March 2006 – “We know first hand what living with a disability is like. Like a crutch, a walker, a wheelchair, our computer is another tool, albeit an extremely powerful one.”
Frank Petrie makes this observation on the home page at handiapped.com. Just over 10 years ago, Petrie was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.
As a web designer, he saw a need for an online interactive resource for computer users with physical limitations.
On his original home page, Frank included a discussion of the personal robots we were promised as kids in the cartoons we watched. He commented that the robots of today are not human-like in appearance. The forum is entirely related to the function.
Personally, I have been intrigued with the Roomba vacuuming robot. Having six cats generates a lot of dust bunnies. My own disability leaves me energy-challenged most of the time. It would be a great convenience to have a small, intelligent machine unobtrusively handling the cleaning chores around the house and recharging itself when it’s done.
Unfortunately, for many of us being physically challenged also means being monetarily challenged. That leaves this kind of technology out of reach for the very people who need it most.
handiapped.com may very well provide some consumer clout within the user base if that base grows large enough. Software and physical computing aids that were unaffordable may come with discounts to members in the future. It may also be possible to commission products from developers if a great enough need can be demonstrated.
Frank has invited users of the site to set the content. There are already growing Articles and Links sections, expanding from user input.
Perhaps the most valuable part of the site is the Forums section. Here members can ask questions, report on products and events, and respond to other users about the topics that they have experience with.
When I first reviewed handiapped.com for Low End Mac in November 2005, the forums had just gotten up and running. It’s great to see that new users are already posting messages and getting responses.
If you’re a computer user with physical limitations, by all means, sign up and get on the boards. It costs nothing, may improve your life, and will help support the whole community.
Update: handiapped.com was online for less than a year. Links are to archive.org.