Ms Theriault Hacks Her Workspace at Berkeley’s CIL

Alana at her new work station

Alana at her new work station

By Alana Theriault

It’s been fun figuring out how to make my station at work accessible for me [at the Berkeley Center for Independent Living.]  It’s especially helpful that my employer was willing to help with anything I needed, and I was encouraged to use my creativity.

The Process:

– My supervisor and I chose a desk that would allow me to look at both my client and my computer when meeting, and he assigned me a laptop that could be placed where I need it.

– I gave my supervisor the adaptive software I needed (Click-N-Type Virtual Keyboard with Word Prediction – Free download from Lake Software), and I brought in my own trackball (Logitech Trackman Marble Mouse – $19.99).

– My personal assistant (PA) and I measured the space.

– I hired a friend to buy materials and assemble a small raised platform so I can reach my trackball, cellphone, business cards, and remote switches that activate my office phone. It is 18″ wide, 10″ deep, and 3 1/2″ tall. He also cut a square plank to place under my laptop to raise it up 3/4″. ($50 materials and labor) My PA painted these wooden pieces red.

– My supervisor gave me a wireless headset that CIL already had (Sennheiser OfficeRunner Wireless Headset with Microphone – $329.95).

multi line phone– I went to an Open Resource consultation (Free for 1/2 hour) at the Center for Accessible Technology to discuss hardware and software options for being able to dial the phone without lifting the handset or pressing buttons on the keypad. They contacted the building staff and asked them to meet with me about programming the phone.

– I met with the building’s phone system consultant to describe the modifications I planned to make. He modified the plan with the phone company so that dialing “0” reached a live operator, and he programmed one soft key to dial “9-0”.

Close up of jacks into multi-line phone

Close up of jacks into multi-line phone

– I hired a friend to install 2 input jacks ($105 for labor). He gave me a shopping list and I bought materials at my favorite electronics store, Al Lasher’s Electronics ($19.99 for materials). — One jack is connected to the phone’s headset button. When pressed it activates the headset without needing to lift the handset. The headset must be already turned on, and the wireless headset model listed above does indeed stay turned on and has a long battery life.

The other jack is connected to one of the programmable soft keys. This is programmed to dial “9” for an outside line, and then “0” for the operator. — He then built a small box holding 2 micro switches that require a very light touch. These switches are wired to 2 plugs that are plugged into the input jacks on the phone. Commercial micro light switches cost $80; these were about $8 each if you make them yourself.hand on trackball

Now, when my PA drops me off at work, they turn on my wireless headset and then place it on my head. To make a call, I click one micro switch to get a dial tone through the headset, and click the other micro switch to dial the operator. The operator answers, I say, “This is a manual call,” and the the operator dials the call for me.

Thank you to everyone who helped me! Paul Cortopassi, Ingrid Jeffers, Thomas Gregory, Jennifer McDonald-Peltier, Dmitri Belser, Melissa Romero , Chaim Finkelman, Luis Baptista, Joe Carrow, and Art Middleton. Employment offers another layer to independence, and interdependence is key!

First published on Facebook, August 14, 2015
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