Shelly is someone who has lived with a disability from birth. She has Cerebral Palsy Quadriplegia which means all four of her limbs are effected by Cerebral Palsy. She uses a powered chair to get a round. Shelly first encountered technology in School, She came to realise how powerful technology can be when she was in second level education. It was the use of a mini keyboard and tracker ball that made it easier for her use a computer and complete her studies. She said that the main item that made her time studying easier was the drag lock. Previously, to move something around the screen for her was near impossible as she needed to hold two buttons at the same time. With this equipment she was able to negotiate the page using one click instead of two. This simple piece of equipment was a real eye opener for her as this equipment allowed her to be “more engaged with the computer”. Shelly was able to realise the full potential the computer to help her complete her studies. This empowered her and she was able to go on to complete a business qualification.
Shelly is living independently and her life has been “liberated by the utilisation of Assistive technology in her home and her everyday life”. To support her independence the type of assistive technology she uses included environmental controls in her home. She has a unit attached to her powered chair that controls all the electrical devices in her home. This gives her freedom of choice. For example, she can choose when she needs her personal assistant (PA). She said, this is very important to her, “having time out to herself and having the confidence to be on her own without any worries as she is empowered to control her environment, the things an able bodied person takes for granted”. There are also motors on all the doors, operated by a button system that allows her to move about her home with ease. For her, the introduction of AT in her life gave her the independence she craved. She is able to do her “own thing”, she is “not relaying on others”. It is the simple things like been able to change a TV station and control the volume that make all the difference. Having to ask someone to do these things for her “would drive her mad, constantly having to wait on someone else to do these simplest of things. This assistive technology and the control that it gives her is “independence, independence that everyone else takes for granted”. Turning on a light is a simple thing but with the technology it gives her a sense of self-empowerment. For Shelly, she would be unable to live the life she wants without assistive technology in her life. Assistive technology allows her to “do my own thing and has definitely improved the quality of my life”. For her, the costs are relative compared to “the level of freedom and independence assistive technology gives … how you can put a price on that”. She maintains there is a myth built up around assistive technology, myths about the price and that assistive technology is too complicated. She insists that the utilisation of assistive technology has the potential to reduce the amount of personal assistance hours which could be offset against the costs of any assistive technology.
Shelly says “that we are living in an open and fair society and for people with disabilities they can’t be equal and on the same level if they don’t have the right supports and this includes the appropriate equipment to live their life. She states “with this support and equipment I can be involved in my community just like everybody else. If I did not have the support that I have now I would be in residential care and that is a lot more expensive both financially and socially”. Shelly goes on to say that “assistive technology is not a one size fits all, it is very unique to the person and there needs to be an awareness of this by everyone involved. Assistive technologies are very often seen as gimmicks and this need to be tackled straight off. Assistive technology is very important for the people who use them. It is part of their autonomy, it is part of what they are and it makes them what they are”.