The press of a button, how hard can it be?

m65 sniper buttonI am often asked why I have trouble doing things that other people can do. It is not a malicious question but a curious one. For the most part, I have invisible disability and the answer isn’t obvious or self-explanatory. I was asked again this week why I use a touch screen to control the TV, what issue do I have that makes using a remote difficult?

I do my best to answer questions like this with accuracy and brevity. The answer to this one is a relatively simple one.

Proprioception is permanently impaired in those with EDS. I can’t tell exactly where I am in space unless I use my eyes and make a conscious effort. As a result, I cannot control my grip very well, so I have a tendency to either drop things or squish things or both.

I struggle with buttons, particularly small buttons on a remote because I can’t tell how hard I need to press to activate it and I also can’t tell when I have succeeded. I tend to stab at a button a few times and hope for the best and that is not a particularly effective strategy and also not very good for my fragile finger joints.

I am also not a good tool user. I do okay if I can use my hands, but give me cutlery, scissors, pens, remote controls and issues arise pretty quickly. I struggle to determine where my hand is in relation to my body. I find it even harder to calculate exactly where the tip of the pen is or the blades on the scissors in relation to my hand and then I have to work out where they are in relation to the paper. Every movement changes the calculation as well, so I have to keep calculating and estimating.

The same process is relevant to buttons. I have to figure out where the button is, how to hit it at the right angle with the right amount of force and I have no accurate feedback system. Sometimes I press too hard, sometimes not hard enough and most of the time I have the wrong angle or the wrong button.

It makes me clumsy and someone who very much dislike buttons. It takes a lot of practice and concentration to master the use of a set of buttons.

The issue is compounded by joint instability and a body prone to (partial) joint dislocation. Repetitive strain is a known enemy and leads to both chronic pain and if carried out for long enough, partial dislocations. I try to save the number of buttons presses I have in a day for vital things, like game controllers and my mechanical keyboard.

Holding down buttons are hard. I don’t know why, but no matter how well my hands are doing or if I have exercised them into tip-top shape, my fingers just don’t hold buttons for longer periods. Auto-run buttons in games are one of the first things I look for and I really struggle with the safety cut-out feature on many disability equipment that requires a continuous press. I can do it, but it hurts and I cannot do it repeatedly on a regular and sustainable basis.

The world is filled with buttons and I am hoping that as technology moves forward the need for button pressing will diminish. More voice control, more virtual control makes the world a more accessible place. Or just better buttons. Until then, I’ll keep looking for interface that suit me better and keep explaining to health professionals and other people why buttons are a problem.

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