By Amy Roman, CCC-SLP
The husband of one of my patients invented this horizontal stylus about 12 years ago. His wife could no longer isolate her index fingers for typing but she could still move her arms to type. Her other fingers were getting in the way and pressing keys she didn’t want. We began making the horizontal styli for our ALSA Demonstration Center & Lending Library and found that pALS typically preferred the horizontal stylus to the commercially available styli we offered. They have been flying out of our office ever since and have become even more popular with the advent of mobile tablets.
This simple tool makes it possible for many people with finger and hand weakness to continue to use their mobile device touchscreen, a keyboard or a paper communication board. With the horizontal stylus a person who can’t isolate a finger can once again point, swipe or type.
Here is a link to a short video of this simple but effective tool in action. The video also explains how to make a horizontal stylus for just a couple of bucks.
Make it yourself
Visit a hardware store and ask for a 4 inch length of 1” diameter PVC pipe. You may need to buy a longer piece but have them cut one 4 inch length for you. A local store may even be willing to drill a ¼” hole in it which is the perfect size for a pencil.
Break a pencil to the length you want. You may want to experiment with a few lengths before you glue the pencil in. If you will be using the stylus with a mobile device, like an Android or iPAD, you will need to use a conductive stylus rather than a pencil. You can find these at office supply stores and online. Mobile styli are typically thinner than pencils so a smaller drill hole is necessary.
Insert the stylus or pencil into the drilled hole in the PVC pipe and glue in place (I like Gorilla Glue). To make holding the stylus effortless, a 10” piece of two-sided Velcro can be looped through the PVC and secured above knuckles.
Nice Donation Idea
Since you may have to buy a long length of PVC pipe anyway, why not ask the hardware store to cut the whole pipe into 4” lengths. If you tell them what it is for, they may even be willing to drill the ¼” holes too. Then take the bag of 4” pipes or completed horizontal styli to your ALS Clinic, ALSA or MDA lending library. The expense is minimal but the effort would benefit many people. While you are at it, maybe donate the rest of the 2-sided Velcro too. Just make sure you direct the receivers to this Amy and pALS video, just in case they don’t know what a great gift you are giving them.