This page is an attempt to document how I have set up my environment; all the technology and gadgets that allow me to access and control things that I otherwise would not be able to use.
I am 95% bedridden and unable to use a standard keyboard to type more than a few minutes per day. I am not paralysed, but any movement is severely limited by weakness and stamina problems. Small movements with very little resistance are the easiest for me to sustain. For example: I am able to turn a page of a book with little difficulty if my arm is supported but I am unable to hold the book itself long enough to read.
I spend most of the day alone and I'm not the type of person to spend that time vegetating - I want to do things. I am also a geek who is very computer-literate and quite comfortable with technology so I have arranged my environment to let do as many things as possible, given my physical limitations.
I now use a Mac Pro which was generously donated to me in 2007 but it's getting a bit long in the tooth. I hope to upgrade to a new Mac Mini Server edition within a year or so.
Input - Without Keyboard
I move the cursor with a Magic Trackpad from Apple - it can sit beside me on the bed and I only need to move my finger a little to move the mouse. I use the DwellClick program to automatically click the mouse whenever I stop moving the cursor.
For typing without using the keyboard I use KeyStrokes, an on-screen keyboard with word prediction.
In the past I have used an XKeys Desktop device with my non-trackpad hand to give me quick access to commonly used keyboard commands without needing to use the mouse. Now I've been using a universal remote control for the same thing instead.
The ControllerMate software lets me program keyboard keys (or XKeys keys) to have different functions in different programs, and the Remote Buddy does the same for the remote control.
Input - With Keyboard
When I am able to use a keyboard, I conserve energy as much as possible by using a Dvorak keyboard layout and a Kinesis Advantage ergonomic keyboard. It's very expensive but very much worth the money!
The 20 inch widescreen monitor is mounted to be directly in my field of vision and able to be moved right up near my face and also away as needed. The mounting (see photo) is a combination of an articulated Acrobat commercial VESA mount and a custom-made extension mount that bolts to my hospital bed.
When I still have trouble seeing, I use the zoom functions built into OS X and the VisioVoice program for low vision users. VisioVoice offers a variety of magnifiers, a PDF viewer that is very much more accessible than Preview or the Adobe viewers, and functions to speak the letters and/or words as I type which I find very helpful. I use the InfoVox iVox voices to give the Mac much better quality synthesised voices - it's hard enough listening to synthesised speech without listening to bad synthesised speech!
I use a Jabra GN9350 wireless headset with my landline phone, and a handset-lifter. To answer the phone I just pick up the headset and put it on, putting the headset back on its cradle to hang up. I can use the same headset for computer input also, which reduces the clutter of cables everywhere.
All my phone numbers are stored in the standard Mac address book, and I use the address book entries to dial the phone.
I use PhoneValet to do the actual dialling, as well as displaying and speaking caller ID information and recording voice mail if nobody answers the phone. PhoneValet has more specialised office-related functions too, but I don't need them.
I don't own a mobile phone but I can send and receive SMS messages through an Australian gateway called MessageNet. Incoming text messages appear as email and I can send them either via email or using an iAddressX plugin that the author kindly wrote for me.
The lights and lamps in my room are controlled by X10 boxes connected to both the computer and a wireless interface. Lights can be switched on and off and dimmed using a small remote control or via the computer interface, using XTension to trigger the X10 devices manually or at programmed times.
I have a reverse cycle air conditioner controlled by an infrared remote control. I use the remote to control this when necessary, and in the future I will use an X10-IR converter if necessary so computer control can be done with the same XTension software.
My computer has an external DVD drive positioned for easy access, but commonly used DVD content is stored on the hard drive. I use MacTheRipper to copy DVD content to the hard drive, and OS X is able to play DVDs natively, including ones stored on the hard drive.
I have an Elgato EyeTV 410 to play and record digital high definition TV, and use an IceTV subscription for TV guide and automatic series recording. The recordings are stored on my hard drive like the DVDs so I can access them without needing an assistant to get the correct tape/DVD for me.
I use a radio SHARK for listening to and recording radio programs, and access streaming online radio for worldwide stations via iTunes.
More recently I use iTunes to download and listen to podcasts - including podcast radio programs - in preference to live radio. It's easier to access and listen in small chunks when I want to.
My CD collection is now stored digitally as mp3 and aac files so i can play anything i want without needing assistance. I use iTunes to store and catalogue the lot.
Books/Magazines/Talking Books/Online Text
With the computer screen and magnification software I can read material online much more easily than physical books, but listening to audio is still easier than reading.
I get audio books from the Vision Australia library and from my local library in regular CD and the specialised DAISY format for the visually impaired. The regular CDs are easy to copy to my iTunes library the same way music is copied, but iTunes can't play DAISY format material and there is no DAISY player for OS X at the moment. I convert the DAISY books to regular audio book formats using the free DTB2iTunes software.
Books not available from these libraries can often be purchased from the Audible.com online store and downloaded. The downloaded books are in a DRM'd format, but iTunes can play them and as much as I hate DRM on principle it's better than no information access at all.
For material that is not available in audio format and for reference material which is more easily accessed as text, I use the TextWrangler text editor to read it wherever possible. I like TextWrangler because it's free and lets me set a font, font size, font colour and background colour which are then used for viewing all text files that I open. I can get books in text format from the Gutenberg Project and the Baen's Webscriptions library which recently started offering free memberships to anybody with a print disability worldwide. For books which are not available from Gutenberg or Baen's WebScriptions, I usually use Fictionwise. The Fictionwise downloads are usually only available in DRM'd formats, but the MobiPocket/Palm PDB format works with the eReader software to let me set the font and colours to something I can cope with.
I use Sibelius and GarageBand for composing music on the computer. With no ability to use MIDI instrument input it's pretty slow, but it does let me compose and that's a lot better than not composing!
Since my typing speed is about 5 words a minute now, I do everything I can to avoid typing long documents. I have a bunch of generous friends who are happy for me to dictate to them (such as for this document) but I try not to abuse the privilege. I sometimes use the [msd] software for OS X but my disability makes it a bad match for me.
For email, I often use a little utility called Voice Candy to record audio and convert it to low-quality MP3 files to send to people. I also use programs like iChat, Skype, and Gizmo so I can use audio/voice chat instead of typing when I chat to people on the net in real time.
Still to add...
About digital camera and iPhoto and my ipad.