Interview with Eva from The Deal with Disability

2009 October 5
by Liz Henry
Interview with Eva from The Deal with Disability

Eva’s blog The Deal with Disability is about her encounters with people who talk down to her, assume she can’t think or communicate, or are otherwise a bit hilariously rude while they mean to be helpy. People with disabilities face a constant barrage of these incidents, attitudes, and remarks and usually respond to them in a variety of ways. I think anyone can appreciate that there are moments of annoyance to which a little snark, and political education, are a possible response. To that end Eva shares her short video clips and stories of people who randomly push her wheelchair across the street, talk to her PCA instead of to her, and so on. I was curious about Eva’s gadgets and camera use, so interviewed her by email. Enjoy!

Deal with Disability blog screenshot

Deal with Disability blog screenshot

1) What kind of camera do you use for The Deal With Disability posts?

I use a Flip Mino. It’s very small and records 60 minutes of video.

2) What adaptations, if any, does it have to enable you to use it

Really none. I can’t use my hands at all so I just have my attendant set it
up and press the record button. Sometimes doing it this way is easier than
trying to adapt it because it can be so expensive and time consuming. Plus,
since it’s attached to my chair, I am totally in control of what’s recorded.
So adapting that was not high on my priority list.

3) How do you mount it to your chair or other places?

I use an action mount made by the Flip Video company.

It’s made for attaching onto bikes but it works perfectly when strapped to
the handle of my chair.

4) Do you do still photography too? If so what equipment has worked out
for you? Did you modify it yourself in some way, and if so, how?

Yes, I do photography. Again, like the video camera, it would have
been way expensive and complicated to adapt it. Instead, I have worked out
an elaborate communication system with my attendant. I generally tell her
what I want to take a picture of and she she takes it from a variety of
angles and settings. And then I download the images, chose the one I like
and edit them in Photoshop completely on my own using a Headmouse.

5) What other free, very cheap, or DIY hacks have you used, invented, or
thought of?

My most useful DIY invention is my communication system which I
invented when I was 16. Before I used to use my hand on a big letter board
to spell out what I want to say. This was tiring because my control over my
arms is not great. So one day I was like, “hmmmmm what if I attached a laser
pointer to a baseball hat?” I have the most control by far over my head and
neck, so this just made sense to me. Those pen lasers only last like 20
minutes, so the next step was to create a battery pack to attach to the
lazer that would give it more life. I just need to change the batteries
every so often (like once a week), and I have unlimited laser life.

Lots (and I mean LOTS) of people have chided me over not using a
Dynovox or other system. My dad even paid me to learn how to use one when I
was 14 and was pretty surprised when I refused to take it to my first day of
school that year. People who make AAC devices and even disabled people tell
me my letter board makes me too dependent on other people. But for me, the
letter board is the best and fastest way to communicate. It gets people to
interact with me by reading my board. (versus waiting for me to type it
out), and it flows more like a normal conversation. It’s also great because
it is so portable and if necessary, you can make one on a whim. I believe
that the Dynovox, especially for people who can’t write and just use the
pre-programmed buttons, is designed to keep people with disabilities quiet
since they can’t completely express themselves. So my board is by far the
most useful DIY for me.

Thank you Eva for the interview, and for your fantastic blog!

I have invited Eva to post her any time she likes. If you want to join Hack Ability and post about your own DIY projects, you are welcome to join and to email me at

Here is a video clip with a bit about Eva’s own invention for her communication device with board and laser pointer hat.

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