The magazine of the Melbourne PC User Group

Computers In Unexpected Places?
Joe Henry


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, Figure 1 shows the front page of this site.

Figure 1.

Where is Barham?

Barham is located in NSW on the banks of the Murray River, approximately 3 hours from Melbourne and 1 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:

  • Are too heavy to move
  • Take up too much space
  • Have too many wires to plug in
Other computer equipment in his hospital room include:
  • Printers
    • 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
Figure 2 shows Grant at his laptop, pointing to the continuous ink system on his Epson printer.

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
  • Scanner

Figure 2. Grant points to the continuous ink system on his
Epson printer.

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

Reprinted from the June 2005 issue of PC Update, the magazine of Melbourne PC User Group, Australia

[ About Melbourne PC User Group ]