Recently I’ve stumbled upon a new holder for the iPad that I hoped would end up being the missing link I’ve been looking for in my quest to find a way to make the iPad work for me. It’s called the “Hand-e-holder” and it’s unlike any holder I’ve seen thus far.
The Hand-e-holder was developed by Burns Computer Services. The intent was to make an easy–to–use, versatile holder for the iPad and other similar devices. The description from the website is as follows:
“The Hand-e-holder allows you to hold and view your iPad/tablet device comfortably in your hand, while providing a 360° rotation”.
I’ve been using an iPod Touch for over two years but I’ve always been restricted to using it in portrait mode because that’s how it’s mounted on my wheelchair armrest. While this has worked out fairly well for me I’ve always hoped to find a method that would allow me to easily rotate my iPod Touch to either portrait or landscape mode without assistance from anybody else. Having the ability to do this would seem to be of greater importance with an iPad, which has been one of the obstacles preventing me from getting one.
When I first saw the Hand-e-holder I immediately noticed the “adapter plate” portion of the device. It’s like a miniature turntable attached to the holder itself which allows the 360° rotation. I figured if I could somehow mount the adapter plate on my armrest that I might have the solution I’ve been looking for. I spoke to Mike Burns, the founder of the company, and he was gracious enough to send me a slightly modified Hand-e-holder to see if it would work for me and my iPod Touch. As it turned out the straps on the Hand-e-holder were long enough that I could fasten it to my armrest by just wrapping them around the armrest securely with the adapter plate portion sitting squarely on top of my armrest. Then it was only a matter of attaching the “Dual Lock Ring” to the back of my Ipod Touch. The adhesive on the ring is quite strong but can be removed without damaging your device. Once the Dual Lock Ring was attached i was able to mount my Ipod Touch to the Hand-e-holder (which is attached to my armrest as in the picture) as often as i like. In other words, the Ipod Touch can be removed from the Hand-e-holder as often as needed. This is useful because there are times when friends or family want to use it, which would be kind of difficult if it were permanently stuck to my armrest. At first it was hard to believe how secure the Ipod Touch was sitting on my armrest like this but as long as you press hard enough when remounting it the Dual Lock Ring really does “lock” it back in place. If you check out the video on their website you’ll see this clearly demonstrated with an iPad. I must note however that i had to place the Dual Lock Ring directly onto the back of my iPod Touch for it to function correctly. At first I had tried attaching it to the back of the cheap rubber case my iPod Touch had been encased in but it didn’t stick well at all. Once the rubber case was out of the equation that’s no longer an issue. In fact, it sticks so well that I really don’t see a need to find a case that would work with it. However, if you feel more comfortable using a case there is a video on their website that shows you how to modify your case to work with the Hand-e-holder.
The Hand-e-holder wrapped around my armrest (left) with the adapter plate directly under the iPod Touch (right)
So now the big question. Does this allow me to independently rotate my iPod Touch? I’m happy to say the answer is most definitely YES. I can’t do it as easily as somebody with a fully functional hand, which isn’t a surprise, but the important thing is I can now do it all by myself. So now if I want to do something on my iPod Touch that works better in landscape mode, like watch a YouTube video or play a game, I can put it that way. If it’s not something that’s already in landscape mode I only need to tilt my wheelchair back a little bit to get the iPod Touch’s accelerometer to do it’s thing and change the orientation. It’s pretty awesome and after only a few days it’s demonstrated how much I’ve been missing by not having this capability. I can even leave my dock connector plugged in constantly as before (my iPod Touch receives a constant charge from my wheelchair battery) no matter what orientation it’s in.
Independently rotating the iPod Touch from portrait to landscape orientation
These encouraging results gave me some hope where the iPad is concerned. However in my case there was also the question of whether there’s enough space for me to mount it in the same location as my iPod Touch. They also offer various stands and clamps that are compatible with the Hand-e-holder and further improve its accessibility and usefulness. My hope was the clamps could take care of the space problem, if there ended up being one. Fortunately I ended up getting a golden opportunity to answer all these questions regarding the iPad as Mike Burns was gracious enough to offer to send me some of the clamps and a loaner iPad to test things out! So I got to see first-hand if there’s some way this can work out for me.
The iPad mounted on my armrest using one of the C-Clamps attached to the Hand-e-holder
Portrait (left) and landscape (right) orientation on my armrest
Upon receiving the iPad I immediately discovered, as expected, that it is much too large to mount directly on my armrest in the same fashion that my iPod Touch is. So that left me with the clamps. I tried several positions and locations to no avail. No matter where I placed the iPad with the clamps it either prevented me from using my wheelchair controls, or messed with the width of my wheelchair for doorways and such, or both. However it became readily apparent that the clamps he sent me are incredibly versatile. They can be placed just about anywhere and at any angle. The problem for me though is that my limited arm movement just doesn’t allow for many potential locations on my wheelchair. In all honesty the perfect location would be right where my wheelchair hand controls are and they obviously can’t be moved. To Mike Burn’s credit he’s determined to make this work for me so as of this writing the book isn’t yet completely closed on the iPad and my wheelchair. So if they come up with another solution that works I will be sure to update this article.
But despite the inability (thus far) to get this to work for me it occurred to me that this COULD work very well for other physically disabled individuals. It perhaps could even be the difference between getting an iPad and not getting an iPad. I mentioned above how versatile the clamps and stands they offer are. So versatile that I really believe that others would be able to successfully mount an iPad on their wheelchair in an accessible position. You can get a good idea about this versatility with the pictures below. You’ll notice this versatility extends beyond the wheelchair as well. I was able to easily mount the iPad to my kitchen counter and the side rail on my bed, both of which made the iPad easily accessible to me at those locations. And even when attached to one of the clamps it’s still possible to easily rotate the iPad between landscape and portrait orientation. The possibilities are really endless here. Being able to use the iPad in bed so easily, especially with a mouthstick, was a surprising revelation for me. My iMac can’t really be moved around very easily so whenever I lay down in bed, to watch TV or take it easy, I’m pretty much cut off from the Internet and anything computer related. I have tried to use my iPod Touch in that position but the screen is just too small to make it practical. The iPad, however, works extremely well in that position. And since the iPad can do so many of the same things that a computer can (and as I learned in some cases can do certain things a little better) it was like my computer was right there with me! It’s so useful and convenient to have that capability that I’m now seriously considering getting an iPad of my own. It would certainly be a lifesaver whenever I get sick or have some other type of medical problem that keeps me bedridden for any length of time.
The iPad mounted on my kitchen counter (left) enables easy drive-up to access (right)
Using the iPad in landscape orientation (left) then independently rotating it for use in portrait orientation (right)
The iPad mounted on the kitchen counter (left) and on my bed rail (right)
The iPad mounted on my bed rail from behind
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention another important discovery I stumbled upon during this process. I previously wrote an article for ATMac entitled “Accessing the IPad: Mouthsticks, Head Pointers, and Styluses”. In it I explained how it’s possible to use the combination of aluminum foil and copper wiring with a mouthstick to make the mouthstick a fully functioning hands-free stylus for capacitive touchscreen devices, like the iPad. While this solution does work it could be much better. The aluminum foil isn’t as sensitive as I would like, sometimes forcing me to actually push with the mouthstick to get it to register, and it wears out rather quickly. I found a replacement for aluminum foil that works MUCH better – Scotch Bright Heavy Duty Scrub Sponges. In the same article I talked about how I use a Pogo Stylus attached to my hand splint to operate my iPod Touch. The Pogo Stylus makes use of conductive foam at its tip to make it function. Unfortunately the conductive foam wears out quicker than I would like, probably because my limited arm control causes me to press with the stylus instead of just touching on occasion. While the styluses aren’t really that expensive it still became somewhat of a pain being forced to constantly have to buy a new one. I thought maybe I could just get some conductive foam on my own and replace it whenever needed. However, unfortunately conductive foam isn’t exactly easy to come by. After doing some more Google detective work I discovered that the spongy material on Scotch Bright Heavy Duty Scrub Sponges transmits the electrical impulses of the skin just as well as conductive foam does. I already had some in my kitchen so I tore a small piece off and stuffed it into the end of the Pogo Stylus and amazingly it worked! And surprisingly it actually seems to work better than conductive foam! So it then occurred to me that I should try replacing the aluminum foil at the end of my modified mouthstick with this material to see if it would work. Well it does work and it does so extremely well! Now the mouthstick stylus is extremely sensitive and accurate. It also can be used at odd angles. With the aluminum foil the iPad (or iPod Touch) had to be straight in front of me and almost at a 90° angle for it to work. I consider this to be a pretty significant development and since these sponges are really cheap I now essentially have an endless supply of conductive foam that cost me just a few bucks!
Scotch Bright Heavy Duty Scrub Sponge mouthstick tip
So if you have some way to interact with an iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch (like with the Pogo Stylus or the mouthstick solution I spoke of) but are unable to actually hold the device the Hand-e-holder may be the solution you’re looking for. There are actually other potential solutions out there, like the ones from RJ Cooper, but none are as simple and inexpensive as the Hand-e-holder solution. I can really see the Hand-e-holder potentially making a huge difference for physically disabled people such as myself. So if you think this may be of any benefit to you I encourage you to check out the Hand-e-holder. You could even contact them and they will help you choose the best solution for your needs.
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This article was originally published at The Hand-e-holder for IOS Devices and is copyright (C) Ricky Buchanan 2010. May be forwarded but do not republish without permission.