​Assistive Technology Can Transform Your Life

Posted by Reeve Staff in Life After Paralysis on October 15, 2020 # Technology, Lifestyle

By guest blogger Ian Malesiewski

Between living on your own, taking challenging classes, and trying to make new friends, the transition from high school to college is one of the most stressful and nerve-racking things young adults across the country have to face. With that being said, my transition to college as a student with a spinal cord injury was even more difficult. Specifically, not having the ability to walk or write makes everyday life on a college campus extremely overwhelming.Ian

Prior to my injury, I was always a relatively natural student. Things came very easy to me, and I didn’t have to work very hard to maintain my grades. With that being said, when I got injured right before my junior year of high school, I wasn’t that worried about being able to keep up. I thought I would be able to maintain straight A’s without a worry in the world. However, my first semester back to school made me eat humble pie, and I realized that I needed to formulate a plan to be able to continue to succeed in the classroom.

Luckily, the rehabilitation hospital where I spent five months recovering was able to work with my physical therapists and high school to evaluate me for my educational needs following my injury. Specifically, my rehab hospital sent a Rehabilitation Engineer from the University of Pittsburgh to help begin the process of providing me with assistive technology to help me in the classroom. Since I don’t have the physical ability to pick up a pencil, this engineer had to think outside of the box to find a way to help me work on a computer independently.

To begin with, he showed me options that might work for me, considering I had very little to no movement at all. He provided me with different specialized mouth-controlled mouse options that I could use to work on my computer independently. I felt most comfortable using a QuadJoy specialized mouth-controlled mouse. It honestly has been a lifesaver. This mouse plugs directly into your computer and allows you to do everything you need to do with a simple sip and puff. In addition to the QuadJoy, this rehabilitation engineer also provided me with a voice to text typing option that I could use to write all of my papers. Since I don’t have the physical ability to type, this accommodation was monumental.

Although these pieces of assistive technology might seem of little value to the average person, I can say that they have truly transformed my life. Specifically, after working with the rehabilitation engineer to become more independent, I was able to graduate in the top 10 of my class and earn a full academic scholarship to the University of Miami. Currently, I am a junior at the University of Miami, majoring in neuroscience and minoring in chemistry, public health, and philosophy. Since being in southern Florida, I’ve been able to maintain straight A’s, and I have also been on the Dean’s list every semester since entering college. In addition to helping me succeed academically, these pieces of assistive technology have also allowed me to connect socially by giving me the ability to access social media and work part-time online.

Overall, assistive technology has changed my life by giving me the ability to become more social and successfully continue my education.

(If any person living with a spinal cord injury or disability needs information surrounding technological assistance, please reach out to me! I have countless resources that can help people become more independent and succeed both in and outside of the classroom.)

My name is Ian Malesiewski and I am currently finishing up my sophomore year at the University of Miami. Unfortunately, four years ago I broke my neck while wrestling at the Cadet World Team Trials and I am a C-4 quadriplegic. Although this injury left me paralyzed from the chest down, it has made me truly appreciate my education and life outside of athletics. With that being said, I am currently majoring in neuroscience with minors in chemistry, public health, and philosophy. You can follow me on Instagram @ianmalesiewski34 and Twitter @fiercekitty3. You can also message me on Reeve Connect, Ian Malesiewski.