Carl is a very intelligent, inspiring gentleman who lives in Tatura. He has not been able to talk for some years now as the result of a brain injury. Carl’s Lightwriter is his voice – a small, typewriter like device that converts text into speech. We were fortunate to meet Carl through Cuppa and Conversation, a group for people living with communication disability held in Shepparton.
Carl very kindly spoke with us about the advantages and disadvantages of living in a small community, his “love/hate” relationship with his Lightwriter, and the challenges of living with a communication disability.
“I guess most of the benefits of being in a small community surround the fact that most of the locals know my story, so they are aware of my disability and that helps with their patience in conversing with me and so on. Some of the disadvantages are the lack of anonymity in that people have certain expectations that may not always be good ones. One of the biggest barriers to access to services that I experience is the difficulty the person on the other end of the phone has when I make phone calls. Even though I might pretype out what I want to say they just don’t have the patience that is required for me to type out an answer to a question etc. Patience is the greatest skill that someone without a communication difficulty needs to have when communicating with someone who uses AAC.”
“The most challenging part after the accident was the inability to talk because it is so isolating. For example, even my closest friends post-accident have basically deserted me because I’m not much fun to be around. The Lightwriter is an essential piece of kit for me. It is my voice. I have a real love/hate relationship with it. Love because it provides me with a voice and a way to express myself to the outside world but hate because I have to type out everything that I want to say and that takes time; so I find that conversation gets pared back to very basic and direct forms and it doesn’t flow like it should. As well, it is not good in group situations because the natural speakers conversations tend to leave you behind. It’s just a fact that we don’t realise how fast our speech is; even if I was an A grade Typist, which you can see that I’m definitely not, I don’t think this problem would be eliminated.”
By Karen Oswald