Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Happy to Have Done my Part

About twenty five years ago I was asked to use my electronics skills to develop a device that would not only improve the quality of life of a disabled person, but also to allow him to call for help in the event of an emergency. Over the years I’ve developed several different versions, each one being better than the previous one. The latest allows full control of a telephone, including a memory for up to twenty-four phone numbers, full control of a television and any other device that is normally operated via a remote-control unit, and off-on control of any AC-operated device. With an appropriate speakerphone the system is always functional, even in the event of a power failure. The control device is fully programmable by the disabled user, and all tasks are performed by using only two switches. For a quadriplegic who has no use of his hands, this level of functionality is necessary. A small tube placed close to the users face provides access to the switches. Short puffs into the tube activate the first switch, and a sipping action activates the second switch. The user scrolls through a menu of functions shown on a backlit LCD display by a series of puffs, and performs the selected action by a brief sip.

The user was my brother-in-law Mike, and unfortunately he passed away last week.

As tragic as Mike’s story is, he was blessed with a good family and friends. Each contributed to the improvement of the quality of Mike’s life in his or her own way, and I’m glad that I was able to do my part.

Because a quadriplegic relies on those around him for tasks that the rest of us take for granted, being able to do some of those things unassisted must have been a pleasure. That simple pleasure is what I hope to have brought to Mike’s life for the duration of his disability. Knowing that I had a positive impact on his daily life is my reward.


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