Multiple Sclerosis: How technology can support you

Older man and younger woman looking at computer and smilingOn Tuesday 25th April 2023, we were joined by guest panellists from the MS Society and AbilityNet. The panel shared their expertise and skills around adapting your digital devices including laptops, smartphones and tablets, to help with symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis (MS).

During the webinar we covered:

  • Apps you might find useful to help with MS
  • Tech adjustments that can help in your office environment at work and at home
  • How the MS Society has created accessible online experiences, including innovations specifically for people with MS
  • Provided information about how our volunteers can help people with MS
  • Posed your questions about MS and technology to the panel
     

The webinar recording, slides, transcript, and Q&A responses are now available on this page.

Find out more about our next free webinar on how to improve accessibility in procurement on Tuesday 27th June at 1pm BST.


This webinar was aimed at:

  • People with MS
  • Anyone with an interest in MS
  • Carers of people with MS
  • Health and Social care professionals or other professionals working with people with MS
  • Support workers
  • Diversity and Inclusion staff
  • Accessibility professionals
  • HR and operations professionals

Meet the panellists:

Chris Parker, smilingChris Parker, Head of Digital and Content, MS Society

Chris Parker looks after the digital and content output at the MS Society. During the webinar he will share how the charity approaches digital accessibility and how it makes adjustments specifically for helping people with MS on its digital platforms. With a background in the charities and education sector, Chris has worked in roles across communications, marketing, product development, creative production and project management.

Teresa Loftus smiles directly at the camera in front of some treesTeresa Loftus, Senior Workplace and Education Inclusion Consultant, AbilityNet

Teresa Loftus has worked in the field of Assistive Technology (AT) for more than 20 years. Her first steps in to this world of evolving technology started when supporting a mature student who used screen reading software (JAWS). This then led to her developing new skills in AT, working with blind and visually impaired students to access education. After this she moved to delivering workplace assessments and studied ergonomics, a key component of workplace assessments.

Teresa has continuously adapted to the needs of workplace and education contracts, and now has moved into webinar creation, delivery, and eLearning content creation. Throughout her career she has held a strong belief in inclusion and accessibility.

Profile image of Alex Barker looking at the cameraAlex Barker, Disability Consultant, AbilityNet

Alex Barker has worked for AbilityNet for nearly 20 years and has recently become a Disability Consultant at the charity. Alex has Moebius Syndrome, a very rare condition that causes paralysis in facial muscles, club foot, missing limbs and sometimes cognitive issues too. So he understands a lot of the difficulties disabled people have when using technology.

Gordon CurryGordon Curry, Tech Volunteer, AbilityNet

Gordon Curry is a retired Civil Servant and worked as head of an ICT Department. Gordon has been retired for seven years and joined AbilityNet as a Tech Volunteer in 2018 to use his IT skills to help others and "keep the brain active."

Q&As

This webinar lasted 60 minutes and included an opportunity to pose questions to the guests. The panel were able to answer many questions from attendees during the live session, which you can find by watching the webinar playback or accessing the transcript. 

Q: Can I ask what is the name of your new font? I'd like to look at it...

Chris from MS Society: Lexend Deca

Q: Can you use Dictation with the MS Chat system, when it comes

Chris from MS Society: I've done some digging on this and none of the options we explored allow for using dictation software. There are some web browser plugs-ins that say they would enable this but when we tested them today we couldn't get them to work. I think the answer here is not at launch but we'll continue to explore the possibilities. 

Q: Would it be possible to get a demo unit of BroadLink to test… so that I can understand how it works and recommend it?

Gordon from AbilityNet: I’m not sure if it’s possible to get a demo unit - we were able to get funding from Abilitynet to purchase one. The cheapest version is a RM Mini 3 and is currently on sale on Amazon for just under £20.

Q: How is Alexa different from Broadlink which Gordon explained?

Gordon from AbilityNet: The BroadLink unit works alongside Alexa ( or Google) and turns voice commands into IR signals that a standard TV or Sky box remote uses. Essentially the BroadLink device replaces the normal remote control. You need both a smart speaker and the BroadLink unit to make the system work. There’s some more info on their website

Q: ChatGPT is being adapted for all sorts of purposes recently. Have you any thoughts or warnings about how it might be used to support access for people with MS?

Chris from MS Society: What we're seeing initially is this tool has enormous potential to change the way we create and consume content and solve problems. In the future, it could facilitate a further shift towards remote management of MS - things like virtual assistants to book patient appointments and manage health information.

It could auto-generate treatment or symptom management progammes based on the latest information you input into a journal of your daily experience. It could even design research experiments into treatments.

But there's a large group of experts who are worried about the uncontrolled development of AI like ChatGPT. One of the risks we've seen in the testing we've done is that ChatGPT doesn't always provide factually accurate material. And when it doesn't, it's also very good at disguising the factual inaccuracies. So it's hard to know if something is 100% reliable. This means, at this time we're excited but cautious.

Teresa from AbilityNet: AI tools like ChatGPT are an exciting development, whereby AI-generate responses to a query or prompt are instant. AI programs can supplement rather than replace judgments, so it’s important to be careful when using AI tools like ChatGPT. Statements that are produced can look and feel accurate, however, they can pull through disinformation.  You should always look for the original source.

As a tool to support people with MS, it’s great. For instance, use it to prompt memory by asking a question or copying and pasting a sentence and asking for a clearer and more concise structure. You might also like to write poems and stories, or research recipes. The speed at which you get a response helps to maximise your productivity times when feeling focused. But, remember to check for the original source where quality and accuracy are required.

Q: Can you please send us a list of things we can use? (mouse, keyboard, chair, etc)

Teresa from AbilityNet: 

  • Rollbar mouse
  • Trackball mouse
  • Compact/mini keyboard
  • Ergonomic chairs to support moving from sitting to standing, or heated chairs.

Q: We have trialed Dragon in the workplace and it crashes when using Outlook - interested if others have found this? Are there alternatives to Dragon?

Teresa from AbilityNet: I’m sorry to hear that Dragon is not working well for you. Please contact the supplier for specific help and advice. Alternatively, try using the built-in speech-to-text option of your operating system or software. For more details about speech-to-text for your operating system/software, you might like to investigate AbilityNet’s My Computer My Way.

Q: You mention help with using a mouse/keyboard on a computer. Are there similar assists with a touchscreen phone or tablet?

Teresa from AbilityNet: Many products can be adjusted to respond to your touch. You can adjust how your touchscreen responds to tap and swipe for instance. Or recognise faster/slower touches and ignore multiple touches. Check your provider's accessibility options, for instance, apple accessibility, for your particular products and adaptations. AbilityNet’s My Computer My Way can provide step-by-step guides too, so please take a look to see what specific changes can be made.

Q: Any key tips/tools for Uni students with MS?

Teresa from AbilityNet: Uni students with MS should consider a DSA (disabled student assessment).  This would be my first recommendation as there are a range of tools and support that can be offered to you at University. You may be entitled to ergonomic solutions (a home ergonomic assessment would be suggested during your DSA), specialist software (e.g. speech-to-text, text-to-speech, mind mapping, auto text correction, lecture capture), hardware (e.g. laptop, printer), travel support, accommodation support.
 
If you are not eligible, then alternative solutions you could investigate could be:

  • Speech to text (Microsoft dictate/Apple dictation)
  • Text-to-speech (immersive reader in Microsoft)
  • Editor function – spelling, grammar, clarity, and conciseness (Microsoft)
  • One Note (to organise research)

Useful links

Date of webinar: 
25 Apr 2023 - 13:00