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Teamwork + Tech = Independence

CASE HISTORY: M is a 42-year-old man who sustained a C4/5 spinal cord injury in the spring of 1972. At the time of referral to the Neil Squire Foundation, he had high school equivalent qualifications and wanted to participate in further education. He had learned to use a computer by participating in our ‘Computer Comfort’ computer familiarization program which led to his referral to our ‘Creative Employment Options Program’ in order to identify vocational goals and gain skills and knowledge in computer applications, adaptive technology and vocational preparation. He developed voice input skills using the IBM ‘Voice Type’ software. The Neil Squire Foundation is a Canadian non-profit organization whose purpose is to create opportunities for independence for individuals who have significant physical disabilities. Through direct interaction with these individuals we research, develop, and deliver appropriate innovative services and technology to meet their needs. Our occupational therapists work within a client driven model to deliver services and are closely integrated with our Technical, Vocational and Engineering teams.

CLINICAL CONSIDERATIONS: Michael was able to identify his goal of taking an ‘AutoCad’ Computer Drafting course at community college. He eventually wanted to set up a home based business. He has no upper extremity function and operates his power wheelchair with a pneumatic switch. He has good control of his neck, facial muscles, and voice. He lives with his family.

APPROACH/TREATMENT : We focused on gathering information from the college about program content and researching the technology required by M to meet course requirements. We identified the need for a completely hands free input system. M was given a demonstration of ‘DragonDictate’ voice input software for Windows. It was agreed that this was an appropriate system and regular practice sessions were arranged. He found the system easy to learn and soon achieved the required level of input control. ‘AutoCad’ work demands the best control of the mouse possible. Michael tried out the ‘Jouse’, a mouth controlled mouse/joystick device invented by the Neil Squire Foundation Research and Development Team. He was rapidly able to develop fast and accurate control of the cursor and mouse buttons as is required for ‘AutoCad’ operation. The college instructor recommended that M also obtain a wide carriage printer for printing out work prior to having drawings plotted. Initially a lot of time and effort was spent on ‘training’ the voice input system. A tape back-up system was installed to facilitate saving of voice files. Neil Squire Foundation provided 20 hours of Windows and ‘DragonDictate’ training in preparation for the start of the college course.

OUTCOME: M successfully graduated from the Computer Drafting program and began working from home with a classmate. He needed to be able to speak independently on the phone so our Research and Development engineers built a system using his chair controller and a boom microphone mounted on the wheelchair. He is now working on a freelance basis having recently moved to a neighbouring town

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