Cindy’s cosmetic hands are in a category of their own: not an assistive device in any conventional sense, and more a work of sculpture than engineering.
Cindy’s cosmetic hands are in a category of their own: not an assistive device in any conventional sense, and more a work of sculpture than engineering. In fact, they are not intended to be functional, and as Cindy often notes, they impair most functions. Still, they perform some key functions that reveal important things about what it means to “perform” disability.
While Cindy has designed, co-created, and collected a bevy of tools to aid her in many daily tasks, there are times when it’s easier and more desirable for her to cover her hands with these cosmetic approximations. If she’s attending a school concert with her grandchildren, for instance, or going to a big one-time event (such as a reunion), she wants the option to forego the questions, scrutiny, and all-around attention to her embodiment. These hands aren’t functional in a literal sense, but they provide her with privacy and anonymity when she wants it—a critical choice, when so often she can’t opt out of the public eye.
These hands are referred to in the industry as a “passive functional prosthesis” and the manufacture of these hands is a highly skilled industry. The fingernails alone are someone’s full time job, and the options for lifelike recreations are limitless: nail shape, skin texture, hair, spots, and so much more. Typically, Cindy told us, cosmetic hands are made for one side only, and modeled on the other normative hand. But since Cindy’s hands were both altered, the company used an internal model from their own staff as a guide. “They paraded all of the female employees through, and we compared,” she told us. “These are Joanne’s. Joanne was my closest match.”
Cindy likes the long nails on these hands too, for their scratching—a function she misses. But they’re too hot and cumbersome for her to do anything else that’s functional. They’re for discretion, when and where she wants it, and that’s a form of assistance that can’t be quantified.