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Everyday Tasks Made Easier
With Accessible Technology
By Patricia Kennedy, RN, CNP

(Page 2 of 3)

Screen readers, for example, can read everything on your computer screen, including text, graphics, control buttons and menus, and speak it in a computerized voice. This allows people with vision impairments to read e-mails and even surf the Internet. For people with limited dexterity, voice recognition software allows them to speak into a microphone and have their voice commands open programs on their computer, navigate the Internet, and type word documents – all without the use of their hands.

Janet Tipton is just one of many people in the MS community who rely on accessible technology to cope with MS-related symptoms. Rachel Dykoski, a 40-year-old woman who was diagnosed with MS in 2004, relies on technology to help her maintain connections with friends and family, as well as to work and function more efficiently. A multi-tasker with MS-related memory and vision challenges, Dykoski uses electronic reminders, programmable keys, and font adjustments to get her though the day.

“I would be lost without my computer, but sometimes my MS symptoms make it difficult to type or see the computer screen,” Dykoski said. “The technology adaptations I’ve made, such as increasing the font size or programming specific keys to reduce the amount I need to type, make it possible for me to use my computer no matter what symptoms I’m experiencing.”

Dykoski has spent the past two years working to ensure that other members of the MS community can share in the benefits of accessible technology that she herself has experienced. Along with eight other people living with MS, Dykoski serves as steering committee member of the MS Technology Collaborative, a joint effort between the National MS Society, Microsoft, and Bayer HealthCare Pharmaceuticals designed to connect people living with MS to accessible technology that can help move their lives forward.

Linda Wyman is also a member of the Collaborative steering committee. Diagnosed with MS in the early 1990s, Linda went from having 20/20 vision to being legally blind in just one year. With the help of accessible technology, Linda is able to overcome her MS-related vision challenges and maintain her independence.

Using a scanner and reading software, Linda is able to load books and letters onto her computer and read them in a magnified format on her screen. Her screen reader also reads content aloud from accessible Internet pages and documents, allowing her to access online information and use e-mail and word processors.

“Technology gives me a measure of independence,” Wyman says. “Instead of having someone read to me, these technologies usually allow me to do it myself. Nothing can truly replace good vision, but accessible technology and the will to use it makes my life better.”

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