GAME CHANGERS FOR LIVING WITH PARALYSIS.
By: Kevin Leonard
Throughout the rest of the year I am going to write about eight things that have been game changers in my life. I have been a C5 - C6 quadriplegic for over 30 years and have seen a lot of things change regarding technology and equipment.
These eight things have allowed me to live my life more independently.
1. Surehands Lift (need a lift?).
When I was first injured it was always necessary for me to find two people to help transfer me into my chair. This was extremely hard on my body, as well as the people doing the transferring. It was also necessary to find two people so there were times that I was unable to get up, because I plain and simply did not have the "muscle" to do so.
I found a device called a Surehands Lift that literally "saved my life". Now, one person can assist me in and out of my chair. I no longer have to worry about being bounced, having two people available and worried about friends and family with sore backs. I also purchased a portable one that helps with travel. It is truly like having another set of hands, and one of the key things that distinguish it from other lifts is that I don't have anything underneath me after I sit down.
I have also found it in three hotels, so it has helped with travel. They have ceiling mounted units in the Mirage, Treasure Island, and Bellagio in Las Vegas, making it the most accessible city in the world. I use a wall mount unit because of vaulted ceilings in my home, my portable unit will fit in my van and the hotel units are all ceiling mounted units. Just like in anything else you do find in a good representative to work with is always half the battle. My friend and our local representative Gary Stoops has been terrific to work with. You can reach Gary at: email@example.com and find more information at www.Surehands.com
2. When a Wheelchair is Not Just a Wheelchair.
Needless to say I have had a lot of wheelchairs over the years and I have seen them change in look and function. In the beginning, I had a chair where the back would go back electrically and you could raise the foot rests manually. What I was unaware of in the beginning and what I think a lot of people are unaware of when getting a wheelchair is that it is imperative to get one that fits you.
If you do not get a wheelchair that fits your needs you are setting yourself up for health problems. Always work with a seating and mobility specialist to make sure you get the right one for you.
I chose the "Cadillac" of wheelchairs the Permobil Street and this is my second one. Anyone that knows me has seen me in my chair but very few people know what all it does. My Permobil Street Power Wheelchair comes with a 10" Seat Lift, Electric Recline, Electric Tilt, and Electric Legs.
Permobil is a Swedish company that has been around for 40 years and they have a headquarters in Nashville Tennessee. It is a rear wheel drive chair which is rare for Permobil as most of their chairs are front wheel or mid-wheel chairs.
It's not the rear wheel drive that makes it special – even if that’s unusual for a Permobil. What’s special about the Street is that the functions of the wheelchair are so geared towards solving the problems posed by city life. The mere fact that the Street manages 7.5 mph goes a long way towards getting around the city in less time. The Street is designed to handle narrow and awkward spaces. The 4-wheel adjustable independent suspension system provides a smooth, comfortable ride.
One of the benefits of the 10 inch elevator is so that I can reach things that are up too high and it is also terrific for concerts. If someone stands up in front of me I raise my chair up. It also works perfect for rising up to eye level to kiss my wife!
So, shop around and make sure you get what will work best for you and make sure you work with a seating and mobility specialist so that whatever you purchase fits you correctly. Here is some information on Permobil: www.Permobil.com, General Information: firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 1- 800.736.0925
3. Dragon Naturally Speaking Voice Activation Software
As a quadriplegic, Dragon Naturally Speaking allows me to use the computer. I can tell my PC what to do and watch words quickly appear. It allows me to create documents three times faster than typing by hand with up to 99% accuracy with no spelling mistakes. I can dictate, send e-mail, create PowerPoint presentations, surf the web, and more using just my voice at 130 words per minute.
I use Dragon Naturally Speaking at work and at home. At home, I have my laptop on a bedside table and my microphone on a microphone stand so that I can work hands-free while lying down. There is nothing I can't do with a computer using Dragon. Besides work, I buy and sell using my Ameritrade account, buy and sell on eBay, play fantasy football, Facebook and surf the net, just to name a few things.
Dragon Naturally Speaking is used a lot in the medical field, including MRI and x-ray transcription. There is a small percentage of people who use it because of disability but absolutely essential. When I first started using Dragon 20 years ago it was literally one word at a time. Now, it is so much better that one word at a time does not really even work anymore; it wants you to talk normally. I have heard people say they tried it once a long time ago but it was not very accurate. There is no way to compare how it used to be to where it is now other than to say it is 100% better. It is like a child though because if you correct it when it makes a mistake, it will become smarter. If you don't, it will continue to make the same mistakes.
It is quite simply the best voice activation software available. I was taught how to use it by Elicia Flom "The Dragon Lady" from a company called CHESS out of Reynoldsburg. 614 - 861-0972 or CHESS@yahoo.com It is made by a company called Nuance 1-888-372-1908 or www.Nuance.com.
You have to have a clear concise speech pattern for it to work successfully. The few times it has not worked well I had a bad cold and my voice had changed. You can have multiple users but each user has to train it to their specific voice and you switch users. There are a number of different versions you can choose from ranging from $100-$600 from home to professional versions. I use the professional version which costs more but it also does more.
You need a somewhat quiet area to work but the microphones have improved so much that you can have music or the television on in the background without it affecting it. It is also important to have a quality headset. At work I use a wireless headset so I can move around. When I am not using it I put it on the cradle to charge. At home I use a wired headset so that I don't have to try to hang it up to charge. I recommend the Blue Parrot VXI 250 wireless headset. Your voice quality will only be as good as the headset you are using.
In a funny story, we met with a teacher who was having trouble with Dragon. It was working for her at school but not at home. After troubleshooting the problem she finally said, "the students are really getting to me and when I get home I drink wine." To resolve the problem, we trained Dragon at school to her school voice and trained Dragon at her home to her wine voice. I told her, "please don't have us come back out and train it to your Jack Daniel's voice."
Without voice activation software like Dragon I would not be able to do my job effectively. It truly allows me to be as productive as the next person and in many cases more productive due to its speed and accuracy. It is truly a "GAME CHANGER"!
Voice IR System!
I use a Voice IR (infrared) system with 120 voice commands. I can talk to my television, ceiling fan, heater, light, air conditioner, oscillating fan and Bose123 sound system. What does that mean for me? I can turn the overhead fan, oscillating fan or air conditioner on when I am hot, the heater when I am cold, the television when I want entertainment, turn the light on or off and independently play my music.
This allows for much-needed independence at home. Being a quadriplegic, temperature has always been an issue so being able to change it has truly been a game changer. The receiver has good recognition and I have it mounted on a cabinet at the head of the bed about 3 feet away. The commands are broken down into four sections and you get a different response for each section. So if I want to change the station I say "sound system" and it says "yes sir" and then you tell it the command. The command could be one of many things like CNBC and the channel will change or volume up. If I want to change the temperature I say "temperature control" and it says "how can I help you". If I say macro control I can do a number of commands all at once. So, I say "macro control" and it says "at your service" and I can say something I programmed which is "morning routine". The light comes on, oscillating fan comes on, television comes on and goes to ESPN news and then mute's so that I have captioning, the Bose123 comes on so I have music. All of that with one macro command.
You can create any commands you want as long as the appliance uses an infrared frequency. Be sure to be careful and not get radiofrequency because that will not work. Ask for an infrared fan, air conditioner etc. Most everything that has a remote control is infrared. You have to program all of your commands individually so it is time consuming.
I purchased it at Broadened Horizons (www.broadenedhorizons.com) 855-BROADEN 855-276-2336. The owner of the company has a good understanding of needs as he is also a quadriplegic. Broadened Horizons also offers technical support that you can purchase or that is part of a package. There is not much to it, it is size wise as it is teacup saucer size with a mounting mechanism on the back.
I also purchased the Phone IR so that I can talk to my speaker phone. The Phone IR and Voice IR work together.
I have included some of my preprogrammed commands below to give you ideas on how many different things you can do.
Turn light off
1. Turn on AC Start air conditioner
Air conditioner power
2. Turn off AC Turn air conditioner off
3. AC Fan speed Fan slower or Fan faster
4. Colder temp Temperature colder
5. Warmer temp Temperature warmer
6. Turn on/off Oscillating fan Start oscillating fan
7. Turn off Oscillating fan Oscillating fan off
8. Make fan oscillate Oscillate
9. Make fan oscillate faster Oscillate faster
10. ocillating fan Fan Speed
1. Turn TVon Start Television
2. Turn TV off Television off
3. Mute TV TV Mute
4. Turn Bose on Bose Power
5. Turn up volume Bose volume up
6. Turn down volume Lower Bose volume
7. Change TV input Bose TV Mode
8. Change music track Bose Change Track
9. Play music Start Music
10. Play whole CD Whole CD
11. Return to playlist Playlist
12. Return to TV Mode Previous Input
5. Chrysler Town and County Touring Entervan by Braun
The next game changer I want to share information with you about is the Chrysler Town and Country Touring Entervan by Braun. I purchased this van at MC Mobility located at 214Valley St. here in Dayton (937-222-5001, mcmobilitysystems.com) I did an extensive search to find this vehicle as it was the only type that was going to meet my needs.
In my second "game changers" article I wrote about my Permobil Street wheelchair and the only down side to it was the fact that it sits higher than any wheelchair I have ever had. That is what led me to purchase the Entervan. Out of all of the minivans, this one was designed with the most headroom. I was having a difficult time getting in and out due to the headroom specifically the headroom going in and out of the door and this van solves that problem. With the reconstructed frame, it sits 16 inches lower and has a 56 1/2 inch door opening so I do not have to contort my head and neck to get in. It also makes for a better line of sight sitting in the area where the passenger seat would be.
The Braun Entervan has a power kneel system that allows the van to kneel 10 inches when you are getting in and out so that the slope of the ramp is not as steep getting in and out of the side entry. The van is not set up for me to drive so once I get in I drive into the area that used to have the passenger seat in it and my wheelchair will lock into place using the EZ Lock locking system. I have a button by my right elbow that I use to unlock my wheelchair to get out when the vehicle is off. You can also put a seat back in if you are not using a wheelchair.
Buying the van was a lot like buying the wheelchair. I had to find the one that fit me and suited my needs. In this particular case, I had to find the one that met the needs of the wheelchair I purchased. When my past Permobil Street wheelchair wore out I replaced it with what I thought was and what I was told was a newer version of the same chair. What they did not tell me was that because of the new electronics package on the chair they had to raise the seat height. So, I ended up having to buy a van that would work with my height in the new wheelchair.
I have had so many different kinds of vans over the year and I especially like the minivans for numerous reasons. They are inconspicuous, easier for people to drive, get better gas mileage and are easier with parking garages. The options are raise the roof or lower the floor and the raised roof vans get pushed around in the wind.
All of the things I have written about besides the wheelchair are things I use at home and work. There is nothing like getting out and seeing the world and for me the Braun Entervan modification makes it the easiest and most comfortable way to do it.
I would recommend that you work with a professional to make sure that you are getting all of the features that will make it easy and safe for you to enjoy.
Power Kneel System
Power Sliding Door
Quick Release Seats
Wheelchair Securement Straps
EZ lock lockdown system
Power Folding Ramp
56 1/2" Door Opening
Cut Lowered Floor: Full
6. Talk IR Professional Speakerphone
The home phone system is my sixth game changer and it works in coordination with the VoiceIR system I use to talk to my house. I can place and answer calls, dial, put calls on hold, even transfer calls and more by voice control. I simply speak voice commands and use the TalkIR in coordination with the Name and Digit Voice Dialer giving me access to 50 name and individual number dialing.
I have programmed the individuals I call the most but this also allows me to dial numbers that are not pre-programmed. So, let's say I receive a message to call someone I do not know. I would say "speakerphone" and it would say "yes sir" confirming that it has been activated. I say "4" and then it will beep letting me know that it understood me; then I say "6" and it beeps again; then "1" and it beeps and so on and so on. Then, at the end of my commands it says "dialing 461-5555 for example. When the phone call is over I say "speakerphone" and it says "yes sir" and I say "okay" and it hangs up for me.
I also use a switch attached to the phone that I mounted on the corner of the bedside table. This allows me to activate it or more importantly to hang it up. I found out the importance of having a second option when one time I forgot to voice activate the "hang up". Are you familiar with the noise your phone makes when it has been left off of the hook? Me too, for about 2 1/2 hours! The noise was so loud that the voice recognition would not work to hang it up because there was so much background noise. I also figured out that with our digital landline system, this incredibly annoying and loud sound does not stop until you physically hang it up. After my headache went away, I immediately ordered the switch. In fact, I did not answer the phone again until the switch was installed. It ended up being a pretty traumatic situation for me!
I bought the TalkIR at Broadened Horizons (www.broadened horizons.com). My friend Mark Fellings is the owner and the perfect person to assist me with my phone needs. Mark and I both have the same level of injury so he understands paralysis. He also has background in working on phone systems similar to this prior to his injury. Sometimes you can explain over and over to someone at a big-box retail store what your needs are until you are blue in the face and they do not understand what you need. Mark has lived it so it is easy for him to relate.
I also purchased the mounting bracket and mounted the phone on a bedside table. The cost depends on how many additional options you need and I bought it in coordination with the VoiceIR system. This system will cost you around $1000. If you do a YouTube video showing yourself using the product you get $100 off the total cost.
This may seem like a lot to spend for a phone but I did shop around and Mark even has comparisons of other phones. This was the best price I could find. Please keep in mind that it is important to have a reliable phone that you can access because if you are home alone it literally becomes your LIFELINE. This was the option I chose but they have lots of options including one that will call a list of numbers in case of an emergency.
I can remember prior to the Internet and prior to knowing about phones like this adapting one. We used a paint stick and duck tape to make an extension on the "ZERO / OPERATOR" button. If there was an emergency and I was home alone, I would push down on the paint stick, pushing the zero on the phone. Then, I would be able to get the operator and they would dial a number for me for a charge. This seems like medieval times compared to where we are these days but the reason I share this with you is to give you an idea just how far the technology has come.
Below is a list of some of the additional functions that this phone can do:
--Seamless integration with most Environmental Control Systems (ECUs)
--VoiceIR Infrared Voice Controller
--Tash Relax, Relax II, SiCare
--Gewa, and any capable of learning infrared signals
--Powerful yet easy to program for differenct user needs
--50 number, user-friendly easy to program address book
--Auto Answer option for those who find it difficult to answer in time
--Professional, Business Conference Room Quality
--Adaptive Microphone Gain Technology
--Crystal clear sound with OmniSoundTM - Sounds as if the person you're talking to is in the same room
--Automatically tunes itself to the acoustics of the room
--Full Duplex Natural sound for both parties in both directions!
--Plug into any analogue landline (PSTN)
--Large illuminated display shows number to dial, time in call, and volume
--Keypad for convenient use by anyone
--Audio output for recording conversations on computer
7. The iPhone 4 Personal Hotspot
The IPhone 4 is an excellent phone. It is my first "smart phone" and it has a number of features that make it outstanding. What makes it a game changer is the Personal Hotspot. The Personal Hotspot allows me to use the iPad on the Internet. As an Internet junkie I love the fact that I can now access the Internet from just about anywhere at any time.
I have always enjoyed reading the Dayton Daily News sports page and every day for as long as I can remember I have opened the paper and read it on the way to work. Over the last couple of months I have gotten rid of the cumbersome newspaper and just push a couple of buttons and I have it on my iPad. This is so much easier for me. I did use my newspaper the other day though to keep my iPad dry!
What is the Verizon Wireless 3G Mobile Personal Hotspot?
The 3G Mobile Personal Hotspot is an application that provides access to up to five Wi-Fi enabled devices, including networks, notebooks, MP3 players, cameras, PDAs, portable gaming systems and more. There is a monthly charge to use this feature.
How does the 3G Mobile Personal Hotspot work?
The 3G Mobile Personal Hotspot works much like your wireless router at home. Once you turn on the feature, the iPad uses its Bluetooth to seek out the nearest network. Once on, you can access much the same content as if you were home. I have found the only drawback is downloading movies; the download speed is a bit slower so viewing YouTube or other similar videos may not be as smooth. Also keep in mind you need to be within the Verizon wireless broadband service and coverage area for the Hotspot to work.
Besides just reading the paper I can use other applications including e-mail, web browsing, text messaging and more. The data plan costs five dollars per month and with that I get a 2 GB monthly allowance. This is different from the data plan.
Originally I was going to write the game changer article about the iPad, but before I could do that I need to share with you how I am able to use it online. Of course this is only one of the functions on the phone but certainly a valuable one for me.
8. The iPad
On February 4, I purchased the iPad! It was my stepson's birthday but I felt like I got the coolest gift! It is the best device I ever had the opportunity to use. The best testimonial I can say is the last time I got this excited about technology was when I learned how to use the computer with Dragon NaturallySpeaking for the very first time. This opened up the world of computers to me. The iPad is quite simply the most exciting device that has come along, Period. All of the publicity about it as well as the 50 million that have been sold is truly justified for so many reasons. This device is a Game Changer in itself.
Where to start:
Each day I read the interesting stories in The Dayton Daily News and USA Today. It is incredibly easy, free, and has eliminated the big bulky newspaper. I love to read and this has made it so much easier. A simple touch or a swipe of my hand and I am changing pages.
Since I was injured, I have not had the finger dexterity to play video games. A lot of my friends talk about video games or playing something like Madden NFL but I could not play them. With the iPad, I can play a variety of games from Texas Hold'em to Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell. I also have apps like MLB.com which is a pitch by pitch program. All of the games are a blast and I can play them with two fingers. Okay, my left pinky and right thumb to be more precise.
Since I was injured, I have used a pen with a metal handle that fits in a split. Now, I have replaced it with a pen that has a stylus on the other end that I can use with the iPad which helps increase accuracy. I use this when I am using the iPad as a note taker. It is so much easier for me than writing.
So far I have loaded a dozen CDs and a huge thumb drive of music a friend gave me. I have a Bluetooth headset and can listen to my music. I can also program it to play my music during certain video games. The only thing that has stopped me from loading more of my CDs is time. The process is loading them onto my laptop and then syncing them on to the iPad. I also have the Tune In Radio where I can get hundreds of different radio station. I like to listen to the podcast. A couple of my favorites are ESPN's Mike and Mike and Colin Cowherd.
Look for part 2 in the next update on this truly revolutionary device.
8. The iPad, part II
To finish my story about the iPad 1, I have to preface it with the fact that I have never had a Smartphone prior to this and a lot of the same things can be done with a smart phone. For me, the numbers on their phones are too small for my eyes and not that great for my finger dexterity.
Instead of telling you all of the cool things it can do, I will show you some of the things I did with the iPad 1 over the last two weeks.
I showed a friend at work who is deaf the "sign 4 me", a three-dimensional app that can sign for you as you type in what you want to say. She is going to use it for her job.
Have you ever wanted to get the perfect gift but you can't figure out what to get? Right before Diana's birthday I still couldn't figure out what to get her. One night she showed me a picture of a wall mirror that opens up into a place to put your jewelry. I looked at it halfheartedly or so she thought and then I disappeared to the front porch where I found an Avery Antique White Jewelry Armoire on Overstock.com! My first purchase of this nature on the iPad! 40% off, free delivery and terrible birthday present averted!!
I started an audio book on the iPad called "RED NOVEMBER” inside the secret US - Soviet submarine war. It was written by Craig Reed and it is being read to me by Tom Wiener. I'm only on chapter 3 but so far so good! I put on my wireless headset and listen to this fascinating story.
While visiting my neighbor, she showed me a YouTube video of her nephew. He is a young man practicing to be a magician.
The iPad 2 was what started a conversation between Gordon Gee, The Ohio State University President and me. He absolutely loves his iPad so we immediately had something to talk about!
I used it to take photos of people playing wheelchair basketball and wheelchair rugby at the Miami Valley Hospital’s Adaptive Sports and Recreation Expo where we were demonstrating the Adaptive Nintendo Wii. Yes, the iPad 2 has a built in camera.
On “I Heart Radio,” I found the Dayton Dragons game on 980 AM. Now I use my Bluetooth headset to listen to the games.
At the Alison Krauss concert I used Doodle Buddy to draw with my finger. In Blue Neon I wrote, "River To Pray please," a song I wanted to hear and held it up for them to see. They left the stage without playing it but came back on for an encore and played my request!
I found an app called Zippo Lighter that allows you to open a lighter, strike the flint and when you hold it up the flame blows back and forth. I am going to hold it up during the encore of the KC and the Sunshine Band concert on July 1!
I listen to a podcast on Tune In Radio, ESPN Football Today about Fantasy Football as you can never be too prepared!
I started a game, Tom Clancy's H-A-W-X. In this game I am a pilot so I am flying an F-16 fighter jet. It is so realistic that I could see it being a game used by actual fighter pilots.
I found a free app called Audiobooks with hundreds of free books it will read to you. It also offers top 50 and featured books you can buy. I truly can't wait to be taken away by listening to the new audio book. I believe I am going to listen to The Art of War by Sun Tzu. It is 13 chapters each of which is devoted to one aspect of warfare, it has long been praised as the definitive work on military strategies and tactics of its time.
I scanned my pill bottle with my camera on my iPad 2; it locked in on my barcode and I forwarded it to the pharmacy at Walgreens. They texted us back when it was ready to be picked up.
I watched the Panda Cam in San Diego, the Stork Cam in Germany and the Eagles in Luzern Switzerland using a $.99 app called iSpy.
So this is just a small sample of things I did using the iPad over the last couple of weeks. It has so many different uses that I'm always doing something on it. For me, it is so much easier on me because it is right in front of me.
I hope you enjoyed my 8 Game Changers for individuals with paralysis. These eight things have been life changing and monumental things in my life.