Over the last several years I've been dealing with various stages of disability thanks to ALS. My goal is to share solutions and review various products/tools/devices that I have found particularly helpful.

Monday, 30 July 2012

Autohotkey… The sticky mouse

So what exactly happens when the fuzzy critter on the left meets up with the scripting language on the right?

You get this, sticky mouse script.

I've been starting to have some difficulty with long clicking and drags. I would lose my selection, drop things right don't want him and all around have a general pain in the butt about it. So to ease my frustration, and hopefully some of yours I wrote a very simple sticky mouse script with autohotkey.

The script simply waits for you to hold down the left mouse button one second, it then provides you with an audio cue to let you know that the script will now hold the button down for you. You can release the left mouse button and drag your window or icon around as you like. Click the button again and it will release.

The script has no knowledge as to what's under it, so if you hold the button down over empty space, or text or whatever it was still hold down the button for you. If you miss your click, no big deal to/click something else and start again.

You can get a copy of the sticky mouse here:
The Sticky Mouse Script

The sticky mouse will eventually be integrated into the friendly mouse script as well.

Enjoy! Let me know how it works out for you, please post a comment ;-)

Monday, 23 July 2012

Hauling Me Around… my Jeep Liberty

For a long time I drove up standard Mazda MX3. I really enjoy driving this car, but back in November it started become too difficult for me to operate. It was very low to the ground, manual transmission and none of the creature comforts such as power windows. Not to mention that living in Montréal one also has to contend with a fair bit of snow in the winter.

So I sold this car and bought in 2004 Jeep liberty Rocky Mountain edition. The logic in choosing a Jeep was because it had an elevated suspension and four-wheel drive so I wouldn't have to dig it out in the winter. Ideally, put it in four-wheel drive and go.

I'm really pleased with the purchase of the Jeep, meets my needs very well. I find it much easier to get in and out of, and the interior has a number of features which are surprisingly adapted for my needs. Simple things like the shape of the inside door handle (it's a big ring) and how much easier it is to operate things like the temperature controls. I also really lucked out in finding the Rocky Mountain edition, it has all the additional features. Power locks, power windows, automatic transmission, air conditioning etc. As an added bonus the previous owner even installed an alarm system with a remote starter… This is really great!

The other reason that it was time to make the change, was that if I needed to make modifications to my vehicle my rehabilitation facility will only make modifications to one with an automatic transmission... and unfortunately, I'm to the point where I need to start making modifications…

Over the last month or so it started to become very difficult for me to put the Jeep in gear from Park. The shifter has a button on it that needs to be raised to unlock it from the park position to go to reverse or drive. I've had some changes in my hands which makes lifting this button very difficult, in short my fingers just slip off the button.

We are presently waiting for the request for modification to go through, however in the meantime I still need to drive to make my appointment setting generally get from point A to point B. So as a temporary solution my father came up with this. Using a latch from the gate, a zap strap and a couple rubber bands we've managed to extend a lever from the shifter button which makes it very easy for me.

The idea is that the zap strap secures the latch and provides the pivot point, the rubber bands not only help keep it in place to provide an additional tension to help me lift the button and return the latch to its proper position.

Now there are just a few issues with this, mostly because it is a temporary solution. The first is that sometimes the latch needs to be repositioned. After seeing a week or so of use, it sometimes wiggles a little bit out of position. As long as it doesn't pop out of the zap strap, this is no big deal. The second is that the rubber bands sometimes help maintain just a little too much tension on lifting the button. This means that when the vehicle is put in Park, the key is not released from the ignition. I simply have to remember to push the lead back down a bit… Again no big deal.

A note on driving:

The disability that comes with ALS can very much impair your ability to operate a motor vehicle and how quickly this comes on is different for everyone. Please remember, you may have been driving for years and are very experienced, but it is a privilege and not a right. If you are unsafe behind the wheel, please do what's right.

I exercise a high degree of caution while driving and have already modified not only my driving habits but destinations. I choose to no longer drive on the highway nor for long distances as I feel if I were to do so this would pose a safety hazard not only for myself but others. Also, the instant I begin to feel unsafe behind the wheel will also be the day I willingly give up my driving license. 

I strongly encourage you to exercise the same degree of discretion.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Hauling More Stuff… The Clinch Wallet

I, like probably most guys used to have a traditional leather wallet that was crammed full of cards and all that other junk that seems to somehow, magically end up in your wallet. It was sufficiently stuffed with plastic that was impossible to put in a pocket anyway, so I always carried it in a small sling bag (such as the these) with my other essentials...Keys, MP3 player, cell phone, bits of paper that wouldn't fit in my wallet… you know, essentials. I used this set up for most of my adult life and for the most part this worked out just fine… Right up until my dexterity started to go…

The traditional wallet became problematic for accessing any of the cards your ID, and being a fold wallet, it would often get stuck or hung up when I would try to pull it out. This started to become very inconvenient, and quickly quite frustrating.

The first thing that I was suggested to try was one of those "as seen on TV" aluminum fold wallets. This didn't really work for me, I will write more about it in another post.

The next wallet I found was the clinch wallet which I discovered while researching the grab it pack (discussed in another post here). At first I was a little skeptical that it would live up to all the claims it makes. But, I figured that it wasn't very expensive and worth a try. Besides, when I purchased it from http://www.clinchwallet.com/ they offered a package deal with a grab it pack which gives me free shipping… Essentially giving the wallet for just about free. So why not?

I have to admit, I am very pleased with the clinch wallet and grab it pack. The wallet really does hold as much as it says it does, everything remains easily accessible, and doesn't thicken up as the traditional fold wallet does. There are a few card pockets that are little tighter than others, these tend to be the plastic ones and getting things out is a little more tricky. But this is no big deal as I put things like my ID and cards I don't need often, or simply need to display in them.

It also has three nylon pockets for cards. These are great for the cards you need to use often, like your credit or debit cards. The nylon these cards slide in and out very easily.

The clinch wallet also comes with a lanyard chain, which I found to be quite cool but because of my dexterity limitations, it gets in the way. I removed that and replaced it with a large zipper pull tab which makes it just a little bit easier for me to fish out of the grab it pack. the great thing is that the wallet is actually designed for the large pouch of the grab it pack. It fits perfectly with room to spare, the enough so you can get your hand in to grab it quite easily, even with my messed up hands. Not to mention that both of these products being made of nylon means the slide against each other with very little resistance.

The one thing that I really had to do because of my dexterity limitations was reduce the amount of Velcro on the opening tab. This was simply done by sticking another piece of Velcro on for most of the opening tab, reducing the amount of contact when it's closed. Making it easier to open.

The clinch wallet is a great replacement to the traditional fold wallet. I can once again fit all my cards into one wallet and I find that with a slight modification made with to the opening tab, it works really well for me with my dexterity limitations… I highly recommend it.

  • great, discreet looking wallet
  • hold a huge number of cards and remains thin. You should never suffer from the exploding wallet again.
  • fits perfectly with the grab it pack
At the moment, I don't really have any. I'm very pleased with the product and its price.

If you were to purchase the wallet by itself it will cost you US8$ plus about 7$ for shipping. If you purchase it with the grab it pack, they pay for your shipping. I bought the package deal.

The clinch wallet is well worth trying and I highly recommend the package deal with the grab it pack.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Hauling my Stuff…

For the next couple of posts, I thought I would talk about something that I'm sure we all have to do, which is periodically getting out of the house to run certain errands, visit the doctor and attend various appointments. One of the difficulties this poses us is bringing our  essentials with us. Things like your wallet, car keys, cell phone and so forth…

The problem I am often confronted with is:
  1. how do I bring my stuff with me without too much difficulty.
  2. once I get to my destination, how do I access it.
In the case of accessing I have very limited dexterity to access whatever is in the bag and my range of motion is also compromised, both of which make it near impossible to access regular pockets. This set me on a quest to try various products and homemade solutions. Some, more successful than others…

My current favorite solution is the Grab-it pack. I was a little unsure of it at first as I've never seen one in person and it does look kind of paramilitary/geeky. But I have to admit, I'm very pleased with… But the wife hates it…read "are you really going to wear that" ...LOL.

Essentially, it's a different take on the fanny pack. I like to think of it as a strap on  drop/cargo pocket, but with big difference being that it is reasonably secure to your leg and doesn't bang around. This is something that always drives me nuts when I'm walking is having things bumping up against me as I take a step. Even without the leg straps secured, it doesn't swing around that much.


As you can see from the image, it has three pockets. The narrow pocket on top of the large main pocket is zippered and due to my mobility restrictions I have not been able to find much use for it yet. It does however fit keys, loose change, hands-free Bluetooth easily. I also had to attach is a zipper pull. The large main pocket is great and is designed to fit the clinch wallet perfectly (which I'll discuss later) and being made of nylon anything placed in the pocket slides easily in and out.

But by far the third smaller pocket is my favorite and what made me actually decide to try the grabbed it pack. Its size fits an iPhone perfectly and when you are wearing it sits on top of your thigh, thus remaining accessible at all times.

This is quite important for reasons of safety, I had an incident before buying the grab it pack where I was walking the dog late one evening, and she pulled me over leaving me somewhat like the poor turtle shown here. I had fallen into a soft patch of grass on a very slight slope, I was unhurt but I had considerable difficulty in getting back up. I actually struggled for a few minutes…

Not having my phone with me scared me quite a bit as if I had not finally been able to get up, I could've been there for some time calling for help.  If I had been wearing the grab it pack, I simply would've had to roll onto my back or side, and because of the placement of the third pocket my phone would've been very accessible for me to call for help.

Because of this incident, I almost never go out by myself not wearing it or without some other option of accessing my phone.

There's a couple options for purchasing the grab it pack. You can order for the left or right side depending on your preference and you can also order the ultra version which is made from ballistic nylon and has a few more clips, but the same number of pockets and storage space.

Myself I bought the standard right side grab it pack bundled with the clinch wallet. I strongly recommend doing this. You will save a few dollars on shipping and as I mentioned above, the clinch wallet is designed for the grab it pack and fits perfectly. More on the wallet later...

Even though my dexterity limitations make it a little bit tricky at times to put on, I really do appreciate this product. It is most definitely helping me stay mobile.

You can also read more about it on Think Geek

  • the pocket on top of the thigh ensures your phone remains accessible at all times.
  • the large main pocket provides lots of storage, remains more ergonomically accessible and well secured to the leg.
  • Large 2 inch slide clip used to attach around the waist is quite flexible and reasonably easy to undo, even with my significant dexterity and strength limitations
  • it looks cool, kind of paramilitary
  • being made of nylon, it doesn't breathe very well and consequently can be a little bit warm on the leg. I don't find this to be too much of a problem.
  • The other two slide clips on it are smaller and I find it much more difficult to undo. Fortunately the one on the leg can be left to done up and you can just step into it.
  • It looks kind and paramilitary, and the wife might not like it ;-)
Cost: Between US$24 for the standard and US$40 for the ultra.

Recommendation: if you can spare the cash, it's well worth trying. I highly recommend including the  clinch wallet in your order as above only cost you about US5$ extra.