2004 Conference Proceedings

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REFLECTIONS FROM A SILVER CIRCLE: A TRIBUTE TO ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY

Presenters

Bill Miller
#804 9330 -101A avenue<>br / Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
T5H0C3
Phone: 780-429-2614
Web: www.theartmiller.ab.ca/bluewind

Below is the script for this presentation to view the PowerPoint version complete with its 150 visuals please go to http://www.theartmiller.ab.ca/bluewind/Reflections_from.html

"Perhaps today
The magic
That's within
Can somehow be
Let out"
R. W. Bill Miller 1992

This presentation has been produced on a computer using head movement only. It has been made possible thanks to the miracle of Assistive Technology and the help of a continuous flow of dedicated and caring people.

What you are about to read and see is an attempt to present a story of what I describe as a "Series of Lifetimes", some before the onset of Multiple Sclerosis and those after.

The Before stories center on the physical world. The After maybe even more successful and dynamic, but differently centered, evolve from an unremitting and continual progression toward almost complete paralysis.

This is the ART of Creating Possibility
On the Way to Total Paralysis

An Autobiography in Drawing,
Painting and Writing.

By R. W. Bill Miller

How can you use the words Art
and Creating Opportunity
in the same sentence as Total Paralysis?

The Chinese symbol for Crisis is actually
composed of two characters,
Danger and Opportunity.

We can choose to look at Crisis several ways.
Of course it comes with an element of Danger but
it doesn't have to become all encompassing disaster.

With Crisis comes change and with change
comes Opportunity.

This is definitely a look at Crisis as a Creative Process

Before Multiple Sclerosis
Athlete, Graphic Designer, Photographer, Family man in the Suburbs

the Athlete

During High School I didn't even take Art. Creativity still ran rampant but most any sport just came naturally.

the Graphic Designer

By the end of 1980 we were building a serious reputation and client base mostly in Architectural and Land Development presentations and marketing.

We were doing print production architectural illustrations, photography for slide shows and show home displays.

the Photographer

Part of my University course work involved photography and my camera was a constant companion.

Family man in the Suburbs

I was driving the " big car". We were putting a $40,000 addition on the house (atrium, loft, skylights, Jacuzzi, etc).

The Diagnosis

Just after starting teaching, what was originally thought to be a sports injury was initially diagnosed as a spinal tumor.

The Road Less Traveled

When Multiple Sclerosis was indicated the unknown still seemed like a much better alternative to death.

After Diagnosis

Teacher, Expressionist Painter, Builder, Activists, Inventor, Poet, Hands-Free Artist, Golfer...

the Teacher

Becoming a visual communications and "Fine Art" teacher was a nonstop learning roller coaster. But the initial transition from self-employed designer to teacher was not a pretty site.

What was to be a one-year reprieve turned into six years of some of the most creative and rewarding experiences of my life?

Being with a group of high school students put me right in my element. We shared the same blind optimism, yet I was still 'The Teacher' and they were quite willing to follow my direction.

the Expressionist Painter

Almost from the onset of the MS painting became an obsession not small paintings and not illustrations but highly textured expressionistic paintings.

Teaching gave me the opportunity to learn and the facility to paint.

I painted over old canvases, made new ones some 8feet long.

During this period l was to experience "Artist as the vehicle for expression".

My hands seemed to be guided by some outside force. I would have a painting in my mind, wake up one morning, start to sketch and almost watch as what was envisioned appeared on the canvas.

As the MS progressed painting size reduced from six-foot canvas to six-inch paper, and a complete changeover from right to left hand.

I started as a right handed technician and ended up a far better left handed expressionist.

the Builder

In 1987 there were only 22 accessible housing apartments with a support program in Edmonton.

ARTSPACE was the dream of building a fully accessible Co-op Complex that would more than double the number of adapted units the Activists

By 1989 Home Care was still not available to persons under 65. It was always envisioned that ARTSPACE would include an In-house Support Program

"No is NOT an Acceptable Answer" became our new slogan.

As volunteers we spent over three months in a media campaign trying to convince the government to change its mind.

I don't remember who built it but that black plywood coffin must have done the trick.
About two weeks after we buried all our hopes and dreams, in that coffin, in a ceremony on the steps of the Legislature, we had $100,000 to start our Support Services Program.

ARTSPACE

By 1990, as part of a tremendous team of volunteers, architects and trades people, I was president of ARTSPACE. A fully accessible 8 story Townhouse/High Rise complex complete with a 24-hour, on-site, on-call Support Services Program. We were living on the 8th floor in one of its 29 wheelchair adapted apartments and all my architectural fantasies had been fulfilled.

the Inventor

Necessity is a "Mother"

When I couldn't get into a swimming pool any longer we created our own way.

When having to be turned in bed became a danger to caregivers.
We invented "Handler"

the Poet

Everything in life became expressible by necessity. Creativity was once again the therapeutic answer to adversity.

During a very emotional period in 1990 -92 I wrote and illustrated three volumes of poetry:
" Being Inside " about having MS,
" Facing It " about love and life and
" In Visions" a compilation of reactions and observations.

the Art Director

This piece was completed in 1993 with a help of three different people using verbal instructions only and they had no contact with each other. I guess for a minute I felt a little bit like one of the "Old Masters".

Finally in late 1994 I was left without the use of either hand. What started as tripping over my toe had progressed to being physically equivalent to a C4 quadriplegic "Great from the neck up" but requiring 24-hour care.
Then like many times before as one door seemed to close a new set appeared.

the Hands-Free Artist

In early 1995 a chance to enter the computer age, utilizing assistive technology.

Was it me who said, " You will never get me and a computer together?
"Hell I can't even type ".

Using the computer Hands-Free starts with "Tracker", made by Madentec Ltd., which translates light reflected from a small silver dot into mouse movement on my computer screen. Their "Wisp" changes sip and puff into right and left mouse clicks.

Learning to make it work took time but I had time. The possibilities of artist as publisher created a whole new set of "Delusion of Grandeur".

Over about a year of trial, error and major amounts of help from another guardian, Dave McQeen, my computer art began to be me.

The computer was to enable me to not only draw and paint again; it allowed reproduction of past works and the setting of type . . . all hands free.

Starting with the donation of a logo for the Spinal Cord Injury Treatment Centre Society in 1984 many pieces of my original and print art have been used to identify and raise funds for a wide variety of non-profit organizations.

Assistive technology allows continuing that tradition.

the Hands-free Golfer

Being part of Real Abilities Golf 2000 was all Randy Marsden envisioned and more. I would be one of only 15 quadriplegic individuals in North America selected to participate in this inaugural, groundbreaking adventure.

The tournament, sponsored by Madentec, Teddy's Star Foundation and Microsoft, was played at the magnificent Pelican Hill Golf Course in Newport Beach California.

Assistive Technology called Tracker 2000, made by Madentec Inc. was making it possible to play Microsoft's Links 2000 on the computer using head movement only.

We were playing on course, shot for shot with the able bodied golfers.

When we were on the course I felt a little bit like the combination of a Star Wars fighter pilot and Jack Nicholas.

Adaptive Technology called Tracker 2000, made by Madentec Inc. was making it possible to play Microsoft's Links 2000 on the computer using head movement only. Pelican Hill is featured on Links 2000.

An incredible combination of technology would allow us to golf, from our wheelchairs, right alongside, hole for hole with the able-bodied participants in the tournament.

When we were on the course I felt a little bit like the combination of a Star Wars fighter pilot and Jack Nicholas.

The tournament was a "Class Act" from start to finish and an overwhelmingly success. One of my prints "No Flag to Far" was even commissioned for gifts and publicly.

This event was definitely a new chapter in the continuing story of the possibilities created by technology and the dedicated and caring people behind it. Real Abilities Golf 2001 is already in the planning stage. "Sometimes life is even bigger than your dreams."

I continue to be involved in the community. My computer art catalog has reached more than 100 items and the dream of an Art Gallery became reality with the establishment of a Website called theARTmiller Gallery www.theartmiller.ab.ca/bluewind
One of the objectives of developing the Gallery Web Site was to advance the awareness and the availability of Assistive Technology for the production of ART Hands-Free. It featured those who are out there doing it and the special people around them too.

I must acknowledge that All of these accomplishments and the possibilities of tomorrow are due to the contribution of a continuous flow of caring and concerned People "Without those People none of this exist".

Special recognition is given here to Evelyn Dellosa "Who constantly Amazes me while continuously Creating Tomorrows. And to the outstanding assistance of Randy Marsden

May the Gods be with You

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