Assistive Animation Technology for Creative 17 Year-Old with Chronic Pain
May 30, 2005 6:10 PM   Subscribe

I am working with a 17 year-old boy who has Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis. He loves doing animation on the computer, and he has been using Windows Movie Maker. In recent months, he has been in a chronic flare and is unable to use his hands. He is also very depressed, and I believe that being able to do something he loves may help his current mental state. Does anyone know of any animation software that has adaptations for use with voice commands? (I know about Dragon Dictate for Word Processing, but can it be used with other types of software?) Bonus points if you can tell me about any benevolent companies or agencies that offer this kind of software/hardware at a discounted or pro bono rates. This boy is not from a wealthy family and he has only the most basic health coverage.
posted by abbyladybug to Technology (11 answers total)
I hope someone will prove me wrong, but I think you will be hard pressed to find a software that lets you aptly control an application that typically requires delicate dexterity. As an alternate suggestion, how about instructional cartooning videos? There's one here. It might communicate to him your confidence in his ability. You can present his flare as a good opportunity to catch up on some theory. Hope this helps.
posted by ori at 6:30 PM on May 30, 2005

I don't know of a software solution, but maybe you should think about talking to your local colleges. A film or art student with some free hours might be just the thing for him. They could act as his hands while manipulating the software, while teaching him some new things and providing company and friendship.
posted by rfordh at 6:31 PM on May 30, 2005

Well, there's this, but it's pretty damn expensive.
The MIT Adaptive Technology lab lists a couple of significantly cheaper ones (the first controlled by feet, the other by head movement.)
posted by ori at 6:33 PM on May 30, 2005

(Guh, here's the link to the MIT Lab's list)
posted by ori at 6:34 PM on May 30, 2005

What exactly can't he do? Can he move a mouse around? Is clicking alone the problem? Is it just his arms?
posted by phrontist at 6:50 PM on May 30, 2005

Dragon software should work in just about any application, but using their MouseGrid to move the cursor can be pretty clunky. Plus I believe only the professional version of Dragon NaturallySpeaking allows you to use the MouseGrid, if I remember correctly. (I have the software, just never had much luck with that version.) He would probably be better off with DragonDictate, an older, obsolete version of NaturallySpeaking (which I am using right now). You could probably get a cheap copy off eBay, or email me and I'll send you one.

Is SmartNav an option? Naturally the hands-free version is the most expensive, but they're adding voice recognition for commands soon.
posted by Soliloquy at 7:24 PM on May 30, 2005

He is right-handed, and he currently has a chronic flare (i.e. pain) in his right wrist, so he is unable to type or mouse. He also has a problem with his jaw. He can only open his mouth a little bit. He's been eating smooshed sandwiches for a while now. He's trying to get in to see a new rheumatologist, but he's on a waiting list for several months because he's on public assistance.
posted by abbyladybug at 7:08 AM on May 31, 2005

a friend of mine with motor problems is able to use a trackball more easily than a mouse - maybe he could try one with his left hand?
posted by blag at 7:35 AM on May 31, 2005

Have you seen this article about Scott Adams? If useful, perhaps you could contact Wacom & see if they have a program whereby they donate or offer much reduced prices for equipment for the needy.
posted by Pressed Rat at 7:41 AM on May 31, 2005

abbyladybug: Email me please (it's in my profile) and I'll get him hooked up.
posted by Soliloquy at 10:42 AM on May 31, 2005

I saw him today. He's a little more mobile than he was last week, but he is still having a lot of trouble with fine motor movement in his dominant hand, and this is a fairly permanent situation. One thing I did find out is that he is much more interested in editing together existing footage and creating film than in doing animation from scratch. This is good news, because it seems more doable to me.
posted by abbyladybug at 6:58 PM on May 31, 2005

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