I know you are wondering…

"If you are a quadriplegic, like you say you are, how in the heck do you type?"  Ah… the million-dollar question.  Given that I am in fact completely paralyzed, it would seem strange how I keep popping out random thoughts on my blog at a fairly decent rate.  Until somewhat recently, quadriplegics that wanted to use a computer were given a pencil.  A pencil?  You ask?  That’s right, a pencil stuck between your teeth will enable you to press the keys on the keyboard.  Like you don’t lose enough dignity just becoming paralyzed, now you get to type slower than my 2 1/2-year-old niece.
Fortunately for me (sort of), I was injured during a decent era of technology.  While voice-recognition is something that has been worked on for years, it has finally reached a point where it has become a viable option for dictation.  Also lucky for me, I had a great Assistive Technology therapist in the hospital that was able to get me a copy of the best voice-recognition software out there.  Voice-recognition… sounds like the perfect remedy, right?  Well, sort of…
Is this technology leaps and bounds above the pencil option?  Absolutely.  Does it afford you all the luxuries offered by your hands on a keyboard and mouse that are often taken for granted?  Not so much.  Actually, not even close.  Given the fact that I graduated college with a degree in engineering and a minor in computer programming, computers were my forte.  I could do anything and everything possible with a keyboard and mouse.  If there was a problem with the computer, I could find the most painless solution.  With this software, it’s quite a different case now.
You see, when relying on a machine to recognize your voice, misunderstandings are inevitable and unavoidable.  For example: If I were to be writing an e-mail and would like to say "if you," the computer may think I said a number of different phrases (a few, of you, a view, etc.).  Mistakes like these will occur countless times in any given paragraph, leaving you to the task of multiple time-consuming corrections.  Sometimes, you will find yourself having to correct over two thirds of what you have just entered.
Then you have the mouse; not quite the same helpful rodent you are used to, that’s for sure.  I guarantee most people never even think twice about how the mouse makes their lives SO much simpler.  I have found a greater respect for the little animal as of late.  Without the ability to use an actual mouse, my little arrow must now be controlled by voice commands as well.  Cumbersome, to say the least.  In order for me to get the mouse into the desired position, I have to go through an extensive series of mouse grids.  It all starts by saying "mouse grid," which displays a tic-tac-toe-type grid on the screen containing the numbers one through nine like a telephone dial.  Choosing a number consolidates the grid inside that number’s space.  Choosing a number inside that grid localizes the grid that much more and so on.  For example, if I were wanted to click on the Internet Explorer icon, I would have to say "mouse-4-6-7-3-2-2… click."  Get the picture?  And let’s not even get into punctuation (comma), and how I have to say each word for them to show up (period).
Probably the best illustration of the curse of digital recognition is the fact that computers, by nature, always look for the quickest solution.  This is most apparent when writing e-mails.  Since I use Hotmail as my e-mail provider, I’ve learned to choose my words and phrases quite wisely, for this reason.  Say I was writing an e-mail to a long-lost best friend, filling him in on the accident.  I could be an hour and a half into the letter (which would probably have taken me 15 minutes with my fingers, mind you), and I happen to say the word "out," or perhaps "sign."  The computer will think I was telling it to sign out, and obeys that order, thus making me lose over an hour’s worth of work just like that.  If that doesn’t make your blood boil, then I don’t know what will.  I just spent over an hour writing a letter, just to have it erased, forcing me to start all over.  Hope I remember what I had said.
But I must admit, given all of the above named pitfalls, this software is far better than nothing.  Prior to getting this software, my days were filled with reruns on MTV.  Don’t ask me how I had forgotten about ESPN while in the hospital, but I had.  That overlooked, I was stuck in front of MTV’s full seasons of Newlyweds and The Inferno EVERY SINGLE DAY.  They should use that crap in torture chambers to extract confessions, I swear.  But even after rediscovering ESPN, I quickly became disenchanted with the channel due to its extensive coverage of the World Series of Poker.  This computer became my saving grace, without a doubt.  Now instead of enduring the nightmare that is Jessica Simpson, I get to annoy the masses with my countless idiosyncratic thoughts on this blog.  Sucks for you guys!!!

25 Comments Add yours

  1. ken says:

    I for one am happy about the voice recognition software. Keep annoying us. Thanks for the insight.Ken

  2. ken says:

    I just remembered a movie that you should see. "Firefox" staring Clint Eastwood. Man you need a computer that works like that plane!Ken

  3. Cory Tina says:

    Kenny,I\’m glad that I found my way to your site…I love reading your "annoying" tid-bits! Since I\’m the slug that can never seem to get my ass over to your place to actually see you. You are amazing! Miss ya ~ Love ya, T

  4. iris says:

    another thing, what level quad are u?

  5. Tina says:

    I think that it is great that you are able to type and that you are able to share your thoughts and it looks like so many people out there are with you on that but can not share. I wish I knew you, you sound like a really good person. Congragulations on making the MSN\’s favorite spaces, I have put your space on mine so that I come back and check this. I love reading what I have so far. GOOD LUCK!!!

  6. Unknown says:

    Quite entertaining actually

  7. Unknown says:

    Ahh voice recognition.. it\’s still the pits, and with brain injury, it\’s no fun either, like with stroke patients and such too, people should feel so blessed, Like with me, I am lucky to have the use of one hand.. many typo\’s and most things do not have spell check anymore…it\’s very hard for VRP to be tagut to UNDERSTAND the words, or the persons speach like you said, just to TEACH it the oword patterns takes COUNTLESS hours of very frustrating hard work.. I tried to help my father who was blind learn it, I would read it to him, and he would speak, and he had a clear voice, but the translating seeing the words, repating to him, and then him saying the, took to long.. and we would hve to begin over and over.. so many techologies, but literally so few really set up for people with disabilites, and ever fewer made availbe at an affordable price…His pc had cost $16,000.00 and in the end he never really was able to use it… of course himself being disabled, this took a huge chink out of his retirment savings in hopes of finding some sort of new life as a blind person trying to find his way into a new world without vision..This again, is Why I have my sight.. To let people know.. There are so many thing that people with Disablities ARE CAPABLE of doing, if only people where willing to STAND UP ( figuratively ) and let their voices be heard for thyemselves and their loved ones, friends and neighbors.. to SAY OUTLOUD.. thing DO NEED to change.. and People with Limited abilites are WILLING, Wanting and desire to WORK, be part of this world, ANYWAY possible, not just trapped inside four walls, because part or most of their bodies do not work, does NOT mean their Minds do not work, and you are such an AWESOME example of Just that!!!Thank you for Letting you Voice be Heard..I sure hope you do write me, I would be Honored to have you as A Link and a Voice on My page!!{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{hugs}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}Callie

  8. Rita says:

    (*^-^*) [I was just wondering how you were able to type too.]But mostly I want to comment on your knack for storytelling. You have an engaging way of accounting events. Anyhow, back to reading more entries 😀

  9. linda says:

    *SQUEAL!*Now I know how you do it! I got up to the poem for your grandfather and was going to call it a day for now (cause I spend an inordinate amount of time on your blog trying to read everything. I am so going to get fired), skipped over the mascot of death entry (cause like I said, I was going to read it tomorrow) and landed on your explanation about how you\’re keeping up your blog. So now I don\’t have to pout \’cause you didn\’t answer. I saw that someone else asked too.Voice recognition software. Should have known. I should check into that for my friend. Hope its not too expensive. I got something similar for work one time. My boss wanted it to tape interviews so I wouldn\’t have to spend so much time trying to dictate from a fuzzy tape. It didn\’t really work so well as it would only hold about 20 minutes of information on the digital tape recorder. The interview would last at least an hour.Anyway, you are a light and I\’m glad to know you exist.See you tomorrow…or should that be read you tomorrow…

  10. linda says:

    Oh, and I just noticed that I wasn\’t leaving my email open. Don\’t know if I\’ve been doing that on a consistent basis or not. But feel free…made sure you can click on it if you want to.

  11. § says:

    I can relate to your frustration with voice recognition software. I tried using Dragon Naturally Speaking back in about 1999 or 2000. It was not intuitive, stupid at best and used a huge amount of RAM for which I didn\’t have the processing power to run effectively.I\’ve been a quadriplegic for 33 years. Car accident – I wasn\’t driving…. oh well. I have worked as Programmer and many other titles for the past 26 years for many different Fortune 500 companies in California. It sounds to me like you\’re about a C3-4 quad with an incredibly sharp mind. This field is wide open to you if you so choose.The difference between you and me is about 2" at most. I\’m a C7-T1 incomplete \’quara\’ – my word for having use of my arms and hands but not being able to grasp. No opposing thumb action… bummer. Sometimes I feel like a cat with a paw. I\’ve learned over the years how to do a lot of things therapists and doctors said I couldn\’t and never would be able to do. I encourage you to tell people that say those types of things to you to \’go piss off!!\’. If you\’re really interested in changing the state of voice recognition software as opposed to just writing about it then I\’m certain that you are a good candidate to spec out the needed improvements to most voice recognition companies.Keep savoring each moment. Life is so short and so precious. I\’ll ping you occasionally now that I\’ve read your story. Since you\’ve gotten some national pub you may not have time to read it all but that was the purpose eh?PW

  12. Rai says:

    Im happy that ur not letting stuff like that bother u that much, I know if it was me id hit myself wit somethin\’ LOL…im so glad that u have that voice recognition thingy,…I hope u keep going, and never give, up ur an inspiration.take care~rai~

  13. KIMBERLY says:

    I\’m impressed. I predict that the success of this blog (though not the intent) will bring you many opportunities to find that perfect fit. You have a fantastic sense of humor. Intelligence and wit shines through. I wish you the best.

  14. leah says:

    Sucks for us, not. Annoy the hell out of me all you want…I love it!

  15. Mary says:

    I am wondering too: who helps you in your daily stuff you have to do (shower, brush your hair, etc.)It would be nice to hear from you but oh well i know you are like going crazy with all the comments that you get.Anyways if you ever get the chance, reply.If you don´t, it´s ok.This is like my 5th visit to you, i left a few comments last week (don`t know if you read them).Anyways take care, God bless you and trust me, you will be in my prayers from now on.Mary.GREETINGS FROM CARTAGENA, COLOMBIA!! 😉

  16. Martin says:

    …on the other hand, what else do you have to do all day??;)Take care

  17. Unknown says:

    Hey Bro me again (TLSO guy) Once again you have made me want to eat crow (again). I told my wife about you and she thinks you’re a hoot. I can tell yeah when she first got me this cpu I was a little worried (cause of the money issue) but I have surely enjoyed the freedom it has brought. Not able to leave the house as it were, I have made my time pass by reading what ever I can find on the net of interest (and your blog is funny and does put a smile on my face). Just a thought I know you said you have your degree already, have you given thought of going for a Masters? I have been attending school for a couple years now (getting my BSIT). I know I am not the youngest in the class, hect I usually have ten to fifteen years on the guys and gals. But since my accident (hit from behind on my VTX1800s), I have continued my education on-line. I know it is different (in a lot of ways harder) but it does help me to keep my mind off this piece of plastic that holds me together. Any way just a thought, and its okay about not replying to all of us guys that bombard your Blog I am just happy to wait for your next installment.Cheers, David

  18. Keith says:

    I\’m going to have to give that program another chance. I use a mouth stick, which as you know is a metal rod about 14" long with a mnouthpiece at one end and an eraser, pen (yes i made myself write that way too…) or whatever – I have seen magic markers and paint brushes.One thing is for sure – talking into a microphone HAS GOT to look better (or less wierd) than typing with a mouthstick. Really. Especilly in public places (like class!) – I have gotten some mighty weird looks on the first day of class when everyone else whips out their pen and starts writing – and then sees me at the front of the class taking my mouth stick out of it\’s holder and begin writing with it! LOL!take carekeith

  19. Kyle says:

    Hey,I\’ve played with voice recognition software (I\’m not injured, just a tinkerer), and I can imagine that it would be a grand pain to use with no mouse/keyboard backup. That mouse grid thing sounds awkward but surprisingly clever. Reading your story, though, something occurs to me that might be easier.Microsoft makes computers called Tablet PCs which can be navigated using a pen. It might be possible (I don\’t know if this would be more awkward or not) to rig something up where you could navigate with the stylus-in-mouth (perhaps on an extender or attached to one of those mouthsticks Buzz mentions). That might be faster than speaking mouse commands, anyway.Just a thought! It would probably be way to uncomfortable having the screen that close to your eyes. Still, this just goes to show that there\’s a lot fo be done in the field of computer accessibility. I wish had me some engineering smarts, I\’d love to do something in that field.Anyway, great blog! Keep writing!

  20. Lorne says:

    So you are an engineer! And with a C.S. minor. You just don\’t seem geeky enough for the title. Programmers don\’t do college sports. 🙂 //Forgive the emoticon, I myself am a sleep deprived programmer type

  21. Theresa says:

    I just wanted to let you know you are an amazing person. I do homecare and take care of a quad and it gives you a whole new view on things and all the things we take for granted in life. The guy I help is also amazing, he has done some pretty awesome things. He owns his own bar and which is awesome. I can\’t seem to tear myself away form the computer to do anything I just want to keep reading because I\’m sure the person I help had many of the same feelings after his accident but you don\’t think to look at everything because you see them now and his accident was about 12 yrs ago and he\’s 31 now. Anyway I again think your amazing, keep your head high and look to the stars. God bless

  22. Unknown says:

    Well, shit. I have just come on your blog by a friend. Was reading some of your posts. They\’re long….and you have to do all that to post them? Honey, you have the patience of a saint then. I am totally impressed. Now you\’re thinking…of all the things on my blog, this is what you say you are impressed with? Lol. No, I could tell you that I think you\’re a strong person to survive all you are going through..but you know that. I could tell you you have a talent for writing, but countless others already have. I could tell you you\’re amazing, same goes as above. I will tell you I like a smart-ass who isn\’t afraid to be one (if you don\’t have a sense of humor in this messed up life, you are doomed), and that your neice is adorable. I\’ll tell you I wish you the best and I\’ll keep reading. I have never seen so many comments on one blog. Talk about pressure. Lol. Would understand if you took a break..sheesh. Best of luck to you 🙂

  23. Marilyn says:

    OK, without hands you can write more that I, if you can, visit my space… keep blogging… bye bye Marilyn

  24. tressie says:

    one of my closest friends is a quad, and uses the turbo ball to type.  i\’m trying to talk them into software (our IM\’ing is pretty slow [i promise i am very patient] and i hate asking questions that require a lot of \’typing\’ as i don\’t want to make it difficult for my friend) what is the name of the software?  now answering this, K, would require you to actually deposit an answer when you go to my space – lol (i am teasing you as i have seen you drop by without a deposit before – i hope you are smiling at this and i irritating the hell out of you) i really would appreciate knowing though – or you could email at tressiepooh@gmail.com (which might be good as telling people he\’s a quad is his story and not mine)  in fact K, would you delete this comment for me after you read it?  i would really appreciate it.  thanks. tres

  25. Kenny Salvini Thank you for writing this. Everyone should know about how to write with assistive technology. I will post this on my blog. What software do you use if I may ask? You have inspired me to do my own writing riff.

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