Coding and Entrepreneurship: Navigating the Challenges with Assistive Technology

Hey. I’m Owen McGirr, founder of EnabO.

As a person living with cerebral palsy and using a wheelchair, I have faced many challenges when it comes to using a computer and writing code. However, with the help of specialized software and tools, I am able to navigate my computer and write code just like anyone else. In this blog post, I want to share my experience and tips on how I am able to write code using a head switch, as well as other assistive technology. From selecting text to debugging, I have found ways to make the process as smooth and efficient as possible. I hope this post will inspire others with disabilities to not give up on their coding aspirations and to explore the assistive technology available to them.

Grid 3

Grid 3 is a software program developed by Smartbox, which is used to assist people with communication and access needs. It is primarily used by individuals with physical disabilities such as cerebral palsy, spinal cord injuries, and multiple sclerosis, to enable them to control their computer or other electronic devices. Grid 3 is designed to work with a variety of input methods, including switches, touchscreens, and eye-gaze technology. The software has an intuitive and customizable interface that allows users to create their own grids of symbols, words, and phrases. Users can then use these grids to communicate, control their devices, and perform various tasks such as browsing the internet, sending emails, and playing games. The software also includes a variety of built-in features such as word prediction, text-to-speech, and the ability to control other devices such as lights and appliances.

I use Grid 3 to control my Windows computer using a head switch. This allows me to navigate the computer and access various programs and functions without the need for a traditional keyboard and mouse. The head switch is connected to the computer via a USB port, and the Grid 3 software interprets the switch movements as commands. This gives me more independence and control over my computer, and allows me to use it for tasks such as communication, entertainment, and work. Overall, it’s an amazing tool that brings a lot of convenience to my life.

TeamViewer

I use Grid 3 on my Windows computer to control TeamViewer, which allows me to remotely access my Mac Mini. This setup allows me to control my Mac Mini using my head switch from a different location. TeamViewer is a remote access software that allows me to connect to my Mac Mini over the internet and use it as if I were sitting in front of it. The Grid 3 software interprets the switch movements as commands on my Windows computer, which I use to control the TeamViewer interface. This gives me the flexibility to access and control my Mac Mini from my wheelchair, whether I’m at home or on the go. This setup allows me to access all my files, applications, and settings on my Mac Mini, and with Grid 3’s intuitive and customizable interface, I can easily navigate and perform tasks with my head switch.

GitHub Copilot

As a switch user, I have found that AI-powered tools like GitHub Copilot can greatly improve my coding experience. With GitHub Copilot, I am able to use natural language processing and machine learning to understand the context of my code and receive suggestions for completions, documentation, and refactoring. This helps me to write more accurate and efficient code, without the need for a traditional keyboard and mouse. By using GitHub Copilot, I am able to take advantage of the latest AI technology and make the coding process more manageable and enjoyable. With the help of AI, I am able to work more efficiently and effectively, despite the limitations of using a switch.

ChatGPT

ChatGPT is a powerful language generation tool that can be used for a wide range of applications, particularly for people with disabilities. One of the ways that I use it is to generate text about my software and to run my social media. This tool allows me to easily create high-quality, engaging content for my software and social media platforms, which is crucial for promoting my business and reaching a wider audience. The ability to generate text quickly and efficiently is especially beneficial for people with disabilities who may have difficulty typing or writing.

Another application of ChatGPT is in the field of assistive technology. The ability to generate text and speech can be used to create communication devices and other tools that can help people with disabilities to express themselves more easily. The potential of this technology is truly infinite and it can bring a lot of benefits for people with disabilities in terms of accessibility, communication and autonomy. Overall, ChatGPT is an amazing tool that can be used in a variety of ways to improve the lives of people with disabilities.

Switch Control

I use Switch Control, a built-in accessibility feature on iOS devices such as the iPhone, to control my device using a switch. This allows me to navigate my phone, test my apps, and use it as an Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) device. Switch Control is an accessibility feature that enables individuals with physical disabilities, such as spinal cord injuries or cerebral palsy, to control their iPhone or iPad with a switch, a keyboard, or a touch screen.

The feature works by allowing users to select an element on the screen, such as a button or a text field, and then perform an action, such as a tap or a swipe, by pressing a switch or by using a keyboard shortcut. Switch Control can be customized to suit the individual’s needs, with options to adjust the scanning speed, the type of switch, and the action performed when the switch is pressed.

For me, this feature is a game-changer as it allows me to use my iPhone as an AAC device, which helps me to communicate with others and express myself better. Additionally, being able to test my apps using Switch Control gives me the ability to ensure that my apps are accessible for people with similar needs to mine.

Conclusion

In conclusion, technology such as ChatGPT, Grid 3, TeamViewer and Switch Control are powerful tools that can greatly improve the lives of people with disabilities. They provide a range of accessibility options, allowing individuals to control their devices and communicate more effectively. These tools can be customized to meet the needs of the individual, making them more efficient and easier to use. As a switch user, I have found that these technologies have greatly improved my ability to access information and communicate with others. I hope that my experience and tips have been helpful and will inspire others with disabilities to explore the assistive technology options available to them. With the advancements in AI and other technologies, the potential for assistive technology to empower people with disabilities is truly limitless.