressure through it. It didn’t feel safe steering while turning so I decided steering left-handed was the way to go.
Self-assessment and research
I wasn’t eligible for the Motability scheme, but I found their guide to different adaptations (PDF link) useful and easy to understand. This gave me some idea of how I would be able to adapt a car and what I’d need- automatic transmission, a steering spinner, and some form of indicator adaptation.
Under normal circumstances I’d have liked to have gone to an assessment centre and had the chance to try things out in person, but it was too difficult with lockdown. Instead I looked at product catalogues and videos online to get some idea of how things would work.
I had a full driving licence, although I had stopped driving since I became disabled through injury. To get driving again, I had to declare my disability to the DVLA as I would now need adjustments to drive safely. Neuroma and wrist instability aren’t pre-defined diagnoses on the government website, so I had to fill out a form for upper limb disabilities. I had to provide my doctors’ contact info, a brief explanation of how I’m affected and the vehicle adjustments I would need to drive safely. The form had to be sent off by post with my old driving licence.
Wait time: 6 weeks
My licence was amended and returned to me, complete with new restriction codes. I was allowed to keep driving! The new restriction codes stipulate that I can only drive a car which is automatic with steering adaptations.
I wanted a smallish car that would still be safe and reliable. It had to be automatic which really narrowed down the options. Luckily I had some great family advice and found a second hand Honda Jazz that ticked all the boxes: automatic, light steering and good enough visibility for a short driver.
Car insurance declaration
When buying car insurance there’s a section to declare any modifications that have been made to the car. The example given will be something like a bigger exhaust but this can include aids for disabled drivers. My insurer (Admiral) said I did have to notify them, and I was able to do this easily over their webchat.
Choosing and fitting steering aids
This was easier said than done, especially during a pandemic. It needed its own article, coming later this week.
Summary of my steps:
Needs assessment and research
Declared disability to DVLA (6 weeks for a decision)
Bought a car
Declared adaptations to the insurer
Bought and fitted adaptations
I’m good to go!
If in doubt, talk to the DVLA, or call an adaptations centre for advice