For those of us who lack independence, technology can be a powerful thing. It frees us from our inability to communicate otherwise. It is our way of gaining back the independence that we lost or do not have. Technology is growing every day, allowing us to express ourselves and have the independence to do things that we would not otherwise be able to.
I myself use technology for daily activities. In order to type and move freely through the Internet I use a voice-activated program called Dragon NaturallySpeaking. I am able to speak into a microphone and use commands that allow me to independently use a computer. It is so easy to use and cool that you can just say what you want and have the words magically appear on the computer. If you click on the link, there is a video demonstration of how Dragon works.
Also, in order to have independence while lying in bed, I use a voice-activated Environmental Control Unit by Quartet Technology Inc. This box and microphone give me all the independence I need to control things in my environment. It is capable of controlling anything electronic or that can be plugged in. I use it for my radio, phone, DVD player, and TV. It is able to control lights as well, however, it doesn't work with my lights because it is not on the same strip. If I wanted to, I could have it control my bed, lamp, fan etc. There are endless possibilities. It is very easy to train and responds fairly well to my voice. By the way, his name is Denver. He repeats everything I say to him. He is very polite and says excuse me when he doesn't understand what I say.
The last piece of technology that I use every day allows me to move freely without help. It is called a Tongue Touch Keypad by newabilities. By using my tongue, I am able to drive my wheelchair with ease. The Tongue Touch Keypad fits in the roof of my mouth similar to a retainer. It has nine buttons to choose from and there is a menu screen with a choice of nine options. If I push the back left button (chair), I will be able to move my wheelchair. If I push the front button (position), I can tilt or recline. There are other features to the chair that work with the Tongue Touch that I don't have. If I wanted to, I have the option to use the Tongue Touch for my computer and environmental controls such as the lights and TV. However, these fancy features come at a cost. I would have to buy each one separately. If you click on the link above, the newabilities website will show you all the features and tell you about the Tongue Touch Keypad.
The Tongue Touch Keypad does have its faults. Because it is a wireless device, other things sometimes interfere. I may be in an elevator and if I'm not on the park mode, the interference will push buttons and make the wheelchair start moving by itself. Funny sounding, but not fun when I'm driving and the interference will make it so I can't stop and I run into walls. I guess it is kind of funny when I think about it after the fact.
I am thrilled to have this type of technology in my life. It is only a matter of time before they come up with something new that will help me become more independent. Often times I have people guess how I drive my wheelchair. Most of them say "with your eyes" or "with your mind". It sounds crazy but this technology is out there. I watched this on 60 minutes a couple of weeks ago. There is a cap that fits over your head and measures your brain and thoughts. It is able to determine which letters you want to use to type on a computer just by you thinking it. I wanted to post the video, however, there was an error. Click here to see the video called "Harnessing the Power of the Brain".
Just think of the other possibilities. I am excited to have shared this technology with you. If you would like to purchase Dragon NaturallySpeaking or the Environmental Control Unit by Quartet, or if you would like to find out more about assistive technology, click here to contact The Speech Gurus.