Andrew, a 50 year old retired teacher with multiple sclerosis.

Andrew is 50 years of age and suffers from Multiple Sclerosis. Up until recently his MS tended to affect his lower body, particularly his legs which made it difficult to walk. He now uses two sticks to aid mobility when he is walking although he realises that he will soon need to use a wheelchair.

As he was an English teacher before he had to retire, writing was one of his passions. He particularly enjoyed writing letters to his daughter who lives abroad in Canada. However, more recently he has been experiencing bouts of tremors in both his hands and upper arms, which amongst other things, is having a profound effect on his ability to handwrite.

Since being introduced to a laptop which is fitted with a compact keyboard and key-guard (which provides a platform to rest his hands on while selecting the correct key and helps to minimise repeated keystrokes) he finds he is able to type the occasional letter, albeit very slowly. More recently, a colleague introduced Andrew to a prediction software program called Penfriend XP. The main benefit of Penfriend for Andrew is that he is now able to type letters with greater accuracy and speed.

Most of the time Andrew is able to compose and write letters by simply pressing one key at a time, for example the F1, or F2 keys. This is because Penfriend predicts, contextualises and prioritises words he uses frequently. He is also finds the abbreviation expansion feature very helpful time saving. Andrew is hoping to get connected to the Internet and familiarise himself with sending E-mails. The ability to use Penfriend with email software has boosted Andrew’s confidence and independence. The combination of a compact keyboard fitted with a key-guard used in tandem with Penfriend means that despite the tremors in his hands, he can still communicate to his friends and relatives.

Written by Craig Mill, and reproduced with permission.

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