The search of finding a suitable prosthetic can be time-consuming and difficult. For children, it’s much harder to customize a suitable hand device due to growth, which can quickly make them unusable. Thankfully, finding handicap mobility equipment solutions is easier than ever with the advancement of 3D printers and more frequent opportunities to use one. One volunteer group, with 3,600 members and counting, is making it easier for 3D assistive hand devices to be paired with those who need them. Enabling the Future, or e-NABLE, is a global network that works together to distribute e-NABLE prostheses and the files to print your own.

From National Mobility Equipment to Global

The efforts of e-NABLE can be traced back to Ivan Owen when he uploaded a metal functional puppet hand for a steampunk convention onto YouTube. Afterwards, a carpenter from South Africa got in touch with him to create a replacement finger that lasted about a year. From there, using research from previous prosthetic devices, they designed the first 3D printer mechanical hand. In an act of good faith, Ivan chose not to patent the design and made it open source so all who wanted one could make one and so it could be improved upon. This greatly affected Jon Schull, a professor at Rochester Institute of Technology, then created the beginnings of what is now the e-NABLE community today.

Printing a 3D Hand

Needless to say, a lot of time and effort is involved in making a prosthetic device. For example, one of their models dubbed the “Raptor Hand” costs $35 in materials. That does not factor in the assembly, fitting and testing of the device by volunteers or family members. With e-NABLE, it operates as a completely volunteer organization and distributes hand mobility equipment free of charge. If you have access to a 3D printer yourself and have the means to create a hand device for you or for your child, you can easily become a part of the Google+ community and consult them for the best recommendation. Like NMEDA and the disability community, the e-NABLE community is made up of teachers, engineers, medical professionals, parents, coders and more. Thirty certified prosthetist-orthotists and occupational therapists are part of the Google+ community and available to assist you with your goal.

How You Can Get or Give a Hand

The sky’s the limit for how you can get involved with Enabling the Future. You can request an e-NABLE volunteer to create a device for you, create one yourself, volunteer or work with others in a school or group to volunteer. Between July 2013 and June 2015, 1,500 hands were given to children and adults in over 40 countries. It’s easy to find local libraries, colleges and high schools with the resources you need to make your hand device a reality. The devices are meant to be a tool, not a fully functional prosthetic device. It gives the ability to do simple functions, like hold a water bottle or grip a wheelchair or toy. But, for the individuals that use the hand devices, it makes a world of a difference.

The National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association (NMEDA) is an advocate for mobility and accessibility for drivers with disabilities. If you need help with converting or buying a handicap accessible car, truck or van, please consider one of our Quality Assurance Program mobility equipment dealers.

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