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My Experiences with Everyday Technology

Around the time when I was non-verbal and crossing over to early communication, Apple products began to play an invaluable role in my re-learning to communicate throughout my journey in coming back from Locked-In Syndrome.

In early 2019, I was given an iPad by a non-profit agency called UCP. Over time, this changed my life. In the beginning, I was set up with an email and an Apple ID. The staff at my facility helped me set it up and I am so grateful for them. From the day I got my iPad, I documented my experiences and recovery with the camera, video, and iMovie editing software. I began to have correspondence with email, iMessage, and FaceTime. With video chat, I was able to see people and talk with them — especially those that I have not seen in years. I was also able to FaceTime with my 95-year-old grandmother who was in Florida. She passed away last year, so being able to actually see her on a video call was such a gift. Now that my speech is more intelligible than it was in the past, I find that my iPad is an essential part of my life. I use it for everything from making doctor appointments to finding new music. Through the latest iOS software update 13.6.1 on my iPad, I can turn on Voice Control. I am able to use everything hands-free. This is revolutionary, not only for me but for many in similar situations. Overall, my iPad has greatly improved my quality of life. I thank Apple Corporation for offering this technology to society.

Looking back to when I first started using my iPad, there was a lot for me to learn but I got the hang of it and began challenging myself to learn how to use new apps and navigate the web successfully. Eventually, I got much better and I wanted to do more with technology, so I reached out to the Adaptive Tech department (ATEC) at my rehabilitation facility to figure out which kind of tech would be best for me. The team determined I would do well with the Dragon Voice software, which requires a Windows device. Since I also wanted to have cellular capability and touch screen with this new device, we decided the Surface Pro X would be a good match.

The Speech ATEC team specialize with:

* Alphabet and letter boards, word or phrase boards, picture boards

* iOS or Android communication apps

* High-tech communication devices (including eye gaze systems)

* Word/message banking, voice amplification

* Systems for individuals with hearing impairment and head and neck cancer

* We provide evaluation, treatment, training on system use, and assistance with device funding through insurance

OT ATEC includes:

* Computer/device access (tablet, mobile phone, or communication device included) for individuals with physical or visual impairments limiting their use of technology

* Environmental control, such as the use of smart home products controlled by voice, an accessibility device, or an app

* Cognitive supports, including technologies to assist memory and executive function/organization

* Ergonomics, involving adjusting the setup of a workstation to reduce pain/strain and increase tolerance for work

* Access to school curriculum and/or employment, including technologies to assist with reading, writing/pencil and paper tasks, including note-taking and mathematics

Determined to improve my ability to connect with the world using assistive technology and improve my writing and video editing, I took the advice of the ATEC team and my family helped me buy the Surface Pro X just as the global pandemic of COVID hit the US. Through the trials of my own experience with COVID-19 symptoms & positive test around April 8, 2020, and with the rest of the country being impacted with closures, it took a long time for the Surface Pro X to arrive in my hands. By the time I got the Surface Pro X and coordinated an appointment with ATEC to install the Dragon Voice software, the brand new device had sat in the box for 3 months.

After I recovered from COVID-19, they began stage one of re-opening in Massachusetts. I finally had the opportunity to take my Surface Pro X to my appointment with the Adaptive Technology team in mid-July 2020. There were several issues with the device, from not being able to right-click on the touchscreen to Dragon Voice Recognition software not properly installed, it was a bit of a nightmare, to say the least. The ATEC team and I would go through the hours-long process of setup, download, and install, we’d then get this message LAUNCHING - A SERIOUS ERROR OCCURRED [Incident: 200811-000441].

Over the course of a month, through several appointments and tech support phone calls, the ATEC team and I were not successful in setting up my Surface Pro X with the adaptive technology.

There was certain humor about this whole process, from before COVID-19 to now. The bad news is that none of this technology has seemed to work out for one reason or another, through delays and technical issues. On the other hand, during the course of this time, my voice has dramatically improved. So much so, it was to the point where I wasn’t even sure I need this special voice recognition technology anymore.

Since the Surface Pro X with Dragon Voice Recognition software wasn’t really working out for me, and since I made a lot of progress in strengthening my voice on my own, I decided to start making arrangements to return the Surface Pro X to the vendor. I began looking for a touchscreen device that could act as a phone and have more storage space for me to create, edit, and save my video files. This was when I learned of the iPad Pro fourth generation with 1 TB of space. I bought one and returned the Surface Pro X with a 20% restocking fee.

I was told by Apple that I could receive incoming calls from any device if I activate my iPhone and then enable Wi-Fi calling, as long as both devices are on the same network, so I got my old phone activated with a new number.

Initially, it was difficult for me to enable Wi-Fi calling. I had to have the settings on the iPad and iPhone just right. Manipulating this tiny iPhone with my hands was quite the challenge. This is a tiny iPhone SE with a small screen, which makes it really hard to accurately press the numbers. On top of that, ataxia is amplified with emotional, exciting, or stressful situations but I managed to make it happen! On my iPad, there was a notification instructing: “To enable Wi-Fi calling, enter this code on your iPhone…” I got super excited and with my iPhone resting on my chest, I carefully tap the numbers with my right index finger, hoping not to screw it up. It worked!

Now, when I get a message or a call, it rings & notifies me on my iPhone, as well as my iPad. I am super excited about this new development! I also discovered that when the iPhone hotspot is enabled, connecting the iPad to the hotspot will allow me to send and receive messages, as well as receive incoming and make outgoing calls to all devices and landlines.

In my testing, I decided to try a non-Apple device to really make sure that this all works seamlessly together. I called my father on Facebook messenger to give him my new phone number. He called me and this confirmed that my iPhone and iPad both ring! Of course, as I answered, another problem strikes. Even though the call connected, I couldn’t hear him and he couldn’t hear me, for whatever reason. I tried troubleshooting this myself with all the basic techniques like microphone check, restarting both devices, force closing all my apps. With no luck, I called Apple support from my iPhone on speakerphone laying on my chest. I gave them a little background regarding my personal story and my very rare experience with Apple as being my single connection back to the world in 2019. They were extremely helpful however they did not know what was wrong. I seemed to already have tried everything they suggested. They made the determination that my new iPad Pro must be defective and asked me to bring it to the Apple store. The Apple support manager on the phone said “Do you just want to exchange this for the same iPad Pro with cellular capability?” I said yes not knowing what that really meant but I thought that would’ve been a good idea. They realized that with my current physical condition as well as COVID-19, getting to the Apple store might be quite the feat. I told them that my stepfather could help me with this, however he was in the middle of the extremely busy work week as well as an upcoming vacation. Because of this, it was outside the 7-day return window, but they made an exception for me and my stepfather offered to go to the Apple store to exchange the iPad Pro, then to AT&T to activate the cellular plan before vacation.

The morning I was supposed to meet him at 7:30 AM to swap out the iPad Pro, but I was running extremely late due to a transportation issue. I three-way emailed my occupational therapist, the secretary, and my stepfather to give a heads up. When I finally arrived, I found out that my therapist worked with my stepfather and took care of everything for me. This an example of people going above and beyond, and I greatly appreciated it.

Later, working with my therapist to test my new device, I made sure my Wi-Fi on my phone was connected, as well as the iPad. I made sure the settings were all correct and then I asked her to call my cell phone from her office line. It rang on the iPad! Finally, the moment of truth to see if she can hear me! I clicked the “Answer” button, and sure enough, it went through! I was ecstatic. We tested incoming and outgoing calls with a landline, iPad, iPhone, and everything worked fine. After I left the occupational therapist’s office, tested again with my father and his Android device. I also called CVS Pharmacy and still, everything worked. When I returned to the rehabilitation hospital I currently reside in, the original audio issue persisted. Though some Googling, the internet says it’s likely a broadband issue.

Ultimately, this iPad Pro actually works really well for me! It suits my lifestyle and supports my needs. I will be moving out of my current rehabilitation hospital soon and going back to MassGeneral for a serious surgery for my Achilles tendon. After recovery from this surgery, I plan to go to a more rigorous rehabilitation facility that can fabricate walking braces so that I can learn how to walk again. I’ll make sure the WiFi is working with my Apple devices, no matter which facility I’m at.

There are several other awesome features on my new iPad that are a quality of life improvement for me. It’s much faster and has about 40 times the amount of space compared to my previous iPad which is great for creating, editing, and storing my videos and writing docs, as well as plenty of new apps! For example, I got a new video editing app called LumaFusion. There is so much I can do with this app, more than I ever imagined. The first video I published with this cool new app was my Slide Board Transfer. While I feel more comfortable using iMovie to edit my videos because it’s what I’ve been using since my first iPad, it’s exciting to learn how to use new apps with my new iPad. I plan to continue to practice my skills with video editing software, and technology in general. As I continue to progress in my recovery and improve my skills with and without assistive technology, I hope to use tablets, laptops, and iPhones with ease!

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