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.

Friday, 19 July 2013

Reading without thumbs

It's been a long time now since my hands have let me hold on to anything. Papers are particularly a problem, and I can forget books. However I do want to keep up on my literature from time to time. I particularly enjoyed reading on my iPad. I have an iPad three, with the retina display which makes the reading experience really quite enjoyable. Sure, I can't use all of the features that easily anymore, but I can still tell the reader to scroll and or turn the page.

For a while I used a folding cover for in this worked okay for a while. But where I'm at now, this is extremely awkward to get set up and sometimes a pain in the butt to keep his position.

A while back, a friend of mine posted a picture of himself using something from the Apple store called a hover bar. This is essentially a flexible bar that you clamped to your table with a flexible arm which is about 2 feet long. Your iPad snaps into this, you bend it into position and it holds itself up right.

I thought this was quite a neat idea worth trying. They were however asking C$80 for it, which seemed a little bit much. So I decided to try an exact copy of it I found on Amazon.com for about $50 called a GMYLE® Black 360º One-way Clamp Adjustable Arm Stand . The only difference that I could tell was in the clamping mechanism. As opposed to using an Allen key, it has a built in arm to turn a screw on clamp.

I'm reasonably pleased with the purchase, I am however trying to figure out how to make the best use of it. Not quite worked out all the kinks yet. Is what works and what doesn't:

  • hold the iPad in position as advertised
  • makes it possible to read fairly comfortably.
  • Will support nearly unlimited positions and orientations
  • you can clamp it just about anywhere (even a hospital bed if need be)
not quite so awesome:
  • as my arms and hands are extremely weak, it can be very difficult to reposition.
  • The ball joint on the back can be a little loose, causing the iPad pitch down out of position.
  • once my iPad is clipped, there's absolutely no way I can get it out myself
Little bit of both:
  • depending on what I'm doing, it can make it easier to access certain features or parts of the screen or more difficult. For example reading iBooks or magazine once it's open is much easier. However maybe pushing the "library" button within ibooks might be more difficult to reach.
All in all, I'm reasonably pleased with it. I don't know if I would have been quite as happy if I had purchased the $80 version and had the same difficulties with it. But for $50 it feels like money well spent and does help me keep reading and very pleasant format. The iPad is great for reading a wide variety of formats… I'm particularly enjoying the walking dead graphic novels and popular science magazines from the newsstand. Unfortunately it's not helping me get back into playing even some of the simpler games I have to pass the time (Magic the gathering on iPad is great).

final verdict?
Not totally sure… Thumbs up or thumbs down.
Honestly, little bit of both.
I had however hoped it would worked with Griffin Beacon as my remote. While it communicates fine, it doesn't help me with the ease of access. I still prefer to go back to my iPhone that.

It will however be a great set up for videos and Netflix.

So all in all, I have to admit I'm not totally sure if it's a 100% thumbs-up or thumbs down. It solves some problems but incurs a few others. So I'll say this, if you have the spare cash it's worth a try. I do enjoy being able to comfortably read again, and not being tethered to my PC to do so… So I guess that's a little more of that thumbs-up.


  1. I came across your web site looking for help with learning/using DragonSpeak. (I am dyslexic as the day is long and always have been, and recently took a job that requires that I type/write more than I am used to doing... At any rate... Your reviews were helpful to me... (even the one regarding the kilts!)and I think that I may be able to help you a bit--A source that I have access to as a person with a print disability (and you have one as you have said it's almost impossible for you to use books because of your dexterity issues...) would be www.bookshare.org you would need to submit documentation of your situation from your physician--and the annual subscription is $50/year but I think you might enjoy the access to the newspapers and periodicals. There is a paid app that you can get for Iphone/Ipad and one for android as well. There is also one for PC that even let you have the computer read to you. (Which is how I use it) BUT you may not need/want this--you may just want to have access to electronic texts that you could navigate by voice--and you can do this with these aps.) Yes, I know you are Canadian, BUT :) there is some provision for that in the documentation on the website.

    I don't know if this is at all helpful/interesting to you--or would provide you with some enjoyment--but I hope so--because you've shown me SEVERAL things (from key rings on zippers or the more stylish alternative!--to reasonably priced Kilts!) that will be helpful for me and my family.

    Wishing you all the best...always & all ways...