Eating Tools

Cindy amassed a clever set of tools that would allow her to self-feed, even in restaurants

In Situ

Shot of Cindy's sitting at a brown dining table, using the silicone fork unit. Cindy is wearing a turquoise shirt and gold necklace, and we see her body from just below the neck to where it is hidden behind the table where she is sitting.  The fork is in her right hand and she is piercing a blueberry with it. The plate of food includes lettuce and blueberries, and there is a nearby cutting board with an apple on it.
Shot from waist up of Cindy at a brown dining table, using the silicone knife unit to slice an apple. The knife is in her right hand and she uses her left hand to steady the apple as she cuts it with her right hand.  Nearby is the plate of food, the silicone fork unit, and a slice of apple that she already removed.


After Cindy’s success with the pen holder, she started to think about other situations where a precise hand movement would be desirable. Take eating, for example. Once she was physically adjusted to her below-knee prosthetics and healthy enough to focus on more than day-to-day survival, Cindy amassed a clever set of tools that would allow her to self-feed, even in restaurants. A leather cuff, fitted with a pocket and attached via an adjustable velcro band (or another version with a leather pocket on an elastic cuff), would brace a standard fork at an angle roughly perpendicular to her hand; a small set of tongs would allow her to pinch and grasp things like salads; and an adaptive rocker knife would allow her to cut precisely. She especially loves the rocker knife: she can use it with one handed, it’s sharp, “and it does the job nicely.”

Once she had the pen holder, however, she saw how a rigid tool could be fixed at a singular angle and mimic the way a fork or knife is intended for use in a hand with normative fingers. If she could get the fork lodged in silicone too, she could both spear and scoop her food in much the same way as she’d done in the past. A knife positioned precisely would allow her to exploit its sawing motion. She went back to Greig and Henry at United Prosthetics, and they fashioned for her a fork and a sharp knife all for pennies in material costs.

Self-feeding was one of the acts Cindy wanted to take back for herself. She’s at peace with asking for significant help now, but she doesn't need it as much as she did at first. Today she can don her two legs in the morning, stand from sitting, dress (except for buttons and zippers), cook, drive, and so much more. Still—she has had to work hard to reclaim some acts of self care. Perhaps especially in public, where she attracts all kinds of assistance, both wanted and unwanted, it’s significant for her to have tools adapted for some independence. Prosthetics are functional tools, naturally. But these adapted utensils make them tools for public “performance,” too. To feed herself is to keep at bay the forms of assistance that too often mistakenly render her passive in public.


Two black-and-white industrial design drawings of the fork/silicone unit. The left image is of a front view; the right image is a side view.
Black-and-white industrial design drawing of the fork/silicone unit on Cindy's hand. Her arm is visible in grey to the left, with the fork cap situated on the end of her arm.