Gadgets That Support Independence

As a follow up to June’s column on aids for daily living, I’ve decided to highlight different technologies that can help people who have a disability or are elderly live full, independent lives. And, of course, they can all be used and delivered right to your home.

The most obvious technology is computers. From the privacy of one’s home (and possibly in their pajamas) a person can run a business, do their banking and stay in touch with loved ones, all because of the internet and personal computers. But what happens when that lifeline known as the computer breaks down? Most of us have seen the black and white beetles driven by the Geek Squad. They are a computer repair service that makes house calls. Other options are Chips Computer Services and The Computer Specialist that Comes to You. Be proactive and call one of them to give your computer a “tune-up” and install virus protection software. To prevent your computer from becoming another knick-knack, hone your skills at Gladys Green SeniorNet. These learning centers, designed for adults 50 and over, teach classes on the latest software. Wow your family with your knowledge of the latest software updates!

Adaptive technology has become so prevalent in the disability community that non-profits have been formed just to help people understand and select the right solution for them. At Assistive Technology of Minnesota, they provide access to life changing equipment for people with disabilities by creating a lifeline to financial assistance, education, information and resources throughout Minnesota. Ability Hub will direct you to adaptive equipment and alternative methods available for accessing computers such as speech recognition software and mouse alternatives. ABLE-DATA is a federally funded project whose primary mission is to provide information on assistive technology and rehabilitation equipment. Their database contains information on more than 29,000 assistive technology products from emergency alert systems to adaptive office equipment. These nonprofits do not sell any products directly, but they can help you locate the companies that do. So, what kind of companies are out there selling products?

Infogrip, Inc. was founded in 1986 with a mission to develop and market products that provide people with a healthier and more productive way to interact with computers such as ergonomic product and training. They can completely adapt a work environment with adjustable desks, touch-free switches and large track-balls. If either arthritis or Parkin-son’s disease limits your dexterity, Chester Creek Technologies has developed numerous versions of the mouse and keyboard. Their VisionBoard keyboard has oversized keys, large-print letters and high-contrast lettering. They have a great selection of colorful keyboards and a tiny mouse for kids with little hands. EnableMart started out by developing educational software and is now an all inclusive source for assistive technology and assistive living devices. To keep people outside and active, Just Two Bikes, based in Hugo, MN, developed a side-by-side tandem bike, and Fishing Has No Boundaries, with chapters in Bemidji and the Brainerd Lakes area, was created to open up the great outdoors through fishing for people with disabilities. Whatever your limitation, these companies will find a solution.

Even if you’ve never “surfed the Web,” been a gadget person or even learned how to work your VCR, don’t be afraid to try a technologically advanced solution to your daily living issue. There are many resources to help!

 

Resource Contact Information

Chips Computer Services: www.chipscs.com

Geek Squad: www.geeksquad.com

Enablemart: www.enablemart.com

Gladys Green SeniorNet: www.seniornet-mpls.org

 

The Computer Specialist that Comes to You: 952-200-0921

Assistive Technology of Minnesota: www.atmn.org

AbleData: www.abledata.com

Ability Hub: www.abilityhub.com

Chester Creek Technologies: www.chestercreektech.com

Infogrip: www.infogrip.com

Just Two Bikes: www.justtwobikes.com

Fishing Has No Boundaries: www.fhnbinc.org

Lisa Schmidtke is the President and Founder of House-calls Network. Their Web site, www.housecalls-network.com, contains a directory of resources that can help the growing population of seniors, disabled people and their caregivers live independently. Housecalls Network also sells aids for daily lving and adaptive clothing.

Lisa Schmidtke can be reached by e-mail at lisa@housecalls-network.com or by phone at 952-221-0722. Housecalls Network does not endorse any particular provider. They assume no responsibility for transactions between the readers of this article and listed organizations.