Blake Allee demoing Guided Hands to Lydia Farmen

Consumer Highlight: Lydia Farmen

Lydia Farmen with her paintingLydia Farmen grew up in Martinsville and graduated from Martinsville High School in 2018. Lydia was born with spina bifida and for years she was able to walk with forearm crutches and use her hands. She can no longer walk and has lost her ability to grasp things with her hands.

Her mom, Sara, contacted our demo and loan lead, Blake Allee, to see if there might be any assistive technology that could enable her to feed herself. He brought several adapted utensils for them to try. They knew immediately one would not work for her at all and they were able to borrow the second utensil he showed her to determine if it might be helpful. Sara said, “Blake showed us how to use it. The process was very smooth and helpful. It was very helpful that we did not have to go anywhere since Blake came to us.”

During the demonstration of the utensils, Blake learned that Lydia loves to paint and has not been able to. Knowing how frustrating it would be to have a passion for painting and no longer being able to do it, he informed her that we had a device in our equipment lending library called Guided Hands that might assist her in painting. He then scheduled a time to come back and demonstrate the device.

Guided Hands is a mechanical device that assists someone with limited handBlake Allee demoing Guided Hands to Lydia Farmen mobility to write, paint, draw, or use a touch-screen device. When Blake went back to demonstrate the features of the Guided Hands, it seemed as if it would work for her needs and Lydia was able to borrow it from our equipment lending library for a few weeks and give it a try. Lydia successfully painted using Guided Hands and they ended up purchasing one for her.

Blake Allee demoing Guided Hands to Lydia FarmenOn a dreary day, I traveled to meet Lydia and see her use the device. She was a ray of sunshine dressed in a pretty lavender outfit with adorable lavender earrings and sparkly lavender eyeshadow. She was happy to demonstrate her painting skills and show us some of her art while her mom talked to us about their experience have a device demonstration and using our equipment lending library.

Lydia’s mom knows that assistive technology is always evolving and stays up-to-date on what devices might benefit Lydia. They even attend the Ability Expo Lydia using Guided Hands to hold apple stylus so she could draw on iPadin Chicago every year to see the latest and greatest assistive technology. Lydia uses other assistive technology such as an iPad with an art pen so she can draw. Her mom has even figured out a system so Lydia can play ball with her beloved dog Thomas. Using an automated ball launcher with a adapted switch allows Lydia to hit the switch and activate the ball launcher. Her dog Thomas gets so much joy out of being able to play ball with Lydia and it is really neat to see how involved her mother is in staying up-to-dateLydia using switch activated ball launcher with her dog with any new assistive technologies that can increase Lydia’s independence. When I asked Sara if she had any advice to anyone interested in learning and using assistive technology, she suggested that people try several different items and be patient with the learning process. She said, “Some of it may not come easily and it can become very frustrating. But if you are patient, you may find something you love.”

Guided Hands helped Lydia regain her independence and self-expression. When asked what assistive technology meant to her, Lydia said, “It means I can do things I used to be able to do. I was sad when I lost my grip and could no longer hold items or throw a ball for my dog. Assistive technology means I can do those things again. This makes me happy.”

We often focus on assistive technology for activities of daily living, education, and working and it’s essential to remember that one of the most important things in life is to do things for which you have a passion and makes you happy. Watching the joy Lydia has being able to paint again and play with her dog is a great example of how assistive technology is vital for maintaining joy in someone’s life.









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