Being paralyzed from the neck down is not easy. I have to rely on the assistance of others for most everything such as bathing, dressing, eating, going to the bathroom etc. In order to make all things possible for me, I have 24/7 nursing. Although I have the necessary help around me, I’m always looking for ways to maximize my independence. There is tons of technology out there for people in my situation to be able to do things independently.
Independence is really important and vital for someone in my situation. Not being able to move prevents me from doing any sort of physical activities so I rely on my mind to keep me busy. I don’t like wasting the day away watching TV; it makes me feel very lazy. It feels good when I accomplish tasks myself whether it’s making phone calls, checking my email, writing blog posts etc. This is also why I like to get out of the house, even if I don’t necessarily have to go anywhere for anything.
In order to be as independent as possible, I count on a lot of different technology. The technology we have today allows me to do many things myself. If my accident had happened say 100 years ago, or even 50 years it would make a huge difference in the way I live and how I do things. My life and the activities I’d be able to do would be a lot more limited. Luckily, over the years technology has grown tremendously.
Since I depend on my voice to get tasks done, I use Dragon NaturallySpeaking to run my computer. The program allows me to train the software so that it can recognize what I’m saying and identify my speech patterns. Also, I can create different commands based on things I say often or passwords that I use daily. I’m able to speak into a microphone in order to type and move freely through the Internet. It’s very user-friendly and I like the fact that I can just say what I want and have the words magically appear on the computer. I also use speech recognition for my iPhone called Siri, although someone has to push the button in order for me to speak into it.
I feel the most independent when driving my wheelchair using a Sip and Puff. It’s also known as a breath control, although you don’t actually use your breath to control it. You use pressure to puff into it and sip, just like you would a straw. Which way you move depends on what breath actions you take. When using the S&P, it can be set in a latched mode so you can give it a hard puff to go forward and it will just go. It can also be set on an unlatched mode where you have to continuously puff into it to get it to move, but after a while that gets really tiring and my cheeks start to hurt!
In order to have independence while lying in bed, I used to use a voice-activated Environmental Control Unit by Quartet Technology Inc. This box and microphone gave me all the independence I needed to control things in my environment. It is capable of controlling anything electronic or that can be plugged in. I used to use it for my radio, phone, DVD player, and TV. It’s able to control lights, a bed, lamp, fan etc. There are endless possibilities; it’s easy to train and responds fairly well to voice. I don’t have it hooked up anymore because I spend less time in bed than I use to, but it’s still a great piece of technology.
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 we lost. Technology is growing every day, allowing us to express ourselves and have the ability to do things that we would not otherwise be able to. If you’re in a similar situation, I encourage you to check out some of these products and explore your options.