Jan 292013
 

Two and one half years later and no longer able to paint, I'm trying to learn how to use the iPad and iPhone from the inside out.

I hope those who visit my blog from time to time will pardon my recent lack of activity. Some of the earliest readers may recall my chapter that dealt with rewriting life’s script when things don’t go the way you expected or hoped. Well I am once again needing to tear up the pages, or maybe hit the delete key, and put in some fresh paper (or RAM space).

The recent death of my wife left a big hole in every day and in every concept of my future. Couple that with the recent severe decline of strength in my upper body which deprived me of the joy of painting and I have been in a bit of a bad space lately. I realized that I needed a new challenge, one that relied more on mental gymnastics than the other kind. So I gave myself the improbable task of learning to write applications for the iPhone and iPad. Of course as soon as I got into trying to learn about that, I discovered how little I really knew about programming. So for the past few weeks I have been trying to learn C, C++, and Objective-C, along with the Apple integrated development environment called Xcode.

Fear not, I have not wandered off into some digital wilderness, as I fully intend to use my new skills, once acquired, to develop an app or two related to disability and to assisted living. I also might try to develop something related to the two diseases that I know so well – myotonic muscular dystrophy, which claimed my wife, and inclusion body myositis, which is trying to claim me.

I even might have some fun with an art application. But, first things first, I still have a lot of learning to do. So these days and nights I sit in my room at the assisted-living facility and watch instructional videos and try to do the exercises. It’s sort of like being back in college except I’m not eager to graduate.

Although I can no longer physically produce tools and garments that assist with the life of a disabled person, I can still think about things that might be useful. I am also going to be doing more articles soon about life in an assisted living facility, as it is really quite an adventure.

I am enjoying getting to know more about my late wife's early years.

The new blog site I am creating in memory of my wife, Beth Shirk, is underway. You are welcome to follow its progress.

Mike

Jan 132011
 

Mike holding an iPad with one of his sketches on the screen

My iPad has allowed me to resume sketching (in preparation for painting) even though I can no longer use a drawing pencil.

To begin with, this article is being written using the Dragon voice recognition system that came free for my iPad. Without it, doing this kind of writing would be very difficult if not impossible, because my fingers can no longer bend or be controlled.

But that is not what originally caused me to purchase an iPad. That happened last year when I was planning to take a watercolor workshop and realized that my weak fingers would no longer allow me to do planning sketches in preparation for painting.

I had already tried a drawing tablet that connects to my computer. I found it very difficult to use since you needed to hold the stylus over to the side of your computer while looking straight ahead at the screen. This didn’t lend itself to a very intuitive form of drawing, for me at least.

But when I saw that the iPad had a touchscreen and that it came with applications for creating art, I decided it was the solution. It turned out I was right, as I have been able to do a great deal of sketching using my iPad and a stylus.

Since then, I have discovered that the iPad is an ideal solution for people with physical disabilities. To begin with, it is very lightweight so I can carry it around with me wherever I go. The voice recognition is ideal for e-mail, Facebook postings, etc.

It is also a great way to take reading material with me as you can download books using either the Apple iBook’s store or the Amazon Kindle store or you can copy other documents that you have into the iPad for reading wherever you happen to be.

It is a highly portable computer, a library, a music studio, a weather station, a radio, a movie theater, a bus or travel planner, and the list goes on. In fact there are now millions of little applications designed for use on the iPad many of which are idel for the physically disabled. Just recently I used its inclinometer to determine that our community’s sidewalks had driveway openings too steep for wheelchairs or scooters to safely cross.

I will talk about many of these areas in future posts. But in the meantime I encourage everyone reading this to at least investigate the iPad for your own use.