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It's Not All About Car Accidents

16 March, 2016

I believe that you shouldn’t waste opportunities. This is especially true for people with disability because I feel we don’t get enough to begin with.  So when I was asked to blog about Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Week I should have been more excited than I was.

As much as I continue to understand that I need to get over myself I feared the worst. That being that the week would be consumed with what causes spinal cord injuries. It would be about car accidents, diving into shallow pools, rehabilitation etc. sending the message that it’s something to be avoided. If this was the direction it was to take, it would be a struggle for me to be involved. Partly due to it not matching my own values, but mostly because it’s predictable.

"I believe that you shouldn’t waste opportunities. This is especially true for people with disability because I feel we don’t get enough to begin with."

"One look at my bedroom and you can see why. For convenience it is also my lounge room and office... Basically though I have everything I need in close proximity."

Therefore I was relieved to find out the theme would be nothing like this. Instead it’s to show how current and emerging technologies can provide greater options for those living with a spinal cord injury. This is something I easily identify with because apart from personal care technology, it is what I need the most in life.

One look at my bedroom and you can see why. For convenience it is also my lounge room and office. In there I have my laptop, with voice recognition software, and a trackpad for writing, emailing and research. You will also find my TV, which has various hard drive recorders attached to it. 

This allows me to watch all sorts of shows, sport and hours of wrestling. Finally I have a stereo to play metal, which needs an upgrade. Basically though I have everything I need in close proximity.

While I have all this, until recently, it wasn’t set up to my liking. I had countless remotes and it was a struggle for me to use any of them. Getting tired of this and feeling my life had become too therapy focused I decided it was time for a change.

To move forward with this I reconnected with Jeff Neal, who I had met through work. He specialises in field of technology for people with disability but most importantly he didn’t think that what I needed would be impossible.

"My main objective was to be able to use my mobile phone independently. Jeff got me onto a new headset, which assisted me to make and receive calls. I can now also send text messages through my laptop."

"As we progressed it was clear that I was more comfortable using my laptop to do what I needed. It did take some time but we were able to make this happen; improving my life immensely."

My main objective was to be able to use my mobile phone independently. Jeff got me onto a new headset, which assisted me to make and receive calls. I can now also send text messages through my laptop. Something my mother has mixed feelings about as it’s now much easier for me to ask her to go to the supermarket etc.!

Whilst we haven’t quite perfected the mobile phone, working with Jeff has increased my understanding of planning for people with disability. The discussions and decisions are based around my lifestyle. This is extremely refreshing, as planning is traditionally based on what’s available. Whether it’s suitable or not often seems insignificant. Jeff and I are both committed to the best outcomes for myself.

This was particularly evident as we planned for me to have access to all my remote controls through my mobile phone. As we progressed it was clear that I was more comfortable using my laptop to do what I needed. It did take some time but we were able to make this happen; improving my life immensely.

For example it’s always a challenge to get through the heat. I actually prefer summer even if it’s impossible to sleep. At least now I can watch TV rather than just lay there. It may seem simple but having found it difficult for so long means I appreciate it even more now. 

"I had almost given up on independently using the devices I need. Now I am enjoying what I have more than ever, and want to get even more in technology for myself."

"Technology is crucial to everyone these days. For people with disability, this is the case even more. With the appropriate set up you can improve your employment opportunities, have greater independence, and be able to do what you want, when you want."

And this highlights something that is sadly lacking in disability. I had almost given up on independently using the devices I need. Now I am enjoying what I have more than ever, and want to get even more in technology for myself. With Jeff’s help I am now focused on working towards this. Having someone assist you to expand your goals is not something that happens nearly enough in the world of disability. It is without a doubt one of the primary concerns I have about the NDIS but I’m getting off the point…

Technology is crucial to everyone these days. For people with disability, this is the case even more. With the appropriate set up you can improve your employment opportunities, have greater independence, and be able to do what you want, when you want. I can’t overstate the last part enough.

Just because it may seem superficial and appear to have no therapeutic value doesn’t mean it should be dismissed. People with disability are entitled to enjoy themselves although you’d be forgiven if you felt this wasn’t obvious.  I know it’s not something that I don’t talk about enough.

If you feel you are not getting enough out of your technology know that you can do something about it. There are plenty of options available to you. You just have to find what’s best for you!

Lachlan McLeod has lived with an SCI his whole life. He is currently writing a blog to demonstrate that people with disability do have fulfilling lives. When he is not doing that, he enjoys watching professional wrestling and listening to heavy metal music. http://lachlanmcleod.blogspot.com.au/

Jeff Neal, Principle Consultant, One Step Education Network is an independent consultant and a registered provider to TAC, WorkCover and NDIS, as well as a fully qualified Workplace Trainer and Assessor. Jeff has been involved with technology for 28 years and incorporated it into all areas of his teaching before moving into the Assistive Technologies field. Jeff brings the blend of up to date technology knowledge and the skills of an educator to his approach with clients; committed to ensuring successful outcomes aimed at meeting the needs of the client and assisting them to overcome limitations often faced as a result of their injury or disability.

Tags: Blog, Health & Wellbeing