Physical Disabilities

Physical Disabilities

Physical Disabilities
Physical disabilities can be sensory, where there are problems with sight, hearing or speech, or they may impair motor function, so that movement is restricted or imprecise. Injuries may cause a disability, and disease such as a heart condition may also make normal exertion impossible. Some disabilities start at birth - congenital disabilities. Others are acquired during life. If you have a disability, it is almost certain that there are many others who do also. Most conditions have support groups or associations that have grown up relating to the problem. These groups may offer specialized help to minimize the effect of the condition.

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    Most of today's tech devices have features that make it easier for people with disabilities to use the full range of the device's features. Accessibility options are usually found in the device's system settings or preferences.

    With technology becoming so necessary for everyday life, you'll find more accessibility features being developed all the time. There are several ways to navigate on a device: a mouse, a trackpad, a keyboard and touch sensors to name a few. While you can use your fingers on touch-sensitive devices, there are styluses (pointer- or pen-like tools) that make it easier. Styluses are usually more accurate than your finger and help keep your screen clean. They are very low-cost and can be purchased almost anywhere technology is sold.

    If you find that the display scrolls too fast or the device is too sensitive when you select something, there are a variety of adjustments you can make. This is especially useful if you have fine motor issues.
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    Most of today's tech devices have features that make it easier for people with disabilities to use the full range of the device's features, including voice input and output.

    Voice input means the device responds to your voice and performs the commands you speak. Voice input features are available on most new devices. They can be interactive and respond to your questions. Apple’s invention of Siri has made this feature almost universal. If it is not built into your device, there are free apps or software available.

    You no longer have to teach your device to recognize your voice. The voice input process is now seamless and very accurate. You can ask questions and get the answer from an automatic web search. The invention of artificial intelligence creates a human­like interaction with your device. As competition increases, this feature is becoming more popular and available.

    Voice output means your device can read text, graphics and other displayed items aloud. Unlike voice input, voice output usually sounds more robotic. The technology of voice output is not as well developed as voice input.

    Voice output is often called text­to­speech. While this is the most common use of this type of feature, there are many other options available. One such option is a voiceover. The voiceover feature is especially good for blind or low-vision users. When the voiceover feature is turned on, each object that you touch or pass over is described aloud, as you navigate the screen. This feature often has a very mechanical sounding voice. But there are usually some adjustments you can make to improve the voice, such as speed and pitch. This will improve the sound, but it will probably still sound robotic.

    Devices older than about four years might not have these options, so it is highly recommended to update your device. It is also important to have a current operating system on your device. This is generally found in system settings.
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    People with paraplegia who engage in adaptive scuba diving have little or no ability to kick in order to maintain their position in the water. This is why it is important that they master their buoyancy. Adaptive divers need to understand the various techniques and tools that can help them safely and effectively control buoyancy despite the inability to use foot fins. Note that a mobility-impaired diver who is a complete paraplegic will have no sensation or movement below the level of the injury, where an incomplete paraplegic may have varying degrees of movement, sensation and the ability to ambulate or walk.

    There are many variations of arm or leg impairments, so it’s important to assess the mobility of the individual early on to determine the level of assistance, if any, needed.
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    For maximum independence if you have a disability, you can install an electric door opener. If you are unable to turn keys or open or close doors, an electric door opener opens the door for you with a remote control or keypad. And when you are inside, you can open the door remotely, “buzzing” in your guests, just like you might at an apartment entry. These devices can even be operated by pressure sensitive mats or whisper devices for the severely disabled. Electric door openers tend to be on the expensive side, however.
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    If you are still mobile but need assistance getting up the stairs from your driveway to a porch, deck, or raised entryway, an outdoor stair lift may be the answer. Just sit in the seat and let it raise you to the next level.
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    If you have a disability and the entry to your home is particularly high and a long ramp impractical, a vertical platform lift might be a solution. The lift works like an elevator to raise a wheelchair or scooter, plus a companion, smoothly and effortlessly up and down from driveway to entryway, patio to porch, etc... It can work from four feet to up to 14 feet in height. A lift, powered by battery or household current, is durable indoors or outdoors for even the harshest winter weather and really levels the playing field for someone living in a multi-level situation. 
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    If you use a wheelchair, scooter, or even a walker, ramps are much easier to negotiate than stairs. Ramps can be as lovely as a nice deck and enhance the look of your home, or be as utilitarian and portable as modular aluminum (often a better choice if the home is not your own). They can be expensive, ranging up to $5,000, but if you need one, community agencies will often help you find an affordable way to get one. For assistance, start by calling your local independent living center or United Way (in most areas, just dial 211) and tell them what you are looking for; they will give you referrals to appropriate agencies. You might also call a building contractor that specializes in accessible remodeling for a quote.
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    Once you are through the door, does your wheelchair, walker, or scooter make it difficult to reach the door knob and pull the door closed? You could tie a cord or rope around the door knob and fasten it to a hook mounted at a handy place that you can reach. Or, if you prefer something a little nicer-looking, a door closer is an inexpensive solution that is durable, flexible, and almost invisible. One end hooks around the door knob, while the other slips into a holder on the door where it is easy to reach and gives you good leverage for pulling the door closed. You can also remove the puller and take it with you to use on other doors while you are away from home. 
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    Getting in the door is easier if you do not have to fumble with keys due to your disability. Today, there are many alternatives. You can go hi-tech and punch a code into a keypad or use a one-button remote control, similar to the one that opens newer cars. Some can even open the door for you. Ask a locksmith, your security system company, or a home improvement store about the many options available. Also, you can search “keyless locks” on the web.
     
    If the old-fashioned way is good enough for you, there are key turners with built-up handles that give you greater leverage and make turning keys easier.
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    If you have a disability, make sure you can see where you are going by installing automatic lighting. Motion sensor lights, readily available at hardware and home improvement stores, can be easily installed with a few simple tools. Once you are inside, sound and voice activated lights can be turned on and off at will as you move through the house. There are also whole-house control systems that allow you to turn lights on and off throughout the house using a master control or a remote, the latter being nice when leaving or returning home in the dark. Look for these at home improvement or lighting stores. If you have a home security system, ask the company if they have a compatible lighting system.