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Telecommuter - Consumer Researcher with MS

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Situation

Jamie was an active 27-year-old in 1979, who traveled on the professional tennis circuit with her husband. While at Wimbledon, her leg suddenly went numb. The diagnosis: multiple sclerosis (MS).

The MS symptoms came and went, worsening with each recurrence. After a second daughter was born to the family, Jamie's strength waned further and she began using a wheelchair around the house. She first lost all use of her legs, then most use of her arms and hands. She can slightly move the fingers in her right hand and raise this hand about four inches from her lap. She uses a joystick to drive her wheelchair.

After receiving extensive outpatient services at Shepherd Spinal Center, a vocational counselor referred her to the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services. An insurance company hired Jamie, where she called physicians' offices to obtain updates on the medical status of insurance claimants. This job ended after two years, but the same technology is used with her current position.

Jamie now works for a publication company who surveys home maintenance and repair company customers to determine their satisfaction with services received. She must make telephone calls and document comments and consumer satisfaction ratings. She works from her home; electronically sending completed reports to her employer.


Accommodation

Computer:

1.The main component of her workstation is a desktop computer with voice recognition and office software.

2.A voice-activated tape recorder is hooked into both her phone and her computer so she can record phone conversations. A small speakerphone with a handset is placed in her lap and she hits the phone switch to turn the phone on and off. When off the phone, Jamie rewinds, listens to the conversation again, and completes an electronic survey form. She then able e- mails the form to her employer.

3.She uses a mouth stick to press the button on the tape recorder and to turn the pages in her notebook. The tape recorder was initially difficult to depress with the mouth stick, so custom metal extenders were added to the buttons, increasing leverage and ease of use.

4.Occasionally, Jamie uses the magnifier program built into Microsoft applications to ease eyestrain, and the on-screen keyboard program as a substitute for voice recognition during periods when there is too much background noise.

5.A custom computer table allows her to drive her wheelchair into position over a platform that contains her standard mouse. A stand was built to hold her mouth stick.


Home:

1.A wheelchair-accessible tray and table mount allow Jamie to feed herself during the day when no one else is at home. The self-feeding tray is prepared in the morning by an attendant, who comes to her home in the morning and evening to help Jamie perform activities of daily living. In addition to attendants, volunteers from her community assist with van driving and other household chores.

2.A power lock system on her door at home operates by radio waves. The battery-operated unit is mounted on her chair and features an auto re-lock after 30 seconds. This system also provides her with the ability to operate lights with an additional button. The installation involves no wires and is as easily installed as a regular lock.

3.A modified van was provided by an individual from her church.


Accommodation List / Sources

•Speech recognition software, in this case Dragon Naturally Speaking, can be found at www.scansoft.com for $149.

•Microsoft Office XP Suite Edition, standard software is currently available at www.microsoft.com/office/ for $479.

•Voice activated tape recorders are available at Radio Shack for approximately $100.

•Speakerphones with handsets are also available at Radio Shack for approximately $45.

•Screen magnifier and on-screen keyboard are standard accessible features on Windows operating system software.

•Jamie's computer table was custom built, but commercially available tables can be found at sources such as Herman Miller, www.hermanmiller.com/CDA/productindex, ranging in price from $500 to $1500.

•The wheelchair accessible eating tray and mount were custom built. To date, no comparable product can be found on the market.


Acknowledgements

This case study was originally documented by Tech Connections, a NIDRR-funded collaboration between United Cerebral Palsy Associations (UCP), the Center for Assistive Technology and Environmental Access at Georgia Tech (CATEA), and the Southeast Disability Business Technical Assistance Center (SE DBTAC).


[1] http://www.workrerc.gatech.edu