Saturday, July 30, 2005

The Window of Opportunity

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Doug has covered some important and informative topics relating to the operation of your computer. Now, I'd like to talk about another aspect of computing and why a computer can be so important (aside from taking care of "necessary" day to day tasks.)

Before I do that, I will share a little about myself. Unlike Doug, I was born with my disabilities (Cerebral Palsy and optic nerve atrophy causing low vision. I am legally blind, and do not drive...I also don't climb ladders or wash windows!), so I've had a lifetime to learn and employ coping skills; it's second-nature to me. Disability notwithstanding, there hasn't been much in my life that I've wanted to do that I haven't eventually been able to accomplish. I just do some things differently from most folks. My world was once restricted because there were so many things I could not physically do. Then, I got my first computer, and everything began to change. I knew I would never again want to be without a computer when I used one to write my first term paper on a long Friday night/early Saturday morning when I was in college, then turned my rough draft into a final paper in ten minutes flat.

One major issue that many people with physical limitations face is isolation. Being able to use a computer can provide a tremendous advantage if you can't go out: You can bring the world to your desktop, on terms you can manage. A computer can serve as an open door to the rest of the world. You can keep in touch with family and friends via e mail and chat, take online classes, do research, keep personal and household records, pay bills, shop, play games, and learn about virtually any topic you care to explore. The possibilities are only bounded by your imagination. You can even get your computer to "speak" for you, if you have a speech impairment! It is easy to grasp how being able to use a computer goes a long way toward reducing or even eliminating depression that can occur when social contacts in the "real" world are limited due to lack of mobility or other issues related to disability....and the sheer sense of accomplishment, of "I can do it!" is not to be underestimated. It is empowerment, in the best sense of the word. Fortunately, one does not have to have a physical disability of any kind to experience that sense of accomplishment.

Like many people, I found the computer initially daunting, (you don't need to have physical limitations to feel intimidated by a machine, either.) Once I learned to use one, I found I could "go" literally anywhere in the world and experience things I would not have otherwise had an opportunity to take part in. All for the price of the machine, the software, and the ISP. What a DEAL! It's like having the keys to the candy store. (When I felt anxious in the early days of my computer use and afraid to push any buttons lest I break something, it did help to remember that ultimately, I knew where the "off" switch was! That helped me overcome a lot of anxious moments.)

Freedom. Creativity. A sense of mastery. Productivity. Empowerment. These are just some of the things a computer can and will provide for the user, regardless of physical limitations, with the right combination of software, hardware, skills and a solid sense of adventure. With The Handicapped Computerist, we want to help you open a window on the world, to feel free enough to step across the threshold of that open door so that you can reach your fullest potential.