AccessAdvisr Blog

In this blog I'm going to talk about technology, my fascination with it and the tremendously positive impact it has had on my life.

Rob

As a disabled person One of the ways to help me achieve more has been very through the use of technology.

My first recollection of what would now be termed ‘assistive technology (AT) was back in the 60s. As a youngster I tested wearing a pair of spectacles with a beam of light projecting from the rims onto a keyboard. Resting the lights on a number or letter on the keyboard for a few seconds would cause the typewriter (anyone remember typewriters!?) to select that letter.

This then progressed into the 70s and I was asked to use a typewriter called POSM, which I think stands for Patient Operated Selected Mechanism. This worked by using my fingers to press a number of switches. Different combinations would cause a key to be pressed. I think though that this was one of those occasions where the benefits of technology was not enough to outweigh the fact that I much preferred the ‘analog’ method of writing with a pen or pencil held in my mouth. The other problem was that I was so focused on working the machine that I found it very difficult to compose my thoughts at the same time as typing.

Of course, what was cutting edge back then is a blunt blade now!

Even powered chairs have improved in leaps and bounds since I was at school. It's hard to imagine that once they could only be used indoors and that the idea of taking them anywhere outside was considered too risky. I’m currently ‘driving’ an Ottobock B400 and it certainly meets my needs and is very comfortable.

The most fantastic technological innovation that I tried at school came during a trip to the Transport and the Road Research Laboratory in Bracknell. At the age of 15 I was able to test drive a car and a coach using a joystick. It turned out that I was better with the coach than the car which I think owed something to my grandfather who was a coach driver and was often telling me how he drove!

From that moment on I dreamt of being able to drive. Apart from the prohibitive cost there were other setbacks. Such as the time when I wrote to a specialist manufacturer to enquire about driving using a joystick. Their reply was that I would probably only be driving for five years and therefore shouldn't bother. Very inspirational!

But I held onto that dream. And then in my mid 40s the government introduced a fund for disabled people who needed complex technology to help with driving. To cut a long story short I've been driving a vehicle from my wheelchair for over 15 years now. I had seven glorious years driving a Mercedes Vito, and I’m now getting the max out of my VW Transporter. I'm currently awaiting my third van, another VW.

Being able to drive meant so much to me. As a father I was able to drive my daughter to school, and later out with friends. As a husband it has meant that my wife and I am able to go on days out and I am able to take my powered chair which means I do not have to be pushed everywhere (which I hate). As an employee it meant I no longer had to rely on people to give me lift to and from work. Of course, I can also visit places to do video accessibility reviews for AccessAdvisr, such as this video of a visit to Wembley Stadium.

Technology has even helped with my art. Thanks to REMAP (Retired Engineers Make Anything Possible!) I now have an electronic easel which allows me to tilt, raise and lower canvases when I'm painting. Here's a video of my in my studio.

Sometimes even low tech solutions are useful. This video on the AccesAdvisr YouTube channel shows me using a feeding device which is basically a poll with a magnet in the middle. Again it is free to meet up from relying on people having to feed me. Wonderful!

And of course computers. I have composed this blog mainly using my voice which really speeds up the time that it takes. Yes there is some re-editing to do, but overall it is much easier.

Of course there are downsides to technology, but as a disabled person I am really looking forward to whatever comes next.

Rob Trent