I generally don't tell clients that I use assistive technology to work, it's just not necessary.  It's about the work I do, not my disability.

When I was in the Spinal Unit, my OT introduced me to the Headmaster system.  It tracked your head movements, and you had a mouthstick that you blew in to click.  When I left the Unit I attended a local college to do a computer course, and after that I just started buying as many computer magazines and books as I could, doing the tutorials in them and just teaching myself.  Now I'm using the SmartNav system, with a couple of big buttons velcroed to my chair that I can just hit with my limited arm movement.

I applied to do design at University but they told me I didn't have enough qualifications.  I was a little bugger as a kid and got myself expelled from three schools - the only time I wasn't looking to abscond was when we had an art lesson.  Looking back now, not being taught formally was a good thing, I've not been brainwashed into using established techniques and I've been forced to try my own thing.  There's so many training videos online that it's often the best way to learn anyway, and now I've done a few tutorials myself to help other people.

Assistive technology has been a lifesaver

Back then I was entering competitions in magazines, and winning quite a few of them, so people started telling me I should be doing this as a living.  I got my portfolios together and sent them out.  The work is pretty varied - websites, reports, magazines, and I've illustrated a couple of children's books too, one on spies and one on monsters of the deep!  The publishers gave me the concept, but I had the creative freedom to come up with the finished graphics.  I also do a bit of landscape gardening, but I like to have full control over every aspect of the project and with gardening I'm reliant on others to create the finished garden from my designs.

Ryan sitting in front of two computer screensWorking as a freelancer means it's either feast or famine, there's too much work or not enough.  I do find myself getting depressed when I haven't got enough work or projects going on.  But I like working in my own time as I could never manage a 9-5, and the fact that I can work around any problems that do crop up.  Assistive technology has been a lifesaver, it's made all this possible.  It took a bit of time to get used to, but with perseverance it's just become second nature.

Go back to the stories