The AGM this year was better organised, all the speakers finished on time and the Q&A sessions were shorter.
RSIA business:
The RSIA currently has a grant from the Dept. of Health for 3 years which covers the cost of the paid director Peter Kilbride. This grant needs to be replaced. The RSIA is applying for a grant from the National Lottery. (They have failed once but as the request for grants exceeded the supply by 10:1, it’s not surprising!)
RSIA aims for the future:
1. To offer support for the full day during the week.
2. Funding research into a). Cause of RSI b). Treatment of RSI and prove which are efficacious.
To this end they are launching a fund raising campaign. All donations greatly received! The 1997 AGM will be held in Nottingham. Ron Mullelly (the retiring Chairman) was presented with a painting to mark the occasion and he was thanked for all the work he has put in over the past ten years running the association.
All the committee members were re-elected as well as the officers.
Bill Fine, Computability.
Computability is a charity based near Warwick which offers advice on the use of computer equipment to help disabled people. They get 450 calls a month from people asking for information. They have a staff of 8, 2 of which are funded by a grant from the National Lottery. The do assessments, looking at how people can be helped, these last a day. They also do seminars for employers on RSI and how it can be got round. He then talked about what he sees as causing RSI: In the worst ergonomic situation he came across MOST of the people did not have RSI/pain. He felt that people go down with RSI due to the last straw on the camel’s back. We can have many straws on the camel’s back – bad ergonomic position, fixed working position, lack of breaks in the work, intensity of the work, some pre-existing medical condition, stress and it is the last straw that tips people over the edge (like taking notes at the RSIA AGM on a Saturday). There is a peak in RSI cases in late Aug, Sept. and January. You come back to work after a holiday and has anyone done your work for you while you were away, NO, so you have to catch up and bingo, RSI.

Other factors are a sudden change of work – going from coding to documenting what you have coded, all that English text you have to type in …; a new mouse or keyboard/PC arrives on your desk – you have to adjust to it gradually, how do you feel about the change? Everyone else already has one and is working better/faster than you, you have to keep up… That QWERTY feeling… Less than 5 percent are touch typists, keyboards are designed for people whose arms come out of the middle of their chest and whose fingers are all the same length! It deserves no respect, it’s a piece of …. Fixes:

Breaks – only smokers take breaks, don’t they! Everyone must. Put your keyboard in your lap if you can touch type, it reduces the strain on the arms. If you have any wrist ache don’t use Control Esc etc. use sticky keys on DOS/Windows etc. (available from them or MicroSoft) Use bits of foam instead of wrist rests, better and cheaper. He then went on to show various ergonomic keyboards: Maltron, MS Natural etc. the split table/tiltable ones which are variable are better accepted than the fixed angle ones, as you can gradually increase the split/tilt as you get used to it. He then showed alternatives to the mouse, keyboard replacements etc. All for the PC though, none for Macs or other computers. He did not give any names though as the Computability centre like to discuss the problems with the individual, if you do it over the phone they do not charge, although they do for the assessments, the charge varies depending on ability to pay.

Comment 1: Thanks for the report, which was very useful as I am out of the country and not able to attend. I was interested by the peak in RSI post holidays – I took a 4 week holiday and then had major problems when I came back, I remember. One minor point is that the Maltron does come in a Mac version, I believe, though they probably demonstrated the PC version. Apple also does a split keyboard that rotates to accommodate the user’s hand position.

Comment 2: This may be a side-effect of the fact that Computability is housed in the IBM headquarters, and is partly supported by IBM (the other funders being the Univ of Bham and BCS). I genuinely don’t think that this causes the assessors to recommend IBM products over others, but it may mean that they are more familiar with PC aids and software than with Mac. Plus of course there is more available for the PC than for the Mac — don’t even mention Unix. I was assessed at Computability last year. It was a really worthwhile day. I got to try out both Dragon Dictate and Kurzweill Voice, as well as lots of different mice and keyboards. IBM’s voice software wasn’t even mentioned, let alone hyped. Thank you for posting the report, I will upload it to the website and to the mailing-list-manager archive when the continuation is posted.

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