From the desk of Tatum Storey, MSW, Consultant - Motor Team
The Motor Team at the Job Accommodation Network (JAN) is frequently asked about accommodation solutions and ideas for limitations in gripping and grasping. Regularly we hear from individuals with conditions such as arthritis, carpal tunnel, repetitive strain injury, tendonitis, tennis elbow, and peripheral neuritis that create difficulties with performing jobs that require gripping and grasping items. For instance, someone with arthritis working in an office job might need accommodation solutions for limitations in gripping a writing utensil or a computer mouse so they can perform effectively at work. We also frequently hear from individuals with repetitive strain injuries who need support when grasping tools while working in labor-intensive occupations.
In some situations, accommodations can be used to reduce the effects of medical impairments or even to prevent them. Some fine motor impairments are progressive when exacerbated, so it can be helpful to find effective accommodation solutions to limit or reduce further progression. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, 1.8 million workers are affected by a repetitive strain injury each year, so it may be essential to explore practices for all employees that prevent fine motor injury. For example, many individuals who have prolonged or continuous fine motor related tasks in the workplace practice hand exercises throughout their workdays to strengthen their hands and prevent injury. Common hand exercises for individuals who work heavily with fine motor skills are squeezing the fist and then releasing, shaking the hands to loosen or relieve any stiff joints in the wrists, and squeezing hand grippers or stress balls throughout the day. Employees may want to speak with their health care provider before participating in hand exercises to ensure safety.
Not all accommodations and solutions need to be costly. According to JAN survey findings, 56% of employers state that accommodations needed by their employees cost absolutely nothing. Employers may want to be creative when exploring solutions. A lot of times, do-it-yourself (DIY) solutions are inexpensive, effective, and adapted in a way that specifically meets an individual’s needs.
DIY Showcase! Below you will find some examples of DIY solutions for individuals with gripping and grasping related impairments:
- Using air-dry molding clay as a gripper on a writing utensil that is molded to an individual’s specific grip
- Using a pool noodle to cover a cane/walker handle or handrail so that an individual with limitations in gripping has a larger area to grasp
- Using a sponge to create a larger grip for writing and eating utensils and/or tools
- Using medical bandages to thicken tool grips, cups and jars, steering wheels, etc.
- Using rubber bands stacked on top of one another to form a grip for tools, writing utensils, etc.
Below you will find two scenarios that demonstrate the use of DIY accommodation solutions:
Scenario 1: Becky works as an interviewer for a Human Resource Department and has limitations in taking notes during interviews because of her Rheumatoid Arthritis. Becky explains her limitations with writing to her employer who then offers an interactive process to determine effective solutions. Becky opts to try molding clay as a gripper on her pen so she can create a mold to match her specific grip. Becky also requests 10-minute breaks in between interviews to allow a rest period for her hands.
Scenario 2: Multiple people who work for a manufacturing company complain to management about pain associated with grasping-related duties on an assembly line. Overwhelmed with the multiple complaints, management decides to enact group hand exercise breaks for 3 minutes each hour. The hand exercises are guided through an intercom system so all who are interested may participate. Management also decides to offer tool wraps to all individuals who prefer a larger grasping surface for their equipment.
Of course, products do exist that enable individuals in gripping and grasping. Explore JAN’s Grasping Page to learn more about products and solutions. It is important to engage in the interactive process and gather relevant facts for each accommodation request. JAN consultants and specialists are always here and happy to help find accommodation solutions. For more information or to explore accommodation solutions for gripping and grasping with a JAN consultant, contact us!
Preventing Injury: 8 Best Hand and Wrist Exercises for Computer Users. Ergonomic Trends. Published May 24, 2020. Accessed March 17, 2021. http://ergonomictrends.com/hand-wrist-exercises-computer-users/
Don’t Forget Ergonomics Away from the Office. Society for Human Resource Management. Published September 9, 2014. Accessed March 17, 2021. https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/risk-management/pages/ergonomics-away-from-office.aspx