Sunday, April 11, 2010

Quad Engineering: Typing

About a month ago I wrote about the discovery that putting a chip clip on the end of a soft shell taco was an accessible culinary breakthrough that would lead to far less messes when I ate soft shell tacos. The whole point was that it was an easy thing that made something much more accessible to me. That post ended up generating some interesting feedback and a call for me to shed some light on more examples of personal accommodations and/or quick applied ingenuity that allows me to do a variety of things in my every day life. Moreover, in large number of instances I wouldn't be able to execute a given function without the help of some adaptation. Of course, pretty much all of those are things that most people can do so mindlessly that they don't even think about it, and by extension it has often been my experience that they would barely consider the fact that a quadriplegic like me cannot do them just as easily. My inability to pump my own gas, for example, which I recently wrote about as well. So with all that under consideration, I decided to start a new blog post segment called "Quad Engineering" which should dish the dirt on some of the unique ways that I have to do certain things. The only problem with that though is that almost fourteen years into this lifestyle most of the accommodated or adapted things I do are so routine and second nature that I don't recognize that I'm doing something outside the box.

That said, the first few quad engineering posts will come from questions I answered in the comments section of a few past posts. Maybe some have read them already but I'm guessing plenty haven't because I know I skip the comments sections on most blogs I read. Regardless, I'll start off from there and going forward I'll try to be more cognizant about if I'm utilizing some second nature accommodation that people might find interesting. So to kick this first one off, I was asked if when writing my posts, or writing in general for that matter, if I use some sort of modified keyboard. My answer, with a few newly added tweaks here and there, is:

With paralyzed fingers I don't type with both hands like most people because I have no individual voluntary control over them. This obviously makes typing quite difficult. But I don't use a modified keyboard, no. I don't even know what one would look like. I use a standard keyboard to type. And I don't use voice typing software either. When I first started typing post-injury I used typing sticks, which were tongue depressor looking plastic sticks with rubber ends (pencils or anything can be used as well) that slipped into a slot on an inch-wide adaptive cuff that Velcro’s around your hand (see pic below). I use it to brush my teeth and for a handful of other things too. It's a standard quad tool of the trade. Anyway, with typing sticks you essentially karate chop type one key at a time per stick. When instant messaging started getting popular it was too annoying to strap on my typing sticks, type a few IM words, take them off, go back to, e.g. studying, put them back on, type a few more words, etc., etc. So I started short hand typing "hunt and peck" style with just my right thumb. And that's how I've continued to type the vast majority of stuff I have written since. I'll still occasionally strap on the typing sticks if I'm going to be writing for longer periods of time, want a little more speed hitting two keys at a time, and/or don't have book pages to flip (e.g. research writing projects). But every word of every blog post I've written on this site so far has been with just my right thumb. And ditto for my law school work and most of the writing that I've done on my book so far. Even that being so, I've learned to type pretty fast; faster than some "normal" folks can type even. It's second nature. The biggest downside is that I need to watch the keyboard while I type, and thus there are countless times where I've looked up and seen there are handfuls of typos, or that I've typed a few sentences in ALL CAPS without realizing it and have to start over.
The voice software thing I never really considered because it didn't ever suit my writing style. But I am now much more open to it than in the past because of the lengthier lengthy blog post and book writing scenarios where my mind is thinking a few sentences ahead and my one finger writing techniques cannot catch up. Or my hand and/or forearm get tired via intense repetition. That gets frustrating. So when I start back doing more writing with my book I think I'll be doing much more speak writing than ever before because it might save me a lot of time.

There you go. The only thing I'll add down here is that whenever I see or talk about the two finger hunt and peck typing style, usually executed with the index finger on each hand, I can't help but think about the TV show MAGNUM P.I. because Tom Selleck always hunt and peck typed with his pointer fingers. That said, if by hunt and peck typing with one finger that means that I have half the typing prowess of one Thomas Magnum, one of the greatest TV characters of all time, then hey I'm way cool with that!


  1. Excited about “Quad Engineering” Shawn!

    Though the M,P.I. unemployment quote would probably be more appreciated, I liked this one…

    “I must've seen a hundred rainbows since I've been in the islands, but each one just seems to take my breath away, despite the best efforts of Mr. Corkall, my high school science teacher. He used to lecture our class on light reflections and refraction, polarization and prisms, but I knew, I knew that really wasn't what rainbows were all about. So when I got a "C" on my midterm, Mr. Corkall told me that he was really worried that I would go through life not understanding the importance of geometric optics. But to tell you the truth, I was a lot more worried Mr. Corkall might go through life not understanding the importance of a rainbow.”
    TSM, P.I.


  2. Nice. Those inner monologues were such underestimated writing, and one of the best things about about that show. There are two periods in my life where I was a hardcore Magnum junkie. The first time was the summer that I was studying for the LSAT and Bravo had reruns on Bravo every day at 3, which was right in the middle of my study period. Needless to say, I probably watched more Magnum than studied during that hour. I watched until I started seeing the same ep's over again. The second time was during my middle years of law school where I discovered it on a local channel every day at 1. So I made it a part of my lunch break. It was a combo of starting to see the same ep's a second and third time and that channel switching its 1 pm programming to Hawaii Five-o that made me give it up. Kinda jonsin' for it again though so I might have to track it down somewhere.