Not that long ago…

… 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

The gamut of ever changing ability

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

My behaviour is the problem?

Last week I was asked for my advice concerning input devices, the keyboard mainly, and image applications, specifically the HTML5 Canvas attribute. It was an interesting conversation. One that mainly had me focused on a few aspects of what I find most useable. Nothing that I’d say was incredibly stunning or necessarily revealing, again speaking exclusively about what I wrote, but yesterday something happened that made that conversation ever more relevant.

One part of said conversation, my part, brought up OSX Lion, and it’s gestures. And how I wasn’t in any hurry to upgrade. You see I haven’t the most precise control of my fingers — spacially speaking — and I find the trackpad on my computer incredibly awkward to use, a lot of the time. I can use it to move to any spot on the screen and click, once, but as for most of the advertized gestures in Lion, or at least my impression of them, having witnessed demonstrations both on the internet and in person, I was left with the strong impression those gestures would remain largely unusable to me.

Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t hostile to the idea of Lion’s capabilities, as gestures are just one of many new features, or upgrading for that matter — I was planning on upgrading, eventually — but I said that on Thursday or Friday of last week, and by 8 o’clock Sunday night Lion was installed and running on my machine. I guess I should have defined what I meant by “not in a hurry.”

But I wasn’t incorrect. Lion’s gestures, for the most part, won’t work for me. At least in any consistent manner that would, even remotely, be productive. But I’m still trying. And I remain optimistic. Read “My behaviour is the problem?” in its entirety

The origins of interest

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

A reason for being

Inclusivity isn’t anything easy to come by. I’m well aware of the efforts involved. In fact, I feel completely justified in declaring, more than most. And not in the capacity that I assume most might expect — there’s that ugly word “assume” again. Rather I’m coming at inclusion from the other side. Not having to accommodate, but needing to be accommodated.

I needed to be more like the mainstream enough to participate in… well… the mainstream. Meaning I had to adapt the way I behaved in order to make somewhat productive use out of a computer, generally, but the internet, specifically. (Which may sound vague at this point, granted, but Ill be addressing this in much more detail very soon in upcoming blog posts. Please bear with me.)

Don’t get me wrong, there was, and still is, a certain amount of technology needed to be able to interact with the internet — as there most obviously is with any individual. And the onus wasn’t entirely on me. What I’m saying is behavior and technology are never a mutually exclusive means to any end. Neither is to blame. They both are. It’s a fact we need to come to terms with and accept before “we” attempt to improve anything. Nothing is, or ever will be, perfect. Read “A reason for being” in its entirety

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