Parkinson’s and technology: a volunteer’s story

How does Parkinson’s affect your ability to use technology?

AbilityNet county coordinator for Cambridge, Andrew Harding, has insight into living with the condition. He also runs a support group for Parkinson’s and supports people in using technology through his volunteering for us.

“The fundamental problem is my tremor,” says Andrew. He added, “It became harder and harder to write on the keyboard. Often my space bar would suddenly move the cursor halfway across the page.”

Adapting technology for Parkinson’s

Andrew has embraced speech to text software as a way of using his computer.

“The software on the Mac is brilliant for converting text, speech-to-text. It is built into Windows 10 and Windows 11 as well. I find it easier to talk to the PC now. Otherwise, I’d simply be using my only stable hand to type one finger at a time.” said Andrew.

It has meant learning a new way of interacting with his computer. “You can probably talk quicker than you think. I find it very easy to kind of get, get halfway through a sentence and I realize I’ve just gone ahead of myself and lost my track. I need to go back and do a bit of tidying up of the sentences at the end,” said Andrew.

Helping others adapt technology to their needs

Andrew believes others will benefit from speech-to-text, which is included in many devices – as well as in standalone software packages.

“There are quite a few people I’ve come across in my time at AbilityNet who need help with speech-to-text. It could be somebody who’s got sight limitations,” said Andrew whose role is matching volunteers with people who need help.

“Somebody contacted the AbilityNet team a few weeks back. They were unable to communicate other than through the PC [and their] ability to read and to hear was, was poor. His ability to speak was poor,” said Andrew.

He added, “There are people like that who really, without the support of AbilityNet would be completely isolated and completely stuck with very careful work, you’re able to show them how they can use it to communicate still. “It’s very satisfying when you when you get a result like that.”

Using technology to support people with Parkinson’s

The Parkinson’s group Andrew runs has embraced technology as a means of connecting through pandemic related lockdowns.

“It is a regional group in Norfolk last few years, we basically, virtually met without a break on zoom every week,” he said.

He added “IT has been the only means for many of the people who were in the group of being socially connected, getting health care and a shopping, doing the banking, you know, for the, for the last couple of years,”

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