Universally Designed: Pumpkin Carving

It’s finally Fall! This is my favorite season and it is already flying by so fast. One of my favorite traditions is carving pumpkins, so I wanted to pass along a few tips and tricks to make pumpkin carving more universally designed. Remember – universal design is a process, not an end goal; the idea is to always be making more and more improvements in accessibility. That being said, take what you think may work for you or your loved ones and share below how you further modified for specific needs so we can all learn from each other.

  • Carving Tools:
    •  Built-up handles: When you increase the size of the tool’s handles, it requires less grip strength and finger range of motion to fully grasp. There are a couple really simple ways to build-up a handle on your pumpkin carving tools.
      • Foam tubing: I like this one from Amazon – it comes in three different sizes for various tools. Just slide the tool inside and you are good to go!
        • Please note: The words “this one” in the above sentence is a hyperlink to the item.  
      • InstaMorph: Now this is definitely more complicated, but it is more customizable to each individual. InstaMorph is moldable plastic, so you just have to heat it up, wrap it around your tool and then mold it to your hand. It can be re-heated and used again and again. Find it on Amazon here.
        • Please note: The words “Amazon here” in the above sentence is a hyperlink to the item.
      • Use paper towels and duct tape: Assistive tech does not have to be fancy and we are not here to impress anyone. Use what you have! Take a couple paper towels, fold them up, wrap them around the tool and secure with duct tape. You deserve to not have to spend more money to participate.
    • Extended handles: Longer handles can help you reach the bottom of the pumpkin despite any arm range of motion restrictions. You can achieve this by:
      • Buying larger scoops: Like this one.
        • Please note: The words “this one” in the above sentence is a hyperlink to the item. 
      • InstaMorph: This time, instead of wrapping it around the already existing handle, use it at the end of the handle to make it longer.
      • Use a kitchen spoon: These are typically larger than the scoops that come with a carving kit. It may be easier to use a wooden spoon versus a plastic one as it will be sturdier.
    • Weighted handles: Adding weight to tools helps dampen any tremors that may be present and increase the control you have over the tool. If you are flinging pumpkin guts everywhere, a weighted tool is probably for you!
      • Weighted eating utensils: If you already have a weighted spoon and knife for eating, just use these for your pumpkin. You can find a set here.
        • Please note: The words “find a set here” in the above sentence is a hyperlink to the item.
      • DIY weighted utensils: Follow this super easy DIY tutorial to make your own weighted utensils.
        • Please note: The words “this super easy DIY tutorial” in the above sentence is a hyperlink to the tutorial.
    • Universal cuff: Just like the built-up utensils, a universal cuff makes grasping the tool easier.
      • Buy one: You can purchase a universal cuff here.
        • Please note: The words “purchase a universal cuff here” in the above sentence is a hyperlink to the item.
      • DIY universal cuff: Follow this tutorial to make your own.
        • Please note: The words “follow this tutorial” in the sentence above are a hyperlink to the tutorial.
    • Consider the features of the tools that you are buying: A lot of times, pumpkin carving tools that come in a kit already have some accessible features built-in. Here are a couple to consider:
      • Strength of carving knife: I know I am not alone when I say that I hate it when I stick that little orange carving knife into a pumpkin and it immediately bends in half. These are not functional tools for anyone, but it is so much more difficult for someone with compromised upper extremity strength and control.
      • Serrated edge: When picking out a scoop, one with a serrated edge will decrease the amount of strength needed to get a good, juicy scoop of pumpkin guts.
      • Ergonomic handle: When I was carving pumpkins this weekend, I noticed the scoop that came in my kit had a little cut-out for your thumb, which is helpful to decrease pain and promote a more functional grasp.  
  • Carving Stencil: One of the most inaccessible parts of pumpkin carving is the design itself. Here are a few ways to make it easier:
    • My number one tip for pumpkin carving stencils is to make really clear which sections are to be cut out and which will be left behind on the pumpkin. Use a high contrast color and this not only increases the cognitive access, but makes it easier from a visual standpoint as well.
    • Use the poker tool on the outline of the design to add tactile bumps. This allows anyone who is blind or visually impaired to feel out the design easier.
    • Instead of using the poker tool to make dots to follow, cut the design out and trace it with a high contrast permanent marker. This is much easier to see and follow than those little dots. (A tip within a tip: nail polish remover gets the extra permanent marker lines off when you are done carving!)
    • Tape the stencil to your pumpkin when tracing or outlining with the poker tool. This decreases to motor and cognitive requirements as there are less materials to manage and it reduces the number of times you may lose your spot when tracing.
  • Positioning: Positioning can be a huge challenge with pumpkin carving because there is so much reaching and pulling and sawing and scooping. Some ideas to address this issue:
    • Lower your surface: Make sure your table isn’t too high and making it harder to reach the bottom of your pumpkin from a sitting position.
    • Raise your seat: If you can’t lower your surface, raise yourself to meet the pumpkin. Sit on pillows to decrease that distance.
    • Get a shorter pumpkin: Pumpkins come in all shapes and sizes, so think about how you can use that to your advantage. With a shorter pumpkin, you won’t have to reach as far down to scoop all its guts out or reach as far up to carve the top.
    • Position your pumpkin: Make your pumpkin do the work! Angle it using books or any other prop so that the top is facing you.

Of course, there are a million ways to adapt pumpkin carving and these ideas barely scratch the surface of how to make it universally designed. You can also wear gloves if the gooey-ness of the pumpkin guts isn’t for you or use a spot light if that orange-on-orange contrast makes it hard to see if you’ve scooped it clean. Tell me below what other ideas you have to make pumpkin carving more universally designed!

Happy Halloween!  

Some of the links in this post are part of the Amazon Associate Program and I may earn a small commission when you shop them. Thanks for your support! 

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