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Single-switch Connection to the World
"I don't think I would still be here if I hadn't gotten this computer," said Wayne Willeby, who lived with Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), better known as Lou Gehrig's disease, from 1987-2005. "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 ever since."
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. Once Wayne found the tools that gave him computer access, he worked for RJ Coooper, searching the web using his adapted method.
ALS eventually caused paralysis throughout Wayne's, body, confining him to a hospital bed. He breathed from a ventilator and used a feeding tube for sustenance. Wayne passed away in 2005.
Grim Prospects At First
The prognosis for ALS, affecting more 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 lived 18 years after his diagnosis. In 2014, much attention was brought to the need for research through the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Millions of dollars were donated to the cause via social media and silly videos of people dumping ice water on themselves.
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 Back
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 enjoyed. Wayne was glad to be back in touch and said he sometimes "runs his eyebrow too much!"
It's important to know that there are many ways to manipulate a computer—not 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!
A Few Simple Tools
The following computer components comprise a foundation for one type of single-switch communication:
First, Wayne's eyebrow switch was attached to a golf hat. The switch plugged into a Sam-joystick, available from RJCooper.com. Sam-joystick and Sam-trackball are especially adaptable for single-switch use like the eyebrow switch.
Then Wayne connected to software for navigation. Wayne used CrossScanner and Onscreen Keyboard, also available through R. J. Cooper. Getting used to typing via software applications instead of using one's fingers takes very little adjustment.
Onscreen is a screen display of a keyboard that appears on a computer monitor, rather than a separate, physical keyboard. Operating systems like Windows and Macintosh both have onscreen keyboards built in now.
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 chosen function.
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 devices—both software and hardware.
Note: Infinitec does not endorse or recommend the above-mentioned products and has no liability for the results of their use. Infinitec 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 is to offer consumers a brief overview of various assistive technology devices and their applications.