Connection to the World
"I don't think I would still be here
if I hadn't gotten this computer," says Wayne Willeby,
who has lived with Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), better
known as Lou Gehrig's disease, since 1987. "My computer
lets me do so much. I had nothing to do all day except lay
and watch TV or look out the window from 1991 to 1995. In
1995, I received my first computer and I've been learning
ALS eventually caused paralysis throughout
Wayne's, body, confining him to a hospital bed. He breathes
from a ventilator and has a feeding tube for sustenance.
Before the ALS hit, Wayne lead a very full
life in Warner Robins, Georgia. He completed a tour of duty
in the Navy, and then worked 20 years for the city, maintaining
its gas and water works. Wayne is 55 years old and he's spent
33 of those years with wife, Emily Willeby who is also his
primary caregiver. The Willeby's have two grown sons, as well
as four grandsons.
The prognosis for ALS, affecting more two-thirds men than
women, is not to live for more than 2 to 7 years from onset,
but many of the 20,000 Americans who have ALS are living much
longer. In fact, Wayne is still here 16 years after his diagnosis.
A big part of longevity may be attributed
to assistive technology because assistive devices allow a
person to interact with the world. If someone is unable to
interact with their loved ones and their environment, they
are literally trapped in a very sad and solitary confinement.
Getting One's Life
It took some time, but once Wayne found a way to manipulate
a computer with an alternative mouse using eyebrow twitches,
he reconnected with the world and so many of the things he
enjoys. Wayne is glad to be back in touch and says he sometimes
"runs his eyebrow too much!"
It's important to know that there are many
ways to manipulate a computernot just with a mouse and
a healthy set of fingers. A computer can be accessed through
a head-pointer, a mouth-stick, eye-gazing, use of toes, puff
'n sip devices, and many other alternative mice or switches.
There's something for just about everyone to fight his or
her way back out of the bag!
A Few Simple Tools
The following computer components comprise a foundation for
one type of single-switch communication:
First, Wayne's eyebrow switch attaches to
a golf hat that plugs into his Sam-joystick, available from
Words +, http://www.words-plus.com/.
Sam-joystick and Sam-trackball are especially adaptable for
single-switch use like the eyebrow switch.
Then Wayne can connect to software for navigation.
Wayne uses CrossScanner and Onscreen Keyboard, both available
through R. J. Cooper: http://www.rjcooper.com/.
Getting used to typing via software applications instead of
using one's fingers takes very little adjustment.
Onscreen is a screen display that appears
on a computer monitor, rather than a separate, physical keyboard.
The CrossScanner works like this: the first
click starts a line-scan down the screen. The next click designates
the desired vertical point. If double-click, Drag, or Text
Entry is active, an icon window pops for the user to select
a finger-scan or other options. The final click tells the
computer to move the cursor to that point and perform the
Speech software is free from Real One player-just download
and install onto your computer from the Real One Guide here:
AOL members also can download and play various, free software
programs, including Wav sounds, on http://www.aol.com
or check out CHIP Speaking Software here: http://www.chipspeaking.com/
Now Wayne can navigate his way around the
Internet, exchange email, and use synthetic speech to communicate
audibly; that's how he contacted the Infinitec Web site.
Wayne also loves music, sports, and television
and now he can download audio files, watch video clips, and
read everything. The Willeby's baby, black, pug dog, Buddy,
takes care of the rest of the entertainment. So even though
ALS is so disabling, a few simple tools mean a much better
life for Wayne and holds out hope for many others living with
ALS. If you'd like to speak with Wayne about any of the technology
he uses, contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Go to Closing The Gap to search their Resource Directory to
find other types of single-switches and alternative mice.
Closing The Gap provides a comprehensive list of assistive
devicesboth software and hardware: http://www.closingthegap.com/
Note: Infinitec Inc. does not endorse or recommend the above-mentioned
products and has no liability for the results of their use.
Infinitec Inc. has received no consideration of any type for
featuring this product on this Web site. The information offered
herein is a summary; it is not comprehensive and should be
carefully evaluated by consumers with the assistance of qualified
professionals. The intention of Infinitec Inc. is to offer
consumers a brief overview of various assistive technology
devices and their applications.