A lot of people associate assistive technology with expensive specialty tools or items that are hard to find, but there are plenty of ways to transform or upcycle everyday objects and mainstream technology as assistive technology. As part of an assignment in one of my classes, I created a list of ideas for upcycling yoga mats into assistive technology, and ways to use yoga mats for people with disabilities and occupational therapy contexts that go beyond yoga and exercise. Here are my favorite ideas for upcycling yoga mats into assistive technology in the home environment.
What is assistive technology?
The Technology-Related Assistance to Individuals with Disabilities Act of 1988 (Tech Act) defines an assistive technology device as “any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities.” The Tech Act also defines an assistive technology service as “any service that directly assists an individual with a disability in selection, acquisition or use of an assistive technology device.”
By this definition, a yoga mat can be used as assistive technology for people with disabilities, even if they aren’t traditionally used for tasks related to assistive technology. These projects can be done with either a new yoga mat or a previously used one, but I strongly recommend sanitizing previously used yoga mats before turning them into something else.
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Custom size computer mousepad or switch mat
I started brainstorming ideas for upcycling yoga mats after I discovered that the non-slip surface was a fantastic option for creating a custom size computer mousepad or mat for switch interfaces. I recommend putting a thin layer of fabric on top of the mat, since the surface of a yoga mat is not completely smooth and this can impact mouse precision. To create a custom sized mousepad or switch mat, simply cut the yoga mat to the desired size and use spray adhesive to add a thin layer of fabric on top if needed.
High contrast drawer liner
High contrast drawer liners can make it easier to spot items in a dresser, kitchen drawers, or other areas, and can keep loose items from rolling around as well. Thin yoga mats work best for creating high contrast drawer liners and can be made by cutting the yoga mat to fit the bottom of the drawer. In my experience, the liners do not need additional adhesive to stick to the drawer’s surface.
Providing contrast for other objects/floor mat
A few of my friends have eye conditions that make it difficult to see objects unless they are held against a solid background that is a contrasting color to the object- for example, one of my friends had trouble seeing what color their earrings were until they rested them on a darker colored background that helped to make the colors pop. Solid colored yoga mats can be used to provide additional contrast for items such as toys, puzzles, or similar items so they can easily be located on a table or on the floor.
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Another project for thin yoga mats, jar openers can be created by cutting a yoga mat in a circular shape and placing the anti-slip surface on top of a jar, twisting it to open. This works well for jars that have larger lids that aren’t accommodated by other types of jar openers.
Yoga mats can be used to create an anti-slip surface in a variety of areas within the home. I have anti-slip surfaces in my bedroom next to the bed, in my walk-in closet, and in the kitchen to help with balance, and find that the grip of a yoga mat works great on the floors in my house. It’s worth noting that yoga mats should not be used to create an anti-slip surface in the bathroom or shower, as water can make them more slippery.
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Other options for upcycling yoga mats as assistive technology
- Keyboard pad
- Creating high contrast drink coasters or as a mat for a beverage station at a party
- High contrast placemat for mealtimes
- Puzzle mat for playing board games or working on puzzles