30 Days of Thanks Day 29: Technology

Today I saw an online video advertisement for a “lazy arm.” This device mounts to a table or headboard and holds a person’s tablet or smartphone. While the advertisement touted it as perfect for “your lazy friend,” I thought of disabled people I know who could find more independence with this device.

This afternoon I used my phone to connect with friends in Texas, Tasmania, and Alaska. I confirmed my doctor appointment and booked my paratransit bus for tomorrow without needing to make a phone call.

Tonight I will sleep using a machine that has a computer chip to record my breathing. When my doctor needs to know about my sleep and breathing patterns I simply eject the child and bring it to the office.

Every day, my life is made more independent by technology. Some advancements are large, and sometimes the simplest technology is the most profound. I am grateful for the increased access, and I look forward to what is coming next.

30 Days of Thanks Day 5: My Mouse

In 2005 I transitioned from a clinical job to a desk job in a cube farm. Shortly after, I started to have sharp shooting pain down my left arm. It took me a few months to figure out it was related to computer use.

I had always used a right handed mouse with my left hand. It started when the only accessible computer in the computer lab at college had a short cord that would not reach my contracted right arm.

Once I realized what was causing the pain, I immediately sought a way to stop it. My physical therapist and the ergonomic consultant at work suggested I try a different input device for my mouse.

The first time I tried the Contour RollerMouse, I was hooked. This piece of technology has kept me typing using my hands and delayed the use of voice recognition software. I am especially grateful for it today since I have spent seven hours (so far) on a work project that must be completed before the end of the day tomorrow.


*I am not receiving compensation for endorsing this product.

Redefining Disability Challenge – Question 28

Each Wednesday, I post my response to a question from the Redefining Disability Challenge. This is my response to the twenty eighth question in the Challenge. As usual, I am not looking ahead to future questions, so I may inadvertently address some topics which will come up later in the Challenge. Here is this week’s question:

Do you or someone you know use adaptive equipment/adaptive technology and how does that affect your life?

I use many pieces of adaptive equipment in my daily life. My wheelchair, the modified van I drive, the roller-bar mouse I use – these are just a few of the many technologies I rely on to function. Without these technological advances, I would need more assistance.

But without question the one piece of adaptive equipment I rely on most (after my wheelchair of course) is a simple reacher. Specifically, I prefer the Sammons Preston® Feather Reach™ Economy Reacher. I am not receiving any compensation to write about their product, and their product is by no means the only reacher on the market.

Photo of two reachers with claw grip.
Image courtesy of Patterson Medical

For me, this simple tool has been a part of my life for twenty years. My arm contractures and muscle weakness make it impossible for me to lift my arms over my head or extend an outstretched arm to reach something.

Having a reacher increases my functionality at a low cost. Granted, I am rough on reachers and go through at least four per year. However, it is much cheaper to spend $80 annually on a device than spend money for a Personal Assistant to work additional hours.

Most importantly, my reacher makes it possible for me to operate a vehicle independently. I don’t drive from my wheelchair. I lock my chair in place behind my driver seat, and transfer into the seat to drive.

The locking mechanism which keeps my  chair safely in place has a release button mounted on the side of my van. When I am ready to exit my vehicle, I push the button to release my chair, wheel down the ramp and go on my way.

My arms do not reach the button. The only way I can reach the release button is to use a reacher.

Without a reacher, I don’t drive. If I don’t drive, I don’t work. If I don’t work, I can’t afford to keep my apartment or my van.

My reacher travels everywhere with me. In fact, I have a spare I keep in my van. And another on in my bedroom. And a third in my office.

So, you can sing the praises of high tech devices which doubtless improve life for many. But I’ll take a cheap reacher as my go-to device any day.