the surprised pessimist

"I'm not interested in blind optimism, but I'm very interested in optimism that is hard-won, that takes on darkness and then says, 'This is not enough.'" Colum McCann


March 2016

The Best Hands-Free Device Hands-Down

I made this short video to send to the guys at Komodo Open Labs in Canada as a user-testimonial for their magic little ‘Tecla Shield’ Bluetooth Switch Interface.

Tecla Shield

As a parent and carer, I can say that the Tecla has made a huge difference in my life; because it’s made a huge difference in my son’s life.

I am very grateful for the Tecla Shield because it is the only device I know of that gives him reliable, wireless access to his Mac and iPhone.

Think of the Tecla as a device that enables a person who has NO HANDS to access a Mac or iPhone and do exactly the same things that can be done by someone who does have use of their hands. A Tecla works like a touch-screen or a wireless keyboard – ever used a touch-screen device? brilliant! ever used a bluetooth keyboard? also brilliant! But what if you had no hands?

Think of tapping a switch like tapping your fingers on a computer keyboard or tapping on a touch-screen device (although, let’s be honest here – when I say ‘computer’, I mean ‘Mac’, and when I say ‘touch-screen device’, I mean ‘iPhone’ or ‘iPad’, because; frankly, PCs won’t talk very nicely to my son. But Macs do! Other phones won’t talk very helpfully to my son, but iPhones do!  Only Apple devices have this free in-built feature – it’s called Switch Control.)

With the little blue and orange box in his wheelchair backpack, my quadriplegic son is enabled, through Apple Switch Control, to make connections with the world…literally. Without the use of his hands, he nevertheless opens and closes doors,  edits video, turns on his office air-conditioner, chats to friends, makes phone calls, listens to music, completes university courses, runs his own business, etc, etc, etc.

The Tecla Shield – a cute little box with a funny name. Where would we be without it!

Smoke Gets in My Eyes

Exactly 4 years ago, March 2012, my son, Christopher, who was 15 at the time, made this little video. When he had completed it, he showed it to me, and I must admit that some ‘smoke got in my eyes’.

I had helped him with the video – operating the camera at his direction, typing in subtitles, etc, as I had done on a number of previous occasions; but, let’s be clear – HE produced and edited it. On his own. From start to finish. Using a single switch.

When I saw the finished product, I suddenly realised – as I had not dared to for the previous 15 years – that my son; smart and funny, yet quadriplegic and speech-impaired with cerebral palsy, might just have a bright future ahead of him. A future in which he might have a Career. Opportunities. An Income. Independence. A Creative Outlet. Friends…

What I didn’t expect was what happened next.

Christopher had made the video simply to send to his TAFE-online I.T. teachers to introduce himself to them. This he did, and had a muted response. It was when he shared it with a tech network run from Seattle, WA, USA, that the fun began.  The video quickly gathered nearly 100,000 views and began a wild ride for us!

When Christopher got to his computer the next morning, there were literally hundreds of comments and emails waiting for him in response to his video on youtube. Many of these were from trolls and nameless bullies who try to make their pitiful lives feel better by tearing others down with sarcasm, insults and invective. And let’s face it, the dimmest and weakest of bullies can make fun of somebody who is disabled.

I got some more smoke in my eyes, and quickly took the video down.

After advice from Chris Pirillo, we uploaded the video again, and things have only continued to surprise and delight us ever since. A World Wide Web of friends, opportunities, education and work have opened up, and Christopher hasn’t looked back. This weekend, he is again a keynote speaker at an important event (the Assistive Solutions Expo in Brisbane, organised by Spinal Life Australia).

I’ll be there with him, and, at some point, once again, some smoke may get in my eyes.

I never thought such things would be possible. I’m a pessimist, so I’m surprised!




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