The case for a cheap "cosmetic" PVC glove for the prosthetic hand

After trying *a lot* [1] I started to wear a "cosmetic" PVC glove on my Becker Imperial hand. For some reasons this turns out to be almost perfect for a range of very non-obvious reasons for many situations.

[1] I tried silicone gloves, hooks, grippers, myoelectric, cosmetic, rubber covers, nitrile covers, leather gloves.

When (metrically) I get the stares matters: close range is better than medium or far range

To understand what I am saying now there are some things to know and to take into account.

One is that many people have limited vision and limited attention span, even more so inasmuch as stuff "close enough for rock'n'roll"  is concerned. So, getting my prosthetic hand to approximate rather than perfectly emulate a natural look is perfectly enough for the average distance of 3-8 meters encountered in almost all public places. In other words, more cosmetic perfection is wasted.

Because the competitor for cosmetic PVC gloves for prosthetic hands obviously are silicone gloves. However they stick to anything real well, it is very hard to slip an arm into the sleeve of a jacket or coat, and the glove will give away its prosthetic nature at the latest once you leave a place and try to put on your jacket. Sure there are tricks but they are rather conspicuous. So while I love my cosmetic arm, it is a bitch to wear in winter.

Secondly, realize that people always will notice I am wearing a prosthetic hand. Question is when, or, measured in meters, from what distance.PVC gloves are elegant in that they allow me to fly under the radar for distances over 3-4 meters (so I attract virtually no stares that are too far away to respond to anyway), I can put on my jacket without drawing attention by too many (as PVC gloves don't stick to the sleeves of jackets as silicone gloves do) - and for distances below 3-4 meters, people will realize very fast that I am wearing a prosthetic as the PVC glove is fast and easy to recognize as artificial over any close range distance and no further discussion are needed. Below 3-4 meters, I can react, and social inhibitions function whereas over 4 meters staring can be very hard to tolerate or react to.

In a way, a distance-stress/stare/shock-relationship that is implicit to my everyday life is addressed quite elegantly by wearing a PVC glove.

In summary, the PVC glove will do two things inasmuch as staring in public is concerned:

- I can slip the prosthetic arm into almost any sleeve without drama as PVC is slippery enough for that

- It will look next to natural over distances over 3-4 meters. Conversely it will look most unnatural for close ranges.

These facts at once save me both far to medium distance stares as well as close distance discussions. Talk about catching two flies with one trap.

Grip function

Soft surfaces that are between stiff and deformable are the pinnacle of grip function (see in-depth article). They are the ultimate enhance to life beyond natural hands.

With a perfectly deformable surface, I can save on both

- claw / finger count: two fingers are enough to hold any object provided perfect friction;

- grip strength / closing force: maximum friction allows minimal closing strength.

Currently I need to cut down on closing force because for body powered arms, shoulder harness force is applied for opening the prosthetic device that is voluntary opening. Such as most hooks or Becker hands.

This is because my non-disabled arm slowly becomes disabled from being disabled. That means for me to minimize on force / power and maximize on clever engineering.

Group responsibilities

There are two groups in this that I find end up sharing responsibilities and that end up with their share of the problem:

a) arm amputees, and

b) the rest.

As this concerns mainly shared aspects - a glove is worn by me and looked at by others - it makes sense to address group issues here.

Largely, non-disabled people (b) are assumed to be and practically responsible to do the following:

- pay taxes and insurance money,

- propose, judge over or carry out research,

- develop prosthetic solutions and

- grant them to me, or, sell them to people like me (a).

In other words: if y'all are fixin' yourself to waste all of y'all's money on research that ain't goin' exactly nowhere, and if y'all fail to set up a system that makes sure money is spent in any better way, and if then all of y'all just put hand(s) in the pockets and don't give a damn - then I will also just follow the flow of things and wear what my orthopedic technician can round up without goin' thru heaps'n'hollers. Sometimes I go out of my way of duty to pretty the arm up - but just sometimes.

At the end of the day, I only go through so and so much crap to get my prosthetic arm running and functional. After that, I will resign and do other stuff. I found that limiting the amount of drama to real performance issues (see above) makes life easier and generates a far better End Of Day Feeling EODF - that being the ultimate measure for prosthetic function.

So at this moment - actually, yesterday - a friend told me that the PVC glove look really shocked him and he had to get used to it. But in a world where we share the burden, it is alright for others to get distressed too, particularly if the trigger is one that is pre-selected, fabricated, officially imported and specifically sold as that which it is to shock others. In other words: maybe it was all of y'all's decision to live in that cheap B-movie that I seem to get the props for - and if you ask for it, you get it.


PVC gloves are a perfect compromise for minimizing power, maximizing grip, and fixing the social aspects of not staring and staring at the right distance level of about 3-4 meters (see above).

They exude exactly the type of loving care and attention that society puts into that type of thing. If anyone has a problem with that, it is their problem. They are rather easy to order and to get paid as they are cheap enough to fly under the insurance's radar.

Great stuff. Who'd a thunk it.

Cite this article:
Wolf Schweitzer: Technical Below Elbow Amputee Issues - The case for a cheap "cosmetic" PVC glove for the prosthetic hand; published 09/02/2011, 00:07; URL:

BibTeX: @MISC{schweitzer_wolf_1620365184, author = {Wolf Schweitzer}, title = {{Technical Below Elbow Amputee Issues - The case for a cheap "cosmetic" PVC glove for the prosthetic hand}}, month = {February},year = {2011}, url = {}}

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