Life in Action Editor’s Note: Everyday Tech

Ian Ruder, Editor, Life in Action

Ian Ruder, Editor, Life in Action

Of all the obstacles and challenges I’ve faced since I was paralyzed, figuring out how to read and work in bed had been one of the most perplexing. I have some use of my arms, but with no control of my fingers and almost no trunk control, when you lay me on my back I’m about as functional as a fish out of water. At first I tried jerry-rigging a specially selected group of pillows. With a neck pillow angling my head properly, an armed back pillow propping me up and a stack of pillows supporting my book, I thought I had a genius plan. It was, until the book fell or my page turning aid slipped off my hand. Even when everything went right, it still took me and an attendant 10 minutes to get everything set up.

My next endeavor was a rolling bookstand designed for people stuck in bed. With Velcro straps to hold the book down and a tilt-able surface, it addressed many of the issues my pillow contraption didn’t. More importantly, its impressive design and the fact someone had built it specifically for people like me inspired confidence: This had to work! And it kinda did. I still needed the neck pillow, a pointer stick and a few minutes of setup, but I was content.

That is, I was content until I got my iPad and a specially designed bedstand for it. Only now do I fully realize what I was missing. With almost no setup, no extra pillows and no aids, I can now read, check email, watch videos or do pretty much anything lying completely flat on my back with the iPad six to eight inches above me, parallel to my face. Thanks to some smart designers and the rapidly developing tech world, 15 years later I am enjoying my media the way I always wanted. Now, if only someone could design an ultra-lightweight, low-profile power wheelchair…