The A.T Gallery and Trials with Technology Part I

Jun 01, 2011
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I have used an assortment of adaptive technology over the years.  Assistive or Adaptive Technology (A.T.) is defined as  “products, devices or equipment, whether acquired commercially, modified or customized, that are used to maintain, increase or improve the functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities”.[i]

My basement serves as a storage space for this A.T.; a gallery of old relics and one-of-a-kind items.  One of the most used pieces of technology stored in my gallery is a two-wheeled scooter called a Segway. The Segway gets pulled out of the gallery and prepped for use at the end of March each year.  I have to make sure this equipment is in proper working order before I can use it again.   I have to be sure the battery is completely charged and the tires are completely filled with air.   I use the Segway to travel to and from the fitness center.

When I use this two wheeled scooter, I am not able to carry my walking poles.  The length of the poles precludes them from being attached to the Segway.   I had to find adjustable folding crutches that collapse into three sections. The crutches had to be portable and easily extracted in the event of an emergency.  I carry the collapsible crutches in a bag just in case my Segway fails.  I need to have some type of manual balance support if I lose use of the machine.   I have had a few occasions where the Segway has broken down and I have been stranded.  Technology can fail.

The fitness professionals working with me have had to become A.T. mechanics.  Computers fail.  Batteries die. More than once, fitness professionals have taken the scooter apart, checked wires, and re-assembled the machine to try to make it operational.  Technology can fail.  I am fortunate that the people who work with me will take the time to try to assist me.

These circumstances of “rescue” create a hyper-vigilance.  I do not want to be rescued.  The professional in turn does not want me to get hurt or see me get stranded.  So, they become protective and paternal.   I get asked questions like: “Do you have your cell phone?”  “Do you have the re-charge cable?”

Before I had the Segway, I used an electric scooter, similar to the kind used in grocery stores.  My scooter was not quite as big and did not have a basket.   I remember placing more than one emergency phone call to my college roommate when the scooter would break down.   I remember begging them to go into my dorm room to retrieve my crutches.    I would be somewhere on the college campus stranded on the electric scooter; stranded by a dead battery, or worse, by a snow bank that I could not get around.  My roommate would appear with the set of crutches in her hand, while voicing the predictable lecture – why wasn’t I better prepared?

I would nod in agreement, endure the lecture, and then turn to the college maintenance crew, who was also called.  A pair of men would be loading the 80 to 100 pound scooter into the back of a pick-up truck.  Once the scooter was on the truck, I would again get some variation of the lecture about needing to have a backup plan when my technology failed.

Read part II of “The A.T Gallery and Trials with Technology” on Friday June 3,2011.

[i] Assistive technology for persons with disabilities: An overview. Retrieved April 27, 2011 from:—an-overview.pdf

Author: Kerry