The Most Helpful Technologies I Use

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by Kevin Schaefer |

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Kevin Embracing my inner alien

Between smartphones, artificial intelligence, and social media platforms that allow people to post cat memes and political ramblings, it often feels like we live in a never-ending episode of “Star Trek.” Things that were once science fiction are now components of our everyday reality.

Or maybe we’re on our way to a post-apocalyptic wasteland, and Skynet is taking over civilization day by day.

However you prefer to look at technological advancements, I for one am thankful for the wide range of tools and gadgets that make my life easier. If it weren’t for some of these technologies, my quality of life would be worse.

Following are just some of the cool toys that make life with SMA a little more manageable:

My ceiling lift

I’ll be the first to admit that I initially hated the idea of using any kind of lift. Whether it was a standard Hoyer lift or an electrical one, I was pretty stubborn about using them when I was a teenager and in my early 20s. I much preferred being physically lifted when I needed to transfer out of my wheelchair. However, I knew my parents and caregivers couldn’t do this forever, especially with the number of sandwiches and hamburgers I eat regularly.

The Molift Nomad ceiling hoist has been a game-changer. Instead of taking up a huge amount of space and being difficult for my caregivers to maneuver, the ceiling lift attaches to a rail on the ceiling. I get wrapped in my sling and then the sling attaches to the lift. My caregivers operate the lift to slide me across the room to my bed or bathroom seat. It almost feels like a ride. My primary caregiver Randy is still able to lift me himself, but the ceiling lift works great for my parents and other caregivers.

The SMA News Today forums are a place to connect with other patients, share tips and talk about the latest research. Check them out today!

Apple products

I know I’m going to infuriate a lot of Samsung and Sony users out there with this part of the column, but I’d be remiss not to acknowledge Apple as a huge part of my independence. My iPad served as my computer throughout college, so I used it to write countless papers, articles, and short stories. Now I use my iPhone for most work. Both devices are user-friendly and have accessibility options, plus they connect with each other via Bluetooth. I also use my mom’s MacBook to record podcasts.

All of these products are capable of really important tasks like streaming TV shows, comics, and sci-fi magazines.

Amazon Alexa

I’ve written about my Amazon Echo Show before. I’m actually using it to listen to music while I write this. Amazon Alexa devices are great for people with SMA because they don’t require users to press any buttons. Using a simple voice command, I can use mine to stream music and podcasts, turn the lights in my room on and off, and call my parents when I need help. Occasionally, Alexa makes me think I’m in one of those artificial intelligence movies in which the robots take over and wipe out humanity, but until that day comes, she’s pretty cool and helpful.

My JACO robotic arm

The king of them all (next to my wheelchair) is hands down my JACO robotic arm. Since acquiring this bad boy in December 2015 after dozens and dozens of people donated to my GoFundMe campaign for it, I’ve used the arm for all kinds of things: to eat and drink, pick up objects, pose with cosplayers at comic book conventions, press elevator buttons, and most importantly, to impress the ladies. My robotic arm has transformed my life in numerous ways, and I’m not sure where I’d be without it.

Technology can be a wonderful thing when used for the right purposes. Countless people with disabilities benefit daily from technological advancements. This holiday season, I salute all of the engineers and scientists who are infinitely smarter than I am, and who have used their talents to make my life a whole lot easier. Thank you.


Note: SMA News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of SMA News Today, or its parent company, Bionews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to spinal muscular atrophy.


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