Monday, August 27, 2012

FAQs: How My Computer Works

How does someone who doesn't have use of their hands use a computer? It's a great question that I've been asked several times, so here's a post explaining how things work. I have a laptop computer and there are two programs I use to help me navigate around the computer by myself.

The first program is a voice activated/voice dictation program called Dragon NaturallySpeaking. You train your voice into the computer by reading a script that comes with the program. After you train your voice then the computer recognizes how you speak and say words. I wear a headset with microphone attached to it, and when I speak the program recognizes the words and commands I give it. (However, the program isn't 100% accurate and doesn't always write down everything I dictate correctly. When it makes mistakes I have to go back and correct them.) In the 7+ years that I've been using Dragon NaturallySpeaking, several new editions have come out and each one has gotten better and better at correctly recognizing what I say.

The other thing I use to help me use my computer is called a head mouse. A piece of equipment that looks very similar to a web cam attaches to the top of my laptop screen, and a special infrared sticker (about the size of a hole punch) is stuck to the microphone on the headset that I wear. When I move my head from side to side or up and down, the head mouse attached to the top of the laptop tracks the movement and that's how I move the cursor/mouse. When I have the arrow or cursor on the right spot, I give a command like "mouse click" or "mouse double-click" to make the computer do what I want. When I want to write an e-mail I just pull up DragonPad and dictate a document that I can then cut and paste onto Yahoo when I'm ready to send it.

Several people have also asked me how I use my camera. Unfortunately, there isn't any adaptive technology that I'm aware of that would enable me to take my own pictures. It would be great if I could since I've always had a fascination with cameras and photography, but since there isn't I'm at the mercy of other people to use my camera to take pictures for me. Sometimes it's frustrating to have to try to explain to other people what sort of technique to use to capture the exact sort of shot that I'm going for, but I think I fare pretty well for the most part. My mom and younger sister Chandra are the ones who usually take pictures for me and they usually oblige me anytime I say, "Get the camera!"

I get on my computer just about every day (unless I have somewhere to go) and I spend the majority of the day on my computer (usually around 10-12 hours – no exaggeration!). Lots of people ask me what I do when I'm on my computer. I can do anything that able-bodied people can, like e-mail, blog, Facebook, Pinterest, shop, work on various projects (like slideshows or my Shutterfly photo books), research things, listen to audio books, watch movies/shows, etc. I'm always busy doing something.

I'm so grateful for modern technology and for the programs that enable me to use a computer all by myself without needing the assistance of others. It's a really liberating feeling to do something so normal, especially since there are so many things I can't do (or need assistance doing).

Here are a few pictures of my laptop. I have a nice 17.5" screen (if it were smaller I wouldn't be able to see things near as well, so that's why I got the biggest laptop I could). Next is a close-up of my head mouse.
Here are two pictures of me "in action." (My hair is a mess and I don't have any makeup on, so excuse me for looking like a hot mess!) If you look closely at the picture below you can see the little infrared sticker stuck to this side of my microphone. My head mouse (pictured above) tracks the movement of my head so that when I move my head, my mouse/cursor moves on the computer screen as well.


Elaine said...

Wow! THIS is the question I've wanted an answer to. Thank you. What a blessing to live in this day with so much technology. Thanks for sharing, Heather.

nicole said...

Yes, I wondered about this too. Thanks foe sharing.

Gina @ Inky Ed! said...

I remember from a while back looking at possible camera options for my son who has CP that there is something called 'tethered shooting' for cameras that allows you to control your camera with your computer. Also the Lytro LIght Field camera might be an interesting option (focusing isn't so important where as framing probably is) so you can play with the images later. Have you seen it?

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