Computers and specialised software have caused a lifestyle revolution for those confined to a wheelchair 'However bad life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at. Where there is life, there is hope.' Stephen Hawking, one of the world's greatest authorities on the origins of our universe, made this comment during a speech in Hong Kong in June. Professor Hawking is severely disabled with motor neurone disease and made the remark using an infrared switch that controls a computer-based speech synthesiser. 'His strength of life can do much to encourage me. I will try my best to do well,' was Tang Siu-pun's response to Professor Hawking's comment. The Hong Kong resident is paralysed from the neck down and came to the notice of the public two years ago when he wrote an e-mail to the Legislative Council seeking the right to die. Jonathan Wong Chi-pang is a senior occupational therapist at the ReHabAid Centre at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University involved in assessing the capabilities and needs of patients who are paralysed. He was one of the specialists who visited Mr Tang - who had nothing to do but lie on his back and stare at the ceiling in hospital - and helped him to gradually turn his life around by providing him with computer training. When he responded to Professor Hawking, Mr Tang was using a head-pointing mouse emulation device to write his e-mail. Yesterday at the Rehabaid Society's premises at the University of Hong Kong a patient wrote 'Hello, my name is Yeung Chun-hung, how are you?' by way of introduction on his computer screen. Mr Yeung, 32, sat in a wheelchair. He can move his head and wears a pair of glasses with an infrared sensor in the middle that bounces off an infrared sensor on the top of his computer screen. This activates an onscreen mouse, which Mr Yeung uses to click on various Chinese characters to communicate. Mr Yeung's life changed completely 13 years ago when he was involved in a motorcycle accident while working on the mainland. The head injury left him able to move his head, but damaged his vocal chords. During the past year, Mr Yeung's mother has brought him in from Sha Tin to train at ReHabAid, where he works with occupational therapist Harvey Shum Man-hok and Dr Wong, learning how to write on a computer and to use other functions such as Google to widen his view of the world. His mother is his full-time caregiver, and she is unsure of his future as she gets older. But she's happy about the computer providing him with the freedom to communicate beyond nodding his head for whatever he needs. Computers are a breakthrough for quadriplegics - who in Hong Kong are often young men who have become paralysed through a trauma such as a motorcycle or car accident. 'The environment here is so unfriendly and so inaccessible for people with wheelchairs,' said Cecilia Lam Shiu-ling, hospital chief executive of the ReHabAid Centre and honorary secretary of the Rehabaid Society. 'There are no dropped curbs and these people are often imprisoned in their homes. Computer access makes a world of difference to people with disabilities, especially our severely disabled clients.' Through Operation Santa Claus, the Rehabaid Society is looking for HK$250,000 in funding to buy computer systems and special computer access devices to help individuals to overcome disability-related barriers in using IT. IT volunteers are also needed to offer general support for disabled computer users and their carers. Ninety per cent of the computers and other technology to help people with disabilities comes from abroad. But Mr Yeung and his peers just need a normal computer that is compatible with specialist Chinese software. For example, Mr Yeung can move his head to activate the mouse sensor. Others can merely blink to move the mouse. It's that simple - and that sophisticated. Dr Wong estimates each person can be helped for just HK$20,000, the cost of a computer plus the software.