Thursday, June 16, 2011

The year of (V)maxing out

I recently improved my experience with my Vmax, the voice synthesizer/computer attached to my wheelchair that I operate via a camera tracking a silver dot on my glasses and which I’ve now had for a year, by at least 100%. In late April, I was able to get an unit, called a WPAC, which enables the Vmax to run off my wheelchair battery.

I immediately loved this little thing. As far as I was concerned, it was the greatest thing since sliced bread. I was able to leave the Vmax on, ready to use, all day. I didn’t have to always worry about its battery running out and about rationing it.

Then, one morning earlier this month when my attendant went to plug the unit into my chair, the plug wasn’t there. I had no idea how this happened - all I could think was that it came unplugged or wasn’t plugged in and got caught under my wheel when I was out - and I was devastated. I was crushed, ruined.

There was no way I could come up with another $400 for a new WPAC. And it didn’t help when my attendant called the company, DynaVox, several times, and they were less and less sympathetic, saying the warranty had expired, etc. I was stunned - yes, naively - that a company that had helped me so much (with the Vmax and the WPAC) could play such hardball (it is a business, after all....) and thinking of other options (hot-wiring....?) until, after more calls and waiting on hold, a senior manager agreed to send me a new cable in exchange for the broken one. (And when I get it, I’ll have it attached more to my chair so that it won’t dangle down so far when unplugged - lesson learned.)

So I’m happy again.

Happy, like I am with the Vmax - in general. I say “in general,” because, although it’s a fantastic help, I have learned a couple other hard lessons in this past year:

*There are definitely times and places where using the Vmax is very effective and other times and places where it really isn’t. It does help when, at least initially, people can see the screen and what I’m doing, but, in very general terms, the more comfortable (or sometimes even just familiar) people are with my speech, the less patient they are with my using the Vmax.

*Not unrelated to this and an even more difficult lesson is that, when I use the Vmax, people still have to stop and take time to listen to what I say. The difference with the Vmax is that - and this is a choice for those who know me - people don’t have to make the effort to try to understand my speech, but the hard fact is that, unless I pre-program it, I can’t casually toss off a comment.

I have learned other things - like typing in an initial comment before I approach someone and it sometimes being better (and okay) to just use the touch screen - but, all in all, the Vmax is a fantastic, life-improving device, even when I just use it to listen to my iTunes when I go out. At a recent gathering, I was able to talk to many more people or people I couldn’t talk to before. For me, this is what it’s all about.

At the same gathering, I also discovered that reciting limericks, especially naughty ones, on the monotonic Vmax is quite amusing. (Perhaps I’ll have another video out on YouTube...)

1 comment:

  1. So, what happened to the old cord?? Did it get frayed by dangling down and getting caught in the wheel of your chair? Who was with you? When did it happen? Inquiring monkeys want to know!