Sunday, June 6, 2010

Finding Independence

A week ago I went to Gillette Lifetime clinic in St. Paul for an occupational therapy appointment. My plan was to see if they could help me find some things that could make me more independent.

The first thing we talked about was an automatic page turner. A switch could be attached to it that I could push with my cheek or chin to turn the pages. I picked one of two options that I liked. I didn't realize it but page turner's aren't cheap. It would cost a little over $3000 for it. The other one was almost twice as much. I'm sure I could get an outside source to pay for it. It would be great for my school textbooks. I've tried reading books on my computer before but it's just too difficult. It hurts my eyes to look at the screen for too long. I also thought about a portable e-reader such as the Amazon Kindle or nook from Barnes & Noble, but someone would still have to push the button to turn the page. They don't have anything out there like that that's voice-activated or able to operated by a switch.

The second thing I looked at was an environmental control unit that can be activated by any type of switch. When I was there, I found out I could operate it by a switch using my left thumb. The only problem is that my hand doesn't always cooperate and if it's tight, I'm unable to move it. The other option is to mount the switch to my wheelchair and have it come around to my cheek. I could then push my cheek out using my tongue to hit the switch. That's probably going to be the best option.

Sadly, New Abilities, the company that I got my tongue touch keypad from, went out of business. Apparently it happened last summer. I received a letter from them at the time that explained this but when I called, they denied it. I'm guessing they just wanted people to keep sending them money because they didn't have any funding left. When I was at Gillette, the OT confirmed with me that they weren't in business anymore and that they had called telling them not to refer anyone.

The third thing we talked about were other options for driving my wheelchair. The three that could possibly work for me would be a sip and puff, a chin joystick or head control. I need to call another company, Reliable, to set up an appointment to go over this further. I think I might try the sip and puff first because I've tried the chin joystick before and I don't think I want that and also I don't have much head control so that way might be hard.

*Note: Wheelchair Troubles-I wrote this post a few days ago but hadn't published it yet. Two days ago my electric wheelchair all of a sudden stopped working. After looking for a while, we found a cord that had been pinched and had exposed wires. That's the reason the electric part in the chair went out. It is able to be moved manually, but it is very heavy and hard to move. Also, the tilt and recline mechanism is out as well. The last two days I've had to use my manual wheelchair. It is the most uncomfortable thing to sit in; I don't know how I did it for 3 1/2 years. I'm going in to reliable medical tomorrow so they can hopefully replace the cord. Then I'm going to talk to them about other options for driving my wheelchair.



Greg said...

Every state has an office of vocational rehabilitation. This agency should be helping you with assistive technology to get through school so that you can become gainfully employed. It's one of the best resources for funding. Please look them up in your area for assistance. Hope this helps!

Matthew Smith said...

Hi Jenni,

Sorry to hear your powerchair has packed up yet again! Perhaps they could find a way of getting you a more comfortable manual chair because it seems you are going to be needing one quite a lot if your powerchair keeps playing up.

As for New Abilities, I really feel for all those who have no head movement as that is really the only way they have to control their wheelchairs short of putting a sip puff straw in their mouth permanently. I saw the company's website and it's really poor (it's still up) - all Flash, a "client stories" page which has just one (about Brooke Ellison), music that starts without you asking it to, and so on.

It's a pity that they've just gone under - I hope they can sell the technology as it's obviously valuable for many people. The Tongue Touch only works on Invacare chairs anyway, so perhaps Invacare will buy out the technology.

sd said...

I am sorry you are without your

Elizabeth-Plain and Simple said...

My nephew uses the sip n puff and he gets around very well in it. We also attach his cell phone to his straw and he is able to use his phone with a tooth pick that he either keeps in his mouth or puts into the end of the straw. He likes his chair. I hope you are able to find one that you like as well. Have a nice week.