The Gift of Accessibility

Written by on January 21st, 2014 – 3 Comments

Six years ago, when I was having a major NMO attack, which lead me to mistakenly being diagnosed with MS, I lost all the feeling in my hands and arms. At first, I was a mess-I couldn’t do the simple everyday tasks that most people do without thinking-I couldn’t manipulate the buttons and zippers on clothing, put keys into locks, carry things without dropping them and so on. It took months of just muscling my way through it before my brain finally adapted to the new normal and I could manage most of these things again.

One thing I have continued to struggle with is writing. Small motor skills are hard. I can block print for a few minutes, but then my hand starts to hurt and I have to stop. I am hopeless at cursive writing-my brain knows the motions, but it has a hard time getting my hand to sync up, so I end up with loops and swoops where they don’t belong and the whole thing looks like backhand chicken scratch. About the only thing I make an effort to do writing-wise at this point is sign my name on medical documents.

In November, I underwent major surgery to repair a broken wrist. I had a bone removed from the heel of my hand and my arm bone cut in 3, shortened and then bolted back together with 6 screws and a plate. It was (and is) an extremely painful surgery that has completely taken away my ability to write, at least until I regain range of motion. It’s going to take months of physio therapy to do that.

Some time ago, I realized that the only reliable way for me to communicate by written word, or to record information for myself, was to type. My fingers may be numb and clumsy, but for the most part, I can get words down on a page fairly efficiently, using my computer. The one problem with this is that my lap top is too heavy for me to lug around. About a year ago, I discovered that they now make a tiny, wireless keyboard for iPads. The only problem is that at over $700, an iPad mini was not in my budget.

In late November, my husband’s company sent home a note with his pay cheque with details about an Xmas party. My husband had just joined this steel company back in May, so we’d never experienced one of their parties before. In the note, the owners said that husbands should email their wives’ wish lists to the company and maybe they would get something on it. There was only one thing on my list and I was hesitant to tell them-mainly because I knew it was a huge ask and I really didn’t think it was fair to ask for it. I mentioned this to my best friend, who encouraged me to just go for it-after all, they could always just say no. After much thought, I decided to just put it out there and see what would happen.

The day of the Xmas party, the company owner stood up and chastised those employees who had not read the note they’d sent with their pay cheques about the party, which included the request for their wife’s wish lists. Less than half their employees had submitted one. He then called those that had sent a wishlist in to come up and get their wife’s  gifts. My husband came back to our table with two boxes with my name on them. As I started to tear off the paper, I realized that the iPod mini I so desperately needed was in the first box. The second box held the wireless keyboard. Tears were streaming down my face and when I looked over, my husband was also wiping tears away. We were just so stunned.

The boss’s wife came over to see my reaction and I hugged her and thanked her profusely. She said that I was the first one to submit a wishlist and when she saw what was on it and why, she decided that I deserved to have exactly what I had asked for. I told her she would never know how much their generous gift meant to me.

Having this technology that is compact and light means I can take notes for myself at meetings when I am volunteering. It will make the work I do much, much easier. Accessibility is everything and I am extremely grateful. It was a sweet reminder that there are people in the world who are good and kind and that sometimes, you have to be brave enough ask for what you really need. As the Rolling Stones put it, “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you might just find you get what you need.”


3 Responses

  1. Loribelle says:

    I am so thrilled for you Lelainia! You’re a true rockstar and I am so glad you have the means to communicate with us all! You always have such kind words and you often reach out with words of encouragement!

  2. Thank you Loribelle! You made me laugh with the rockstar comment-it’s a long standing inside joke amongst my friends. <3

  3. Footsteps says:

    For anyone who is interested in knowing Siri on iPad 3 versions and iPad mini is now pretty good. I use it on occasion and several of my students use it even though many of them have speech difficulties along with special needs. It might help increasing accessibility if ever typing becomes difficult.