Gear, Gadgets and Gizmos

AT and Independent Living

April 08, 2022
AT and Independent Living
Gear, Gadgets and Gizmos
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Gear, Gadgets and Gizmos
AT and Independent Living
Apr 08, 2022

Shelly Gaynor is Peer Mentor of Independent Living Movement Ireland (ILMI), with a passion for technology, particularly Assistive Technology (AT) and how it can be deployed to remove barriers that many disabled people encounter.

Shelly sees technology as putting everyone on an even playing field, and human rights for disabled people are fundamental to her.

Shelly directs a Personal Assistants Service through her company, shellyonwheels. Giving disabled people complete control over their own lives is very important to Shelly.

In this podcast, Shelly describes the gadgets and software she uses on a daily basis to manage her independence.


iPhone Accessibility apps
Ram Mount
Pro Tracker mouse
Amazon Alexa

Show Notes Transcript

Shelly Gaynor is Peer Mentor of Independent Living Movement Ireland (ILMI), with a passion for technology, particularly Assistive Technology (AT) and how it can be deployed to remove barriers that many disabled people encounter.

Shelly sees technology as putting everyone on an even playing field, and human rights for disabled people are fundamental to her.

Shelly directs a Personal Assistants Service through her company, shellyonwheels. Giving disabled people complete control over their own lives is very important to Shelly.

In this podcast, Shelly describes the gadgets and software she uses on a daily basis to manage her independence.


iPhone Accessibility apps
Ram Mount
Pro Tracker mouse
Amazon Alexa

Phil Friend  0:11  
Hello everyone, my name is Phil Friend. And I'm delighted to be with you again to host another Gear, Gadgets and Gizmos show. And today I have a Shelly Gaynor on now this is an international podcast because she's based in Ireland. We haven't had someone from Ireland on before. So that's a first. But how you doing Shelly?

Shelly  0:34  
I'm good thanks Phil how are you? 

Phil Friend  0:36  
I'm very well indeed I'm very well indeed. Now I came across Shelly because I've been doing a little bit of work in Ireland, I think she heard about the work I've been doing there. She's a big big mover in Ireland in the independent living movement. But Shelly just give us a little bit of background to what you're doing and, and your disability and stuff like that.

Shelly  0:56  
Okay, so basically I am the peer mentor for independent living in Ireland. Prior to that I was the chair and prior to that I'd been working in the disability area for the last 20 odd years just I've campaigned about access rights and the right to PA and so I've been involved in disability rights since aged 18. I live independently I have cerebral palsy and I'm quadriplaegic .

Phil Friend  1:28  
So full-time wheelchair user, and you also use PA's don't you to help you around

Shelly  1:34  
 I do. Yeah. Yeah. 

Phil Friend  1:36  
Okay. So Shelly thank you for that gives us a sort of sense of where you're at and what you're having to manage. As you know, the show really is about what what gadgets or things people use they don't have to be high tech really, but what things disabled people use to get around the barriers that their life chuck's in their way? What's your first thing the thing that perhaps you use the most to get around, get around the issues that you're disability causes?

Unknown Speaker  2:03  
The iPhone, okay. I use the iPhone, within the accessibility features, I use the Assistive Touch. For me, that's a godsend because I haven't  got the hand function to you know, zoom in and out. So what the Assistive Touch function turned on I can zoom in and out using one finger. I can also pay for, you know, things in the shop, contactless via my phone. That's a big benefit for me, if I do go out on my own withoutpersonal assistance support?

Phil Friend  2:42  
Yes, that's an interesting one, isn't it? So the assistive touch app? Well, it's part of the accessibility app, isn't it on the on the iPhone?

Unknown Speaker  2:51  
 It features within the iPhone.

Phil Friend  2:55  
And then I'm sure there will be some of our listeners who are unaware of that. But if you go into the app settings on your phones, you'll find the at the app that the accessibility app that Shellys talking about. And in there, there's a assistive touch,  it's an interesting one that you use it to pay contactless pay. So it allows you to bypass does it have various security things to do that

Unknown Speaker  3:19  
It allows you to bypass the feature of having to double click a button. So obviously my hand function, I can't double click the side button to confirm the payment. So rather than double clicking, I key in my passcode

Phil Friend  3:36  
Yes. That makes a lot of sense. Do you use your iPhone? I mean, obviously, we all use our iPhones to talk to people and do that kind of thing. Is there anything else you do with your iPhone that requires an adaption because of your dexterity issues?

Unknown Speaker  3:50  
No, I don't use switches or anything like that on my phone, but I do have a Ram Mount on the chair so I can you know I can access it pretty easy. Because before I got the Ram Mount, I used to have a lanyard my neck, it was kind of you know sore after a long day, so now the phone is positioned more conveiently and is easier more comfortable position for me the access ratherthan it dangling on a landyard.

Phil Friend  4:23  
so the phone is phone is actually fixed via a mount to your chair itself. So you can reach it very easily. Yeah, okay, got it. Is that mount a specific thing? Was it something you bought for yourself? Somebody made it for you or

Shelly  4:37  
it's it's a UK company Ram Mount  and they do they do wheelchair mounts as well? 

Phil Friend  4:46  
Okay, well, I'll try and put that some ideas for for our listeners in the show notes so that they can have a look at what you're you're talking about. So, so Okay, so the first first first thing you use a lot. Is your iPhone. own but a particular Assistive Touch technology around that. What's your second thing then Shelly?

Shelly  5:08  
Probably the Alexa to be honest,

Phil Friend  5:10  
the good old A lady. Yes. Now, do you use that in any sort of specifically different way? Or do you use it like most of us do to turn lights on and off and thatb kind of thing?

Shelly  5:21  
Yeah, pretty standard. Turn on lightsa and lamps but I use it a lot when I'm in bed  to kinda connect to the PA. So I do a drop in to the PA and tell them what I need, or what I want during the night. So it saves me having to roar out  and my PA has one in the spare bedroom as well. And we can do dropin so its easier than roaring. Just do an easy drop in..

I like the idea of you roaring at night, it's quite, quite graphic. So obviously your PAs you have a PA sleeping over with you each night. And if you need something you can use the A lady to kind of attract her attention or his attention. Yeah. And are they able they're able obviously to talk back to you. So it's like an intercom almost.

Unknown Speaker  6:13  
Yeah. Yeah, it's pretty much an intercom Yeah.

Phil Friend  6:17  
Have you had anything done to your accommodation in terms of switches or things like that? Or is it just smart bulbs? I mean, what have you

Unknown Speaker  6:27  
No, I just, I just recently moved in the last few years, I used to live in an apartment. And now I live in a bungalow. So because of my new and the bungalows much more suited to my needs, so the light switches are lower, but there's no major problems within the bungalow. I have the roll-in shower in the wet room, and I have motors on the doors. So my exterior door on the back of the front door, I have a motor, as does my bedroom and the sitting room. So I use it for play for the switch to open the doors. That's the only major adaption would be the motors and the footplate switches, so I can open the door independently of the PA 

Phil Friend  7:17  
So yes, I see I understand that. So they're basically their automatic doors, but they've got a big plate that you just touch and that opens the door. So So in terms of your lights and bulbs and things like that you've not you've not gone down the road of putting automatic you know light sensor light bulbs in so that the A lady can turn them on and off.

Shelly  7:36  
No, no, I have a routine. Like I have what Alex calls a routine. If I say "good morning", she turns it on and if I say "good night". She turns off the light in the bedroom. So that's quite handy.  So easy to do. 

Phil Friend  7:54  
Yes. So you haven't got round yet to an automatic coffeemaker or a new laundry thing

Shelly  7:59  
I think you guys over there have stuff than we do over here.

Phil Friend  8:06  
Well yes, I don't know actually. It's quite interesting whether there's a difference between Ireland and the UK it's an interesting question because in certainly I use the A lady a lot, but I've got smart bulbs in like all the lights in the hall so like you I can say it's I have to be careful. If I say it's bedtime, the lights go off or certain lights go on and other lights go off. But these bulbs are not cheap. So if you're you know if you're not on your budgets, you've got to have some money to spend there a lot more expensive than ordinary bulbs although to be fair, they last longer so perhaps they're not such a bad thing. Okay, so we've got the we've got the iPhone app that you use when you're out and about we've got the a lady who shall be nameless because if she isn't will suddenly find everything going on in everybody's houses but you use that specifically to talk to your PAs at night when you're in bed and so on 

Shelly  9:05  
And for audiobooks okay yeah, yeah. 

Phil Friend  9:09  
What about to your third thing

Shelly  9:12  
So I used to use a lot more assisted technology in my last place because I had the POSSUM environmental control but in this house I don't really have any of that now.

Phil Friend  9:25  
POSSUM now I remember the original possum which was a kind of suck blow tube that the person put in their mouth and by various different codes could make things work. What was your possum back in the old place then?

Shelly  9:40  
The POSSUM in my first home since I had the POSSUM controlling curtains, lights and curtains in nice venue and the TV and stuff.

Phil Friend  9:55  
And was that a switch? Or was it as I mean, obviously they've advanced

Shelly  9:59  
No just Direct actionI just use my finger. So they call that direct access. Once you don't have any adaptations, that's what I was told anyhow. So I just used my normal hand to operate that like, but it was all done to infrared and switches you know?

Phil Friend  10:20  
Yes. And obviously moving to your new place your new accommodation. It sounds like it's been sort of purpose built, you've got a wet room and that kind of thing, spare room for your PA So you don't have to use the possum system there and you've got touch plates on your doors and things. So there's no need for it. And do you think the day will come when the A lady will kind of do away with things like possum? Or do you think there's

Shelly  10:46  
Yeah, I think it depends on the person's level of impairment. But I think overall, for simple daily functions, the A lady will probably take over more so but then it depends on the access needs, and how you can facilitate that. I mean, as we all know, the is voice  orientated. So it depends, as it turns out, there's always going to be in a need for standalone AT, you know, I like to have a switch or the door pull, but then that is very bespoke to what you need to everything, it depends on the task that you ask it to do and your level of impairment as well, like

Phil Friend  11:33  
So in your work as a peer mentor and working with people who are living independently or want to live independently. Have you come across issues with AT that's got in the way, or can you think I mean, you've described what you're using what what advice do you offer other disabled people that you work with professionally?

Shelly  11:51  
To be honest, most of my members that come to me, haven't really explored AT to be honest, because a lot of them will be coming out of college. And they would only know AT in the educational kind of setting. So I'm trying to educate them though, what AT can do outside the college environment. An awful lot of people would know voice activated software like Dragon co-writer to help them with college stuff, but then they don't realize the benefits that AT can give you outside home? AT doesn't really come up that often in my day today work, but they do always try to advocate that AT everybody, regardless of impairment, I think can really benefit from AT. I use a trackball to access the computer. And if I didn't have that I'd need the PA to click on eveerything. Because I wouldn't have the hand function.. So I do alwas advocate people lto ook into what AT is out there.

Phil Friend  12:57  
Yeah. You mentioned the trackball. Is it a particular type particular model.

Shelly  13:03  
No I think it's just Pro track. The biggest thing for me is that my particular tracker has the drag lock function. So instead of having to hold a button down and move at the same time , I press the middle button, which I call the magic button really, and then I just use the roller ball So just just frees up that ability, or inability I should say to hold and drag at the same time.

Phil Friend  13:28  
It's a pro track, you said? Yeah, okay. That's interesting. You say that youngsters, obviously at college and sign who you're meeting, helping them get ready for Independent Living, if that's what they want to do. Presumably most of them are living with their families still. So I guess it's up to their parents or whoever they're living with to sort out the AT Isn't it rather than them doing it themselves?

Shelly  13:51  
financially? Yeah. AT is brilliant but it can be quite expensive. 

Phil Friend  13:59  
Exactly. Yeah, exactly. Well, that's fascinating. So what we got we've got I'm gonna I'm gonna throw it's a bit like, what do they call that room 101 Isn't it where you have to put certain things into a room. So we've got the the iPhone with its accessibility gadget apps, we've got the the mount on your chair actually, which holds your phone so you don't have to wear a pendant and so on. And we've got the pro track or trackball device that you use to enable you to scroll and use a mouse in a fairly sort of conventional way but you're using all of those things we'll make sure go into the show notes. So what's next for you then? Shelly, obviously you're working a lot now with people on Independent Living but what what do you think the future holds for you?

Shelly  14:47  
Hopefully still working with ILMI because I really enjoy the team that way they will enjoy like opening people's eyes to independent living, can be and what, you can achieve with the right support. So hopefully I'll be with ILMI for a long time yet.

Phil Friend  15:09  
Good for you. Well, look, thank you so much for taking time out today to talk to me, Shelly that's much appreciated. And I'll make sure that the things you've mentioned are in the show notes for the listeners so that they can look at what you've talked about and find it for themselves. So there we go. So thank you very much. 

Shelly  15:28  
Thanks a lot Phil

Phil Friend  15:28  
If you'd like to share your stories about how you use technology to overcome some of the barriers that your disability puts in your way, then please contact me at Or you can look up the Research Institute for Disabled Consumers details on their website, which is Thanks very much and I look forward to hearing from you

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