The magazine of the Melbourne PC User Group
Computers In Unexpected Places?
This article is not so much about computers in unusual places, not even the
Internet, software, location or even disability, but it is about a mate of mine
and a fellow Melb PC member, Grant Walker. It's about how Grant is overcoming
the limitations of being in a wheel chair, whilst having no use of his right
arm, only limited use of his left hand and arm, while living in a remote small
town, being the ongoing butt of bad jokes, and living life to the max.
Grant lives at the Barham Hospital, in a room that's smaller than six by three
and half metres, and he runs a gallery a few blocks away in the middle of town.
Grant has been drawing and painting for a long time; his first major exhibition
was in 1976. Six weeks later he had a motorcycle accident that put him in a
wheelchair and permanently damaged his right arm. He then learnt to draw again
with his left hand.
On four occasions Grant has represented Australia overseas as a disabled athlete
- including the 1988 Paralympics - in target rifle shooting. He opened Grant's
Gallery in 2000, which showcases art, photography and red gum woodwork.
Further details and some examples of his artwork, can be found on his Web site
http://www.grantsgallery.com.au, Figure 1 shows the front page of this site.
Figure 1. http://www.grantsgallery.com.au
Where is Barham?
Barham is located in NSW on the banks of the Murray River, approximately 3½
hours from Melbourne and 1¾ hours from Bendigo, and about one hour from both
Echuca and Swan Hill.
What Use the Computers?
Grant uses the computers to access the Internet, for desktop publishing and
preparation of artwork, he maintains a tourist information database and operates
his Web site. Limitations do not hold Grant back in either the extent of his use
or his adoption of technology. Like most computer users he has an evolving range
of hardware, software and accessories.
At The Hospital
Over the years I've known Grant he has owned two desktop computers and now has a
Laptop at the hospital. The parade of computers has come about from the need to
increase the capabilities of the computer and to overcome the problems that
Grant has endured; problems caused in part by the computers themselves.
Currently he has a Dell 8600 Inspiron Laptop, it has 512 MB RAM, a 60 GB HDD, a
dual layer DVD burner, built-in modem, Bluetooth and both
wireless and cable connected networking with Microsoft XP Home. He moved to a
Dell laptop because it has optional three-year onsite support, has Bluetooth and
wireless networking and is easy and light to move. To this he has added a Targus
mobile port station. This means that currently there are only three wires to
connect his laptop to the rest of his equipment: power, phone and USB.
Grant moved away from desktop computers because they:
Other computer equipment in his hospital room include:
- Are too heavy to move
- Take up too much space
- Have too many wires to plug in
Figure 2 shows Grant at his laptop, pointing to the continuous ink system on his
- Epson Stylus Photo 720 with continuous ink system
- Canon IP 5000 with two paper trays and duplex printing
- Brother HL1240 B&W Laser 600dpi
- Epson Perfection 4990 Scanner
- Digital Camera
Computer furniture in his hospital room includes two custom built benches. They
are on wheels to enable easy movement and have storage space built-in to enable
easy access for Grant, and they have provision to keep the cables out of the way
of the chair wheels.
At the Gallery, Grant has
- Desktop computer with a large monitor
- A3 inkjet printer
Figure 2. Grant points to the continuous ink system on his
Figure 3. Grant wearing his Bluetooth headset at his laptop.
Integration of Software and Hardware
In addition to the usual suspects the key software Grant uses is Dragon
Naturally Speaking 7.3. Dragon Dictate has improved his ability to participate
in Internet discussion groups because he can dictate his postings quickly
instead of the alternative - slow one fingered, one handed typing.
Using a Bluetooth headset and the laptop means he can now work on the computer
while in bed as well as from the wheelchair. He requires assistance to get in
and out of bed and this gives him more flexibility and time to use his
computers. Figure 3 shows Grant wearing his Bluetooth headset, at his Laptop,
taking a photograph.
The Next Move
ADSL has been available in Barham since the start of April 2005 and Grant is
looking at getting it connected. This will require a review of his antivirus
software and the setting up of a firewall.
For the future, Grant recognise the importance of having a long term plan so
that future moves can be integrated with minimum effort and cost. Wireless
networking will reduce the number of wires to the laptop to just the power cord,
it will also enable other family members to connect their laptops to his
printers and enable them all to network when needed. A wireless link from the
hospital room to his gallery would reduce the number and cost of phone lines
that he currently requires and would increase his Internet access speed at both
the hospital and the gallery by enabling both to share the ADSL connection.
Grant is looking on the Internet for upgrades to printer drivers and software,
to take advantage of his proposed new hardware and network upgrades.
About the Author
Joe Henry has worked as a consultant and trainer for over 20 years, helping
clients Australia wide to select, set-up, use and support computers and
software. Joe is a former Melb PC committee member and convener of the Bendigo
Interest Group. Reach him by e-mail to email@example.com.
Reprinted from the June 2005 issue of PC Update, the magazine of Melbourne PC
User Group, Australia