I got my first Mac off Ebay around 2001 I think. Think I paid about £200 for it. I didn’t have any co-ordination problems at this time so had no trouble with the keyboard and smaller track pad on the Clamshell iBook.
The older style iBook had keys closer together and small trackpad
As my ataxia started and progressed I struggled more to hit the right keys when trying to use all my fingers as I had been taught back at deaf school (many moons ago now!)
My desktop at this time was a regular HP desktop computer. My cheap solution was to get a BIGTRACK trackball and oversized keyboard and share it between them both. After getting fed up of my desktop always locking up and taking 15 minutes to start up I decided to look into accessibility options for computers before deciding which new machine to upgrade to.
Whilst Windows has a lot more free programs available, the spaced design of the iMac keyboard would mean I would be able to use a regular keyboard for longer with the help of word prediction and abbreviation-expansion. After searching for assistive programs for Mac I found the Assistive Ware site (http://www.assistiveware.com/keystrokes.php) and discovered Keystrokes.
I emailed them for advice on how much memory/hard drive space this program would take and if I needed others adding in the future then bought myself an iMac. I knew I wouldn’t be able to use the apple mouse that comes with it, but after seeing a young girl on the Assistive ware site who had much more pronounced difficulties with her arms and was using a Joystick Plus I decided to get one of these as it would allow for progression of my condition without having to keep changing hardware.
Although it was very expensive it comes with a selection of handles, I currently use the T-bar one most of the time but can switch to the ‘softknob’ which is a large yellow ball.
The joystick plus comes with a switch box so you can connect whatever kind of switch you can manage to use for clicking or restricting direction of the cursor (up/down only or left/right only) you can also change the speed and how far it travels on one small or big movement. This makes it easier to steer with the slightest nudge of any body part
you can manage to move!
My next issue was I cant sit for long periods without getting alot of pain and by evening I just really want to lie down but its also my only opportunity to chat to friends in far away places. My old iBook was now over 8 years old and struggling with the assistive programs on, it was down to snail pace despite running maintenance programs on it several times to try and speed it up and take off anything not essential.
As I needed a laptop to be able to chat in bed so I can lie down and rest my back I decided to look into the new Macbook’s that have the same spaced keyboard as my iMac.
They do tend to cost alot more than Windows laptops though I did not want to go back to Windows so once again returned to Ebay to try andfind myself a bargain on a Macbook. I managed to find one that came with a very snazzy case and sleeve to protect it!
Although Mac’s cost more I feel it has been worth it for me as it enables me to use my hands for as long as possible.
On a good day I can manage the Macbook on my lap whilst laid semi-reclined and arms fully supported with cushions. I also have an over bed table to put laptop on now and sometimesuse an external keyboard and trackball version of my joystick that i got cheap off ebay (couldn’t afford another £250 for another joystick plus!) The keyguard I share between the keyboards as it cost me about £100 to import it from US, so it was cheaper to get another external keyboard than get a keyguard for the Macbook also.
Either way, creating a flexible system seems to be the key to making Assistive Technology work for you through the many stages of progression that Ataxia will bring.
To see Keystrokes in more detail go to page called ‘Assistiveware for Mac’