joe is typing 2Joe is typing. That’s what the facebook messaging system informed me. I thought about it for a second and smiled. What picture do the words, “Joe is typing” conjure for us? Someone sitting at a computer, busy hands tapping away at the keyboard.

Well, this Joe doesn’t type that way. The Joe I’m talking to types with his head. More precisely, he types with a pointer, taped onto the brim of the baseball hat on his head. Joe, who has cerebral palsy, cannot move his arms or legs, and uses his head to (deftly) control his electric wheelchair and to type, and speak, using a computer.

joe stulberg with cap and pointer

Joe is a young friend from our synagogue in Brooklyn and I remember when he first showed up with that computer. He had a touch-screen and a word-suggestion algorithm long before the first iPhone or iPad was conceived. The technologies that allow Joe to control things with his head, and the hard work of his parents to make them available to him, facilitate Joe’s participation in our fast-moving world.

So, when I see the words, “Joe is typing…” I appreciate it with nuance – and I try to be patient and give him a few extra seconds to respond. After all, he’s typing with his head.

By Ira Skop
January 2013