Paralysed PC User – My Story
My name is Mike and I’m paralysed from the neck down. Despite this, I am still able to use a PC. I would like to share this information in the hope that it helps others who are Tetraplegic.
After trying various operating systems I decided to stick with Windows. At the time of writing this article Windows 10 is working just fine for me. I chose windows as it had the widest support for specialised input devices and software.
Do not waste your time and money buying cheap hardware. It really is worth buying a decent specification PC. Get the fastest processor and the most RAM that you can afford.
Obviously, to use a computer you need to be able to interact with it. I’m able to talk and just about rotate my left wrist to press a button. This is just enough for me to be able to use a couple of methods.
If you are able to press a button then you are able to use a computer. There are large buttons, micro buttons and proximity switches. I am currently using a mouth operated switch. It works by suckling on a straw type gadget.
A mouse can be a difficult device to use if you haven’t got much dexterity. In such cases, a tracker ball can really help. It’s much easier to control and has various buttons that can be programmed.
There also various different types of keyboards that can be purchased. It really is worth searching in Google or Amazon to get an idea of what’s out there.
I used a neat little device capable of tracking my eye movement. This allowed me to move the cursor around the screen. It can also be configured to double-click the mouse et cetera.
Voice control is my current preferred method. Again make sure you use quality hardware for the microphone et cetera. It really does make a difference.
There is a neat piece of software called Grid by Smartbox. It really is a fantastic product for those who cannot use a keyboard et cetera. Just using one button you are able to browse a website, open a program and much much more. It can be used in conjunction with remote control software. Just think you could turn over the TV or send an email to your friend. It really does give you more freedom.
These days I pretty much just use DragonDictate by Nuance to control the PC. As its name suggests its primary use is for hands-free dictation. However, with patience Dragon is really functional. I can open and close programs and dictate text for emails et cetera. Be aware that there are circumstances in that you will need somebody to press a button for you. I have been caught out frequently by an annoying box that I could not click. I had to sit looking at the screen for over an hour until my carer arrived. Remember that using such technologies requires great patience!
Unfortunately one of the downsides of using voice control is background noise. I found that when I worked in the office the background chatter would confuse my PC. Again I did find that quality microphones help, but not completely solve the problem. This also means that I can’t listen to AC/DC whilst perusing the World Wide Web.
I cannot state enough how much better my life is using the above. I only the house for hospital appointments et cetera. So being able to communicate with people out there in Normal Land is really liberating. Also, it offers me some anonymity which is also a welcome change.
Please forward this information to anybody you think may benefit.
For further information, people in the UK can contact NHS Assistive Technologies. They can be found with a simple web search.
Feel free to comment below if you have any feedback or questions.