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Desmond an adult of 66 with Cerebral Palsy


I was born in Auckland, New Zealand in 1941; I was born with a condition called Quadraplegia Athertoid Cerebral Palsy. As the name suggests, it is a condition that affects the control and movement of all four limbs. In my case I am lucky in that I have quite good control of my movement, but my major problem, all my life has been the inability to write.

My early schooling was done in an institution (The Xxx Home for crippled children) where I was a boarder Monday to Friday, despite the difficulties I received a good grounding.

When I was twelve years old I was discharged from the Xxx and for two years attended what we call Intermediate School -- Intermediate schools teach forms one and two - they are called Intermediate because they are a stepping stone between primary school and High School or College. After two years at intermediate I went on to spend three years at Auckland Xxx School; which is one of the top boys state schools in Auckland. I was intending to go on University and become an accountant.

Unfortunity after three years I decided that I just could not carry on because being able to write only a few words during a lecture made it impossible to keep up. It is different now days where every disabled child is given every aid and assistance they would ever need, one on one teachers, computers and all sorts of computer software; whereas in my day I was offered no assistance at all.

At age sixteen I left school with no qualifications and worked at a number of manual jobs, until finally, in 1970, I started up a cartage contracting company, which I ran for twenty years. I was still hampered by my inability to write and having to rely on my parents and then my wife to do all the writing of letters, accounts, cheques, and so on.

Oh how I wish computers and programes like PENFRIEND had been around forty and even fifty years ago.

To come back to the present, about three years ago, our neighbours asked me if I had ever tried using a computer to which I replied that I didn't have the coordination to operate a mouse or a keyboard; they insisted that I went over and showed me how and what to do but soon realised that it just wouldn't work. However, my interest in computers had been wetted, so I made some enquiries and discovered a trust that advises people with disabilitiies on what is available to enable them to use a computer.

Your Penfriend was one of the first of many programs they suggested and has been the most successful.

The Penfriend took care of the keyboard problem but then the problem of the mouse was still to be overcome.

After trying a number of systems, including head mounted lasers, and foot operated mouse I came up with the idea of a large trackball, placed on the floor, and operated with my toes and that works extremely well.

So for about two and a half years I've been using my computer via a trackball on the floor combined with your Penfriend program, and for the first time in my life I am able to write my own letters (and say what I want to say) and I communicate with people all around the world via email.

Therefore I would like to thank you once again, and that I wish you had been around fifty years ago because my life would have been much different and easier had you been.

Thank you.

Written by Desmond himself and reproduced with permission.