Assistive Tech Camera Setup


Assistive Tech Camera Setup

By Timothy A Carey, DisabilityVoice™

Some people take pictures as a profession and yet others take pictures as a hobby, but for many people with disabilities operating a camera is quite difficult.  This is especially true for people who have no arm movement and little hand movement.  And this is certainly true for Andrew Keller until he did some research into ways that he could actually use a camera himself.


Andrew explains in his own words about his disability, below:

“As someone living with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy I can no longer move my arms and have very limited movement in my fingers, which makes doing much of anything by myself pretty tough. I need help with everything from getting dressed to scratching my nose.”


Andrew indicated to me that with his disability it isn’t easy to keep busy.  He said, “About five months ago I hit the boredom wall. The things I normally did to keep me occupied, like watching movies, reading, or music, no longer worked well.”


Andrew asked around at the various social networks what he could do for a hobby.  Andrew said, “I received several suggestions and the one that jumped out at me was photography… I always had an interest in photography, but thought that it was something I would never be able to do because of my physical limitations.”


Through his research Andrew developed an Assistive Technology camera setup for himself.  Andrew says this about his months of research, below:

“The three things I needed were a camera with a remote shutter release, a mount to hold the camera in front of my face, and a blow switch to take the pictures. After that I spent the next couple months figuring out where to get everything I needed. First thing I did was figure out which camera I wanted. Then I found the switch and the mount. It was definitely worth the wait and all of the research I did online. Now I have a new hobby that allows me to be creative and be more independent. I enjoy taking pictures of anything and everything.”


Andrew eventually found a camera with the shutter release port, the switch, which would allow him to use the camera, and a mounting system, which would work for his chair and camera.  Andrew chose the Canon Eos Rebel T3 digital SLR, which does have a shutter release port.  Andrew then found The Magic Arm, which the author uses for his chin control uses to drive his power wheelchair.  He just clamps one end it to an armrest post on his chair and, using a special mounting head for his camera, the other end to the camera.  Andrew says it, “Holds it nice and secure.“  Then, Andrew found a switch that lets him operate is camera by blowing into a rubber tube.  Andrew indicates that it took some working with the blow switch sensitivity to make it easy enough for him to trigger.  Let’s learn more about this switch by Andrew’s own words, below:

“The switch that I use is called the Ultimate Switch and it was originally designed to be used for skydiving photography. The switch… is only about 1 inch square and less than half an inch thick.  It allows me to focus the camera on the subject as well as actually take a picture.  To zoom in or out… I can just move my chair closer or further away… I also use the tilt on my chair to aim the camera up or down, which works nicely.  It comes with a rubber tube true blow into to operate it and a wire that plugs into the cameras remote shutter release port. The switch is compatible with most brands of cameras. As long as your camera has a remote shutter release this switch should work with it.  When you order you just need to specify which kind of camera you’ll be using and they will provide the proper connector for that brand and model.”


Andrew is happy he can use a camera and it works well for him.  His new hobby has brightened his spirits and made him believe that anything is possible.  The top two photos on this article were taken by Andrew.  In his own words, “If I am able to take pictures myself, there must be a lot of other activities out there that I have not even thought about. The possibilities aren’t so limited after all.”

The total cost of this assistive technology adaptation is about $900. Here is a rundown of the prices.

  • Ultimate Switch: $70.00
  • The Magic Arm: $176
  • Mounting Head: $70.00
  • Camera: $600
  • Memory Card: $30.00 (for added ease WiFi camera cards)

Photos of Andrew and his camera setup: