Equipment Expo 2014

On Tuesday, 18 February 2014 I was fortunate enough to go to an’ Equipment Expo’ at the Edger Centre Dunedin. Primarily its focus is on services and equipment to assist people
with physical limitations/disabilities. I got tremendously out of the whole thing going along with family and friends. I was interested primarily in wheelchairs (the motorised kind). I’ve been using power chair’s since I was six years old in the very early 1970s so, I’ve had a lot of experience with the evolution of them over a 40 year period. I’m looking very seriously and updating my wheelchair at the moment. What is extremely interesting is the changes in power wheelchair capabilities over 40 Years!

Initially it was difficult for them to maintain a battery charge and run all day! Now that can be achieved fairly easily (as long as you don’t exceed the stated range of the batteries). I must admit that the range of the wheelchair while it has improved greatly still remains a challenge.

Now that we are seeing electric cars finally the battery types that are used on them are Lithium Ion types which have a much larger range (from memory they can go to about 250 or 300 km before needing to be charged up. The difficulty with lithium batteries is purely cost (they are very expensive in comparison to gel or the older acid type batteries). Really all batteries to use acid is just that the Gel type are much safer not doing damage, plus not causing any burns to the skin if contact is made.

I’m entering a very exciting Phase right now I will be looking at two European-based manufacturers hopefully to try and evaluate which wheelchair wants it my best there are so many things to consider when entering into this process.

1. How far can I reasonably expect to be able to travel with my wheelchair (battery range)?
2. Will the wheelchair be suitable for my environment (i.e. will I be able to use it easily inside my home)?
3. How will the wheelchair be funded (government assistance or self funded or some other source)?
4. As a power wheelchair user how much control do you have around what wheelchair you finally receive (do you get all the features that you really truly need or want)?
5. Is the chair going to be reliable over the long term?
6. What is the total cost of ownership (this means just not the purchase price but the cost of repairs also)?
7. Control type (joystick); do you want a simple controller to just to just simply move you around or do you want something a bit more sophisticated which will enable you to have all kinds of different accessories; examples of these are:

Elevating Legrest’s

Lights Package (this includes brake lights, side indicators and Hazard lights, plus also included my the reflectors that also aid in visibility)

Reasonably complex Rehab seating systems (that aid in your comfort) are really expensive (unnecessarily so in my experience); somebody is making money somewhere (I suspect it’s because the market for rehab power chair’s is reasonably small and possibly because, it is a highly specialised field?

Some Power Chairs even and vented options.

These two links down below are there two wheelchairs that I’m currently considering:

Levo Max 300 (New Zealand Distributor)

TA IQ MWD (New Zealand Distributor)

Both of these models offer some advantages over what I already have (I think, because I haven’t had the opportunity to test these yet). But hopefully in the next couple of months I will get that opportunity!

Keep in mind please that these links do go to New Zealand websites; specifications my vary for the same products.

DragonDictate Version 4.0.2

Recently my voice recognition package had quite a significant update!

DragonDictate Version 4.0 is now being released for purchase, as some of you may know I’ve been using voice recognition for extremely so I’ll seen the progress that has been made really since around 1994. 20 years of voice recognition is seen a vast improvement in how accurately the programs can pick up your speech – and a reduction in the amount of training time it takes to get the program up and running! I think this last point, is the real advance in how accurately these programs work right now. Command and control is better than it was but still not up to the standard of general dictation. I use this program primarily to get my thoughts down on paper and I must say that since Nuance took over from MacSpeech (well in actual fact Nuance bought them out)!

I would really be lost without the ability to get my words down on paper quickly and accurately it really does make a difference to my productivity; but what I really like to see would-be speaker independent voice recognition. Really, this will be some years away I feel because computers still aren’t powerful enough to accomplish this (I have heard that they do have speaker independent voice recognition running on the large servers somewhere and I working on speaker independent systems; but I guess at the moment they are not particularly viable? Watch this space because regardless of how voice recognition goes in the future I will be along for the ride!

Have a fantastic day!