Assistive Technology Enables Independence After Spinal Cord Injury | SPD - Singapore

Assistive Technology Enables Independence After Spinal Cord Injury

At 20, Eve (not her real name) lost the ability to use her hands and legs as a result of a spinal cord injury.

The spinal cord injury resulted in paralysis from her chest down. She has control of her shoulders and elbows but no control in her wrist and hands. She can bend her wrist backwards which would bring her fingers into a loose fist. Her injury was a great blow to her self-esteem.

Eve was refered for an AT assessment to see whether she would be able to access the compute, as she wanted to be able to communicate with her friends on Facebook. The assistive technology (AT) specialist defined her problems and set the goal. He also considered her home environment and the tasks she wanted to do.

Eve was unable to push any of the keys on the keyboard nor use a standard mouse. Her AT specialist worked with her on the possible low-tech solutions for keyboard access. A universal cuff, which is a splint worn on the hand to hold small items such as utensils, was fabricated. A flat wooden ice cream stick was inserted into the cuff. She used that to type on a standard keyboard.

For the use of the mouse, both the trackball and joystick mouse were considered. Eve expressed her preference for the trackball mouse. With her newly fabricated low-tech device, she was able to roll the ball of the trackball mouse to generate cursor movements. She used the tip of the wooden stick to tap on the large right and left click buttons. Eve also used Sticky Keys, a Windows Accessibility Option, so she could execute commands when multiple key presses were required. She types at 35 to 40 words a minute.

Eve was a beautician by training, an occupation which required good dexterity and hand functions. Eve needed new skills. She enrolled in the Infocomm Accessibility Centre Certificate in Office Skills (iCOS) and learnt Microsoft applications and other job skills. Our Employment Support Programme is now in the process of finding her a suitable job placement.

With Eve’s case, we learnt the you need to use both high- and low-tech solutions to meet the needs of the clients. AT levels the playing field and for Eve, employment would likely not have been possible with AT. With AT, she can now independently earn a living.


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