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Empowerment through computers.

Paul Gouett uses a chin-cup to drive his electric chair, but he says it is the computer that "makes my life meaningful." No longer able to use his hands or arms, he is in touch with the world via a metal bite plate attached to a twelve-inch brass rod with a rubber tip. With this he can answer the telephone, turn pages, and type. And so he continues as a freelance writer and an advisor to the Canadian MS Society.

"I'm not computer literate," Mr. Gouett said recently. "I'm a user. I'm living proof that on doesn't need to understand how it works. Once I quit being dazzled by the foot-work, I began to appreciate the dance!"

"Nothing beats a personal computer for disabled empowerment," says New Mobility magazine. Indeed, empowering developments appear nearly endless: there are laptops that plug into wheelchair batteries; programs that key-in whole words at a single keystroke; even programs that predict and type one's next word or phrase.

Some adaptations, such as cursor-control systems that respond to eye or head movements, are being developed specifically for disabled users. Other functions meant for general use have been adopted by people with disabilities. For example, from Apple Computer, Macintosh's "Close View" feature magnifies text on th screen for graphic design purposes, but it's also a boon to people with vision problems.

Where can the computer novice find basic information? Local NMSS chapter staff may be able to refer you to rehabilitation professionals, volunteers, and other resources. For example, the Massachusetts NMSS Chapter recently acquired thirteen older Macintoshes from a local university, in order to introduce members to computer use at no cost.

In print

* A free booklet, "Extend Their Reach," provides an overview of ways computers can be modified. Write: Electronic Industries Association, Consumer Electronics Group, 2001 pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20006-1813.

* Computer-Disability News is a quarterly newsletter for people new to computer technology. Check your public library or subscribe--$15/1 year; $27/2 years -- by writing to CDN, National Easter Seal Society, 70 East lake Street, Chicago, IL 60601.

On the telephone

Two industry giants have information hot lines:

* Apple Computer: World-Wide Disability Solutions Group, 408-974-7910

* IBM: Independence Series, 1-800-426-4832


Ask local authorized computer dealers. Dealers provide technical support and may be knowledgeable about nearby user-groups. Remember, buying a computer is much like buying a car: feel free to negotiate with the dealer for discounts and add-ons.

Tech Act training programs

If computer skills could enable you to retain or qualify for employment, there may be special resources for you. Title I of the federal Technology-Related Assistance Program for People with Disabilities provides funds for state programs; these are now in place in 43 of the 50 states. Other states may have their own programs, through a state vocational rehabilitation department or the state university system. Ask your NMSS chapter or telephone 202-205-5666 for information.

OR, go on-line!

A computer bulletin board may put you in touch with people who have solved real-life proglems and want to share their know-how. You might ask for tips on buying low-cost secondhand equipment and using free public-domain "share-ware" programs.

But how can you access a computer bulletin board if you don't already own a computer with a modem and subscribe to an on-line service? Your NMSS chapter service staff may be able to put you in touch with someone in your area willing to share their access.
COPYRIGHT 1993 National Multiple Sclerosis Society
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:computers for multiple sclerosis patients
Publication:Inside MS
Date:Sep 22, 1993
Previous Article:National MS Society goes on-line.
Next Article:Betaseron update.

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