Assistive Dining Device (Arm Sling)

Introduction: Assistive Dining Device (Arm Sling)

About: I am an Industrial Design Student at the Emily Carr University.

This is an instruction on how to make an assistive dining device for people with limited or no arm strength (such as Muscular Dystrophy or ALS) but still have hand movement.  The assistive device (Schleeder) is designed to work with spoon and bowl (so only limited to soup or stew).  The instruction is created for Occupational Therapist or those whose loved one may be benefited from this device.  

This is an on-going prototype.  It may not work for everyone.  It is intended to   Make and use this device at your own risk.


This is part of the Medical & Assistive Device design project in the spring of 2010 at the Emily Carr University (Vancouver, BC).  My project was aimed to help people living with limited or no arm strength to gain some dining independence.  I hope to get feedback from users so that the device can be improved upon.

Step 1: Ingredient

*Sources based in Vancouver, BC

1)  Seat Belt Webbing - 1 to 2 M, from Mountain Equipment Coop (
2)  Velcro Tape - from Fabricland (
3)  Fabric for tabs - I picked polyester for ease of cleaning.
4)  Heavy Weight Thread - to sew Velcro and tabs to the webbing.

Step 2: Measure Twice, Cut Once

To determine how much seat belt webbing you need:
1) Have the user sitting at the dining chair.
2) Measure from the corner of the chair* (see photo), over the user’s shoulder, to the wrist at table height PLUS the circumference of the wrist (See photo, shown user with wrist brace).
3) Add 10-20 cm to the measurement,
4) Cut webbing to length.
*Not compatible with chairs with solid backs.

Step 3: Adding Velcro

1) Mark one end of webbing for wrist, and the other end for chair
2) Cut Velcro and tape them on webbing (see photo)
3) Make sure the “male” & “female” Velcro are on the same side of the webbing,
4) Also make sure that they can make contact while allowing the webbing to loop the wrist and chair.
TIP:  Cut longer Velcro strips so that the sling can be adjustable.

Step 4: Adding Tabs

I picked red for my tabs to help indicate the edges of the slings.  Feel free to use other colours and materials for yours.

Step 5: Add Stitchings

 Add stitchings to the Velcro Strips to keep them from peeling off the seatbelt webbing.

Step 6: How to Use

1) Have the user sit at the dining chair at the table.
2) Wrap the "arm" end of the sling around the user's hand/wrist-brace.
3) Cross the sling over the user's shoulder.
4) Wrap the "chair" end of the sling around the top corner of the chair (see illustration).
5) Adjust the Velcro so that the user's arm is slightly higher than the soup bow.

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    19 Discussions

    This looks exactly like something we can use for my husband who is a C5 incomplete Quad. I will let you know how it goes, and if necessary, let you know if we needed to do any tweaks.

    THank you so much.


    3 years ago

    Fantastic simple design that will work for those that need it

    I hope you design more assistive ideas. I used to do home heath care ( before arthritis made it impossibe).There IS a need for simple inexpensive assistive devices. Any thing marketed for medical is grossly over priced. Mary Alice

    How much would this cost I am doing a project for the assisted living and I would like to know for future reference.

    Great ible... Everyone's needs are different. What I like is sharing creative ideas like this because someone else may be able to use it as is, while someone else may simply get an idea from this that would better work for their own circumstances. If one adaptation worked for everyone, we'd call it 'furniture' or an 'appliance' or a 'utensil' or something (and actually, sometimes adaptations *do* cross over to the general population – think closed captioning and sidewalk ramps, for starters).

    What a lovely idea! I wonder how effective it would be for other tasks. I once saw someone with spasticity using a device called a Zoncoarm and was amazed at the change it brought it their life -- being able to feed himself, use a computer mouse, etc. There may be other such devices, as well, but this was pretty impressive.

    i've had MS for over 6 years and was an RN prior to that. every case is different, but it would be fairly rare to find someone with little or no gross motor control *not being able to move arms or legs* but retain fine motor control *use of hands, fingers* so this would only be practical for most people if you pair it with assistive devices that help with gripping, which do exist, but aren't utilized in this design. i also agree that to be of the most benefit to the greatest amount of people, you're going to want to find a way to accomplish this without them having to lean forward. that would be quite awkward and physically straining, especially considering this is for someone who already has physical problems that are likely NOT limited to their arms only. there are of course quite a few people with arm only injuries, but it's certainly a lot less common than conditions that affect multiple areas of the body.
    but, like i said, with a grip adaptation,...and come to think of it...a taller table/stand for the food to be on so as to lessen the amount of movement needed to get food to mouth and it could be quite helpful. ....i think the higher table, like the bedside tables in hospitals would REALLY enhance this, taking them from having to lean forward more than a couple of feet to only having to lean 6-8 inches. MUCH more user friendly.

    I'm NOT making fun of this, but why not teach the person to eat with his other hand?

    Secondly, without wanting to be vain, why not use a device that rotates and supports on his chest like here.
    In that way, the person is less bound to his chair and he could get up between meals.

    1 reply

    Someone with a muscular disability would have the same difficulty moving either arm. A more complicated device might work I am sure... but would probably not be very portable or usable in as many situations I would think.

    This is a fantastic instuctable! Thank You so much for sharing this with everyone. I know it will really help someone who needs it. Congratulations!

    I think the pulley idea is good and also strapping to the person is a good idea.  I also think maybe instead of static strapping that you could use some type of wide elastic to assist the user in bringing up the spoon.  I think it is a great idea though! 

    A very simple but effective solution for a serious problem.  Thanks for sharing it. 

    GREAT idea & ible! Depending on the chair, I can see how you could modify it slightly. Instead of attaching it to the chair, run it through the chair & attach it to the person. As they lean forward toward the utensil, the strap pulls their arm closer to them. This could be useful to many of the people I take care @ the nursing home.

     hey my mom had ALS, this would have been great for her. i just want to say great thinking and keep up the good work!

    Most people forget that although someone may have a physical disability, due to stroke or similar sort of disablement, their mental capacities are at 100%.  For someone who is used to 'taking care of themselves' this is very devastating!
    With this simple strap you are able to give them a bit of their independence back and allow them the simple pleasure of sitting & eating lunch with a friend or loved one, instead of having to have someone sit and feed them. 
    Very nice Instructable!!  I applaud you!! 

    Nice ible.  Keep in mind that if one arm is weak the other is likely to be just as weak and not the dominant arm.  The idea of a foot pedal is interesting but people with significant health problems that might need such a device often have limited coordination as well.  Illnesses like ALS and MD  affect the entire body  but tend to work from the outer portions of the body inward (limbs first).  This is cheap and easy.  While it is true there may be more elegant ways to address the problem this is a great idea and a fantastic starting point for innovation.  Anything that works to give the person more autonomy is a good thing.

    Seeing the diagram, I assumed that there would be a pulley-style loop around the back of the chair attached to the person's neck or shoulders, so when they leant forwards their arm would be raised and meet their mouth half way rather than having to lean all the way to the table.

    1 reply

    I agree, it's a bit like eating noodles by bringing the bowl up to your mouth and shovelling them in with chopsticks.
     A foot-pedal perhaps?