Not that long ago I wrote about my initial experiences with Assistive Technology. And even though those experiences happened quite some years ago and I’ve undergone a lot of healing and a number of behaviour alterations since, I still use a handful of alternative means to access a computer.
But by far the most important one I use, that makes the time I spend on a computer much more productive and enjoyable, is the manner in which I use a keyboard.
As my physical ability has progressively changed, my needs — in the sense the solutions I use — have not. Well that’s not entirely true. I no longer need switch access scanning or mouse keys, but I still heavily rely on the keyboard, and sticky keys especially, to interface a computer. I can use two hands to type, but that can be challenging (working in Photoshop is the exception) so I don’t typically use both hands. But in an effort to speed up my productivity I don’t so much require said solution, as I much prefer to use it.
Which gets to my point, my most productive use of time, in terms of my access, is the keyboard. Most of the solutions I currently use involve these 90 keys that lay before me. Read “Keyboard accessibility” in its entirety
This is my long overdue third and final post in the series of “describing my computing career.” Please refer to The origins of interest and The gamut of ever changing ability for the first two parts in this series. However I think we need to back track a little from where we left off, especially considering certain events that I was alerted of this past week, which are largely responsible for me writing this post today.
As I’ve discussed previously (again in The gamut of ever changing ability), I started school in the fall of ’98 with the intent of pursuing a certificate in Web Publishing. But by the summer of ’99 something changed. The web no longer had the same allure as it once did for me anymore. Honestly as I was starting to consider enrolling in college I had my eye on two prizes. Web Development specifically and Digital Publishing more broadly.
There was no denying it, Photoshop had it’s claws in me. It was that summer when I began my slow transition away from the web towards a focus on digital imaging. And just prior to my graduating college, which was actually December of ’01 (I missed commencement for that year so I had to wait until the next October), I attended my first of 4 PhotoshopWorld’s in September of 2001.
It’s a damn good thing I have more to talk about today than my Photoshop work. Aside from a bunch (is that 4?) very exciting trips to Florida and the amazing experience I was able to glean from being part of the most recognized gathering of Photoshop talent in the world (that may not be true, but it sounds great), keeping busy with Photoshop, at least, proved very tricky. I couldn’t find a market for what I spent a good 4, probably more like 7, years learning and doing. Fortunately I kept my other eye on the web. And my feet just barely wet enough to return to it should I ever wish (read: need) to. Read “Some things will never change” in its entirety
… In a hospital room not all that far away, a young man laying excruciatingly still in a bed, awaited his shot at communicating with anyone outside the confines of his battered skull (being All Hallows Eve I couldn’t resist)…
But unlike most nightmarish Hallowe’en tales, I’m delighted to tell you (especially since that kid in that hospital bed was me), this one ended much better than it started out. Actually by January 1997, the time this story began, I was able to move my head slightly to the right by that point. And I could communicate. Again, through the blinking of my eyes. Once signifying yes. Twice for no.
Given this, in addition to my primary means of communication, being my blinking eyes, I was also using a translucent, textured plastic cutting board with black hand scribed letters (and numbers) on it as secondary communication aid. It was these characters, arranged vertically, in I’m guessing 5 or 6 columns — the letters were in order, from A to Z, A to E in the first column, F to J in the adjacent column, and so on, and the numbers from 0 to 9, if I’m not mistaken, resided in a single column on the far right of the board. So armed with that set up any person wishing to converse with me, and that conversation required more than a quick “yes” or “no” response from the likes of me, said individual would hold this “communication board” by it’s handle with one hand, and with the other hand, while pointing, skimmed (from
right to left left to right) along the top of the board, and pausing on each of the columns for a brief moment. Read “Not that long ago…” in its entirety
I’ve been away from here for quite sometime attending to a whole host of issues. So in an effort to get back into gear I’ll continue my series of posts describing my computing career. This is the second post in what will be three relating the story of what brought me here. Be sure to see my post the origins of interest for the first bit of my story…
… So by April of ’97, soon after transferring to a third “rehab” hospital (which was everything but a rehabilitation facility, hence the quotes), I was no longer “locked-in” — which as I understand it calls into question my original diagnosis, seeing how it wasn’t permanent (semantics, eh?). I started to regain enough mobility in my right arm and hand to be able to use a keyboard to type and use mouse keys.
Ahhh, mouse keys. I should probably provide you some context. Picture the ways in which any computer pointing device, like a mouse, can move. Limitless, right (speaking 2 dimensionally of course)? Forward, left, right and back. Plus every direction in between. Now imagine the representation of those basic movements on a flat surface, on a keyboard say, and using the numeric keypad to represent 8 directions that device can move. The number “2” key, when pressed, moved the mouse cursor up on the screen. Number “4” moved it left. Number “6” moved it right. And number “8” moved it down. Then the number “1” key moved the cursor up and left diagonally on the screen. Number “3” moved it up and right diagonally. The “7” key down and left diagonally. And “9” down and right diagonally. The number “5” key is the mouse button. Honestly what the rest of the buttons did is pretty fuzzy. Rather than guess I should simply refer you to the Wikipedia entry concerning mouse keys for more accurate context.
And that solution served me remarkably well for probably close to, if not exceeding, two years. Mouse keys are still simple to understand and most importantly easy to use. And it got completely out of the way and let me “master” elements where mouse keys reached their limit and other solutions picked up the slack — keep in mind I’m speaking wholly as a differently-abled creative individual whose primary creative canvas has been a computer monitor for well over a decade. It’s just the nature of the beast. 8 linear directions will only get you so far. It’s much like an Etch A Sketch™, in theory, as it’s movement is rigid and limited. And must like said Etch A Sketch™ there are ways around it’s operation. Read “The gamut of ever changing ability” in its entirety
When I began this post my intentions were to relate my entire computing career — to give you a little background in where I’m coming from, why I’m so interested in web accessibility, and hopefully give you some insight as to why I believe it’s so important. But that quickly proved to be a much more involved task than I first thought. So plans have changed, if only slightly. I figure a few posts should be enough to cover what I’d originally hoped to write in this single article. Here’s number one…
I never really had much interest in computer’s growing up. My family, most fortunately, had one. An “old” “IBM clone” from my Father’s office, that we had one helluva time outfitting with a mouse. Do you even remember using a computer without a mouse? I barely do. That’s precisely why I recall, because of the effort and frustration we went through getting that mouse to work, which never really did work, in the end. But I digress.
I’d much prefer to avoid dwelling on my back story with computer’s. Honestly aside from a a rather hardcore 8 month stint playing Might & Magic as an awkward pre-teen, a sole grade 10 introduction into computer programming and “using” a computer to “poke out” (much like I still happen to “type”) essay’s in high-school, there isn’t much to tell. I wouldn’t dare bore you with what are sure to be rather inconsequential details of a relatively non-existent experience. I’d much rather concentrate, for you and me both, on the aspects that give me and this site its relevant context.
And with that said my interest started to change in 1996 — mostly because it had to. Read “The origins of interest” in its entirety