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I lost most of my fingers and feeling from my dominate hand and some from my other hand in an accidental bootleg firework show. As I'm still at the hospital recovering and thinking about my future, I'm reflecting on what has happened to me and realized it took me almost an hour to get my thoughts down. When I recover, despite my team happily awaiting my arrival, am I doomed to resign? I am a software developer who used to type 100 WPM and I barely type a short sentence in under 5 minutes.

I want to mention that due to thinking I was tough and didn't need insurance (being in my early thirties), I cannot retire or live on disability. I currently live in one of the most expensive parts of the Bay Area.

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    This isn't really an answer, but a comment on one thing you said. While you won't be able to get your normal typing speed back, I barely type a short sentence in under 5 minutes. there is a high probability that you will be able to improve this speed once you get used to typing in your current situation. – さりげない告白 Jul 8 at 2:16
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    You might find this Q & Answers useful : workplace.stackexchange.com/q/132403/75821 – Solar Mike Jul 8 at 8:28
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    If HR agrees and you have the needed experience in software design, development and the software-product-lifecycle in general, you might want to apply for a more senior role in consulting/management - which basically means less typing and more speaking/planning/designing/deligating.. Would that be an option for you? – iLuvLogix Jul 8 at 9:17
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    I don't know any developer who types working code at the rate of 100 WPM all day long. You need some time to think between typing things. And the more you think, the better and more concise your code will be. In fact, typing fast simply isn't necessary to be a good developer. The time it will take to develop a specific thing will be much much more dependent on your ability to think right, than on your ability to type. If you have reached a point where your ability to type is the bottleneck, either it means you write tons of redundant code, or you're the best thinking genius on earth. – dim Jul 8 at 12:26
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    I think this question could use a united-states tag, as in majority of first world countries you always get insurance and therefore always get disability pension if you get disabled. That changes a lot. – Tomáš Zato Jul 8 at 12:33
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That's terrible and I'm very sorry.

Please do seek out professional help. You are absolutely NOT doomed to resign.

You can get help from your doctors, your insurances and also from your employer and their HR department. Your job and you way you go about it will probably change in some non-trivial way but there are plenty of support systems that can help and make this easier and provide the accommodation that you may need. At this point you should mainly focus on getting better and working through the difficult process of digesting what has happened to you. That's okay, take the time and the help you need. Your job will still be there and there will be people to help you.

Best of luck

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I know a guy who is quadriplegic and has two degrees and a phd. He only has one functioning hand and is bedridden.

Software development is about your intellect not your typing speed. Any half decent boss will make accommodations to keep your intellect and your experience.

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I do software engineering and I know someone that lost their dominant hand in an accident and now uses their non-dominant hand to code. You wouldn't notice anything was amiss based on their work

Unless you're writing documentation, does it honestly matter how fast you can type? In my experience, the quality of code is not set by how fast you can type it, but the thought behind it - I wouldn't be concerned at all about your output, just focus on recovery

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    As I learned from Carola Lilienthal: 70% of your time is understanding the already existing code, 20% is solving the problem, and only 10% is actual coding. My experience tells me she´s right. (and OP´s coding will for sure improve with time and training - heads up!) – Jessica Jul 8 at 12:07
  • @JessicaMiceli this would make a fine answer, if you wish. – Solar Mike Jul 8 at 12:36
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    You probably don't want to be writing documentation at "as fast as you can type" either, unless you're not expecting anyone to ever read it. – Erik Jul 8 at 15:03
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Losing the ability to type is not the end. You can use voice recognition to program.

The video I'm linking below is one I've watched before and know is a good example of the general principles even if it may not be your current stack. It's Bash/Emacs and Python.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8SkdfdXWYaI

I have seen enough other demos linked over the years that I'm reasonably confident that whatever your preferred platform is that something similar can be done to drive it via voice.

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    uh, no. Speech recognition isn't a good way to program. Way too slow, typing with 2-3 fingers is faster. – jwenting Jul 8 at 4:32
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    @jwenting Dan did not say it was the fastest option but it is an option... – Solar Mike Jul 8 at 5:21
  • @jwenting Speaking is faster that 1 or 2 finger typing especially if injuries have left the hand unable to function normally, and with good voice macros setup you can automate most of the program specific formatting. (Have you watched the video I've linked, or any other good demo from someone else programming via voice?) Beyond that, you don't need to be able to type fast to program. Unless you're churning out mindless boilerplate, most of your time will be spent thinking to design the best implementation. – Dan Neely Jul 8 at 13:53
  • @DanNeely you're obviously not a programmer. "public class DoSomeThingSilly extends SomeBaseClass opening curly brace newline tab private int someField equals ten semicolon newline tab" etc. etc. etc. – jwenting Jul 9 at 3:25
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I believe you will adapt, I knew a developer with some genetic disease that causd him to have tiny-baby hands, and he managed to code. Then there is this guy who lost halves of his fingers (like 50% of each finger) due to frostbite, and he types like crazy with whatever he has left. Remember how hard it was to type when you sat first time in front of a computer? You are going to go through similar process now, but eventualy you will adapt, and even if not as fast as before, you will be able to work comfortably and efficiently. Especially that in our line of work thinking what to write can take majority of the time anyway.

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I'm sorry to hear what happened to you. But I wouldn't worry about your productivity at work. As others have mentioned in comments, programming is not that much about typing.

And there are many tools that can help you on the way:

  • Voice commands instead of some keyboard shortcuts
  • Programmable keyboard you can setup to do repetitive things in one click
  • Touch screen instead of mouse or a trackball mouse if you're no longer comfortable with the old one

Questions about tools for programming are also on topic on StackOverflow, so you can ask about specific tools for the stuff you do at work if you need more detailed and thought-through ideas.

If your employer is reasonable, they will surely agree to accommodate you with the tools you need to stay as productive as before - and I really believe that it's possible.

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I'm really sorry for what happened to you and I hope you recover in the short time.

I know that you're worried about your performance. Of course, typing slower will make you slower to try/test/debug/find resources, etc. Your performance may decrease in this area, but it doesn't mean that you won't be as good or valuable as before. You will need some months to adapt to your new condition, but after this period, you will find yourself more capable and useful through other means.

You may want to study more, learn new things, practice your speaking and teaching skills, and your ability to lead and tutor. You may try as well to improve your ability to design systems and discuss architecture choices and work in a consulting position.

Also, as a manager, I would NEVER fire or ask an employee in your situation to resign, at least in several months. We are humans, we have feelings and firing you will be really bad for the moral of the team. You need at least one important thing: motivation to continue working and helping the team and the company. In some cases, people that suffer great losses as yours, may become depressed and unmotivated. This depression may spoil the working environment and that would be the worst for your career. So, get help from your family and friends to recover mentally before going back to work.

I don't know the laws in the US, but in my country, we have a law where every big company is obligated to hire at least 5% of the workforce from people with disabilities. In my friend's company, they have hired a blind programmer to work as a DBA and with infrastructure. The guy was solid good and had an impressive memory. He lost his vision in an accident and had adapted really well.

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There are alternative input devices in so many forms and shapes nowadays that I wouldn't worry too much. And you should always keep in mind that your body is a truely wonderous machine that can repair a lot of damage. Don't assume that you'll never improve feeling in your damaged hand.

Touchscreen and touchpad were already listed in other answers. You can reasonably use then with your non-dominant or your damaged hand.

Mouses and trackballs come in varied shapes and sizes. Should you not be able to use a regular mouse, you could still use a trackball with your wrist alone.

There's a whole category of "vertical" or "ergonomic" mouses that are shaped in such a way that your hand just lies on them in a very relaxed position. You can move them without moving your wrist or fingers, just with your arm. The fingers are automatically positioned so that a twitch clicks the mouse button.

There are even alternatives to keyboards that can be used one-handed. Granted, I never used them for programming and don't know whether all the different kinds of brackets are supported, but you see there's always an alternative if you look for it.

Have a look at this review of the programmable glove-keyboard "Peregrine Glove". It's by far not the only glove-style keyboard out there.

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