The Accessible Setup

What do people with disabilities use to get stuff done?

Kara Ayers

Kara Ayers

Psychology diagnostician, therapist

Who are you and what do you do?

I'm Kara Ayers, a psychology diagnostician and therapist. For my full-time endeavors, I administer psychological evaluations and conduct therapy with children, teens, and their families. I'm in the final stretch of dissertation edits for my PhD in clinical psychology so I'm usually feverishly editing with any spare moments I can get during the day. I also serve as a consultant on psychology-related issues, especially those connected to disability. Most of this work involves frequent communication and the ability to connect/research resources. I'm also an adjunct psychology professor for two local colleges. I teach online and in-person. Even my in-person course, however, has a heavy online component. I've previously enjoyed a successful period as a blogger and feelance writer but any additional computer time outside of my three current positions has taken a back seat to my favorite job-mom to my 16 month old, Hannah.

What hardware are you using?

Sometimes I wish that I didn't but I still perfer a desktop setup with a wireless keyboard and mouse. I use a Velocity Micro desktop at home with a backup Dell netbook for quick checks on consulting issues and replies. I have a Logitech webcam to Skype with far away friends, new contacts with disabilities, and to shoot the occasional webinar. I also rely on my Palm Pre to keep me connected through email and social networking. Much of my consulting work seems to be happening through Facebook.

And what software?

My software is mostly the typical Windows 7 and Office. I rely heavily on the "Tracking Changes" features of Word 2010 to make changes on my dissertation with others on my dissertation committee. Because I do alternate between so many different setups, I've somewhat recently moved completely away from Outlook and fully to Gmail for email organization and archiving. I'm making the same transition with documents and already use Google Calendar and task list to remind me where I should be and what I should (ideally) be doing. As a blogger, I used Photoshop CS5. Photo editing is one of my favorite hobbies. My life can feel pretty hectic at times so I've found a number of sites that keep me better on top of things. Manilla has really been helpful for me to organize our household bills. Evernote has been helpful to take notes during meetings. I'm enjoying Workflowy lately too for quick lists and brainstorming sessions. Pinterest is an amazingly effective stress reliever for me.

What assistive technology equipment are you using?

My seating would be the only assistive technology I use regularly. I use a footrest at home and work. I also prefer a lowered keyboard. The wireless option allows me to put it where I need/want it. The nature of my disability, Osteogenesis Imperfecta, means that I could break a bone at virtually anytime and my functioning/abilities would change drastically. I've thought about how helpful it would be to learn to use a dictation program and have it installed if and when I needed it. It would definitely be a necessity if I did fracture something that didn't allow me to type as I do now but I just haven't gotten around to adding something else to my to do list!

What would be your dream setup?

My dream set up would be an upgraded model of my current computer with more/faster memory and two large monitors. In my dream world, I'd install and learn to use dictation software. I'd also make better use of automatic backup software for pictures and documents. With my little one growing so fast, my files (pictures, videos, etc.) are pricless. Our family recently moved into our first home this past spring. We've worked hard to make it accessible but my ability to see the thermostat remains an issue. Lately I've resorted to a) using a mirror as my own little periscope or b) taking a picture above my head to see what it's set on! A dream technology setup would integrate the ability to manage apects of the home, like climate, lights, etc. through my computer and/or network.

I'm also strongly considering finally making the leap onto the ipad or iphone bandwagon at some point. I've loved Palm for a number of years but have accepted the harsh reality that their apps will never catch up to the Apple awesomeness. Maybe readers and future interviewees can convince me why I should or shouldn't make the switch.