Friday, April 26, 2013

Computer Access Success Story

Recently, I have had the opportunity to work with a wonderful man, Dan, who has reminded me why I love my job.  Dan, who was referred by  New Jersey's Division of Vocational Rehabilitation program, works as an Avon consultant, which entails quite a bit of computer work.  Because of his physical disability, he had difficulty being able to complete his work in a timely fashion and without a great deal of fatigue.  When I met Dan, he already had a wheelchair accessible desk and a large key keyboard (Big Keys).  He identified several issues with his computer access—he had difficulty seeing his mouse cursor, seeing smaller fonts on the monitor, and switching between his mouse and keyboard.  He also became very fatigued when typing on his keyboard. 

After observation, discussion, and consideration of many different options, specific tools were identified for a trial period.  To address his visual concerns, he trialed Zoomtext Express, which provides some basic Zoomtext features, including the ability to have an enlarged and colored mouse cursor and screen magnification.  Dan found this tool to meet his needs visually. 

He also trialed an Intellikeys keyboard with the Qwerty USB Overlay and a keyguard, which provides mouse and keyboard access on the same overlay.  This allowed him to use the mouse without having to switch between the keyboard and the mouse.  Even though he was pretty certain he would not like to use a keyguard (based on past experience), he agreed to give it one more consideration.  After tweaking the Intellikeys settings in the Intellikeys USB Control Panel, he found that there were several advantages to the keyguard, one of which was preventing the cat from messing up his documents when walking across the keyboard, many, and I mean many, times per day :).  The Intellikeys with the keyguard was very successful at minimizing his fatigue, while providing him with access to keys that were not available on the Big Keys Keyboard. 

Lastly, he trialed Word Q word prediction software.  He found that although this software did not speed his typing up significantly, it did allow him to type with less fatigue.  We were able to add in some Avon terminology to this software, which helped him type some words/phrases with many fewer keystrokes.  He has found the text-to-speech feedback from this software to be extremely helpful.  This allows him to hear each letter that he presses, and helps him to rely less on his vision, which has helped to decrease his fatigue. 

After receiving his assistive technology, Dan found he was having difficulty keeping the Intellikeys keyboard in the position he found least fatiguing to work in.  After some troubleshooting to find the optimal position, we discussed how we were going to keep the keyboard in that position.  Enter my fabulous co-worker, Doug Reid, Rehabilitation Technician at Advancing Opportunities, who fabricates custom solutions in a big truck he drives around the state.  He was able to create a desk mount for the Intellikeys that keeps the keyboard in the optimal position.  Dan is able to pull his wheelchair directly up to the keyboard, therefore eliminating the need for him to reach for and position the keyboard himself.  Doug set this up as a temporary solution using Velcro until Dan had enough time to make sure the keyboard was in the exact position he wanted.  Turns out it was, and Doug has since returned to make the desk mount more permanently attached to Dan’s desk. 

With these tools, Dan has found that he can use the computer for longer periods of time with less fatigue.  Because he is using the computer so much more, he began to have cramping in his hand, caused by isolating his index finger for a prolonged period of time.  Dan was provided a typing aide to determine if this helped him type, as he would not have to keep his index finger isolated.  This typing aide was also altered by Doug to better fit his hand.  It was cut shorter so that it was a more natural extension of his hand, and the hand strap was stretched slightly to allow him to get the typing aide on and off independently. 

This was truly a team effort, with time spent on small details that add up to faster, more efficient computer access. 

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