Common questions about fibromyalgia and computing

Fibromyalgia has been in the news recently with Kirsty Young the presenter of Radio 4 "Desert Island Discs" announcing that she is going to take a break from the programme as her fibromyalgia is causing her issues. The condition is much misunderstood and causes pain all over the body.  Fibromyalgia can also have symptoms such as non refreshing sleep and clumsiness.   This week (2-9th September) is Fibromyalgia Awareness Week.


FMA Awareness week logo

From day to day I have really sore fingers. I’ve heard about voice recognition. Is it difficult to set-up?

No! Not at all. If you have a fairly new Windows or Apple computer then you have built in voice recognition. It is easy to use and as long as you practice for a while you should be able to get fairly good recognition. We’d always suggest getting a USB microphone though as normally the external microphones on a computer never tends to be of a high enough quality to be effective at recognizing your voice.

I want to keep on typing to control the computer. What might work for me?

Depending on how you are affected by fibromyalgia there are a couple of solutions that might work for you. There are keyboards which are known as “compact”. These don’t tend to have the number pad on the right hand side so it means you don’t have to “stretch” from one side of the keyboard to the other.  Other keyboards have a bit of a “softer touch” so you don’t need to hit the keyboard quite as hard.  Other technology might include word prediction software.

Fibromyalgia causes “brain fog” and I have real issues trying to work. I find software with many options confusing. What can I do?

Within software packages like Microsoft Word there are lots of ways of making things easier for you. One of the most effective is the ability to delete icons from the software that you never seem to use.  This should help you focus more effectively on the functionality that you need to use.

What about smart home devices? Could they help me?

Devices such as Google Home and Amazon's Alexa device can certainly help you in all sorts of ways. If you have poor memory skills you can ask the devices to remind you about certain appointments or things that you need to buy at the supermarket. They can also help you if you feel anxious as there are lots of  "skills" that can improve your mental health or encourage you just to take some "time out" from your day. If you have difficulties sleeping you can always turn on some of the relaxation sounds on as you drift off to sleep.

Case study

Clive's sister Fiona has fibromyalgia and she has lots of difficulties with trying to keep up to date with hospital appointments. They had a chat to our friendly Advice and Information Officer and we suggested using a online diary in conjunction with their smart home device so they could make and more importantly remember important hospital visits. Fiona is a very visual person so one of our volunteers went out and helped her to colour-code her appointments to make them easier to see.

How can we help?

AbilityNet provides a range of services to help disabled people and older people.

Call our free Helpline. Our friendly, knowledgeable staff will discuss any kind of computer problem and do their best to come up with a solution. We’re open Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm on 0800 269 545.

If you are in work your employers have a responsibility to make Reasonable Adjustment.   For more details on this have a look at www.abilitynet.org.uk/ctod and www.cleartalentsatwork.com

Arrange a home visit. We have a network of AbilityNet ITCanHelp volunteers who can help if you have technical issues with your computer systems. They can come to your home, or help you over the phone.

We have a range of factsheets which talk in detail about technology that might help you, which can be downloaded for free. You may find our factsheets talking about voice recognition and keyboard alternatives useful.

My Computer My Way. A free interactive guide to all the accessibility features built into current desktops, laptops, tables and smartphones.

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