Todd-Karen-TeclaTecla hands-free technology for smart phones helps me be me and it’s a significant part of my on-going love story with my amazing wife, Karen.

When I first met Karen, I was using a BlackBerry, headset, and button — that was it. Since I have a C4 spinal cord injury, all I could do with my cellphone was digit and name dial. I couldn’t even see the BlackBerry I was using because it was behind my wheelchair. If I got a text or email, it was in the hands of my caregiver. That’s how removed I was from something that, for most people, is a device for connecting with others. I didn’t even check my email for years — connectivity was super limited.

Until I met Karen, I had never put it together that whoever was with me was my filter and they were the ones texting the message. They were responsible for my spelling, grammar, punctuation and choice of wording. I would audibly tell them what I’d like to say in a text and never even look at my phone. That was the approach for years; it was what I knew.

One particular time, my caregiver pulled my phone out of the holster and laughed at a flirty text Karen sent me. It really hit me that my caregiver was my hands and she was reading everything. All of a sudden, I felt this huge violation like I had just been exposed. My caregiver is a wonderful woman but the reality is that I’m a grown ass man in a relationship with a grown ass woman. Karen had just assumed that I was in charge of texting, so from that moment on, we decided we’d communicate through emails and phone calls.

Now I Send My Own Texts

In spite of all the gaps in technology, four years ago Karen and I managed to flirt our way to our wedding. About five months after the big day, my buddy showed me switch-control and we noticed it had an ‘external’ command option, which made me think there must be something out there I could use to text my wife on my own. Soon after this I learned about Tecla and a new version that worked with switch control to connect users directly to their phone. So my game plan became: Buy a Tecla, buy an iPhone, buy a headset, and text my wife on my own!

Once I had everything sorted out and slowly learned how to navigate the device, I asked Siri to text my wife… and then Karen texted back. No caregiver, just me and my wife. I remember saying to myself, “Are you serious?” I immediately showed Karen how it worked and her response was, “You know what you have to do now? You have to tell the world, you have to tell people!”

What’s weird about sharing the story is that people just assume those with limited mobility have always had these options. But Tecla didn’t always exist and very few people knew what switch control was.

Fortunately for me and Karen, Tecla does exist now, and it’s a significant part of my on-going love story with my amazing wife, Karen.


Todd Stabelfeldt, an entrepreneur and computing technology expert, lives in Seattle with his wife, Karen. A C4 quadriplegic, during his decades-long struggle for increased independence, Stabelfeldt, 38, has become a noted expert in technologies for people with spinal cord injuries and is a regular contributor to usability testing efforts for technology companies in product development. Additionally, Stabelfeldt is the CEO and Founder of C4 Database Management which primarily serves clinical and anatomical pathology labs and hospitals with ongoing database maintenance and special projects like SharePoint migrations.