Being able to communicate is something that most people take for granted. The only experience of relentless communication breakdown most people can relate to is being a tourist in a foreign country. In this situation, gestures and facial expression are often used in the absence of a shared language.
Imagine being in a country where you understood everyone, but no one understood you. Imagine trying to get your message across without the use of mime or gestures. Imagine the frustration you would feel.
For people like Rus, imagination isn’t required. This is their day to day experience.
Luckily, much like for a wildly gesticulating tourist, technology can open many doors to more effective communication for people with communication support needs. Rus has Cerebral Palsy and experiences difficulty controlling his body movements. As a result, his speech can be hard to understand and he is unable to use a keyboard or a phone.
Rus takes advantage of a number of technologies to help him communicate. He uses his computer with the help of a pointer, which he straps to his head. He also has a modified mouse. This allows him to browse the net, send emails and use social media.
With the help of the Inner South Regional Communication Service, Rus has recently received an Allora 2 (a text to speech device) to help people in the community understand him more easily. Since he can’t directly use the keyboard, Rus uses a tread switch, which allows him to control the device using his foot. He types messages which are displayed on the screen and spoken aloud by the device. According to Rus, one of the best features of the Allora is the ability to send and receive text messages. “I like being able to text my family and friends or book a taxi. Before that, I used to get my carer to book a taxi for me. It has changed my life. I can go anywhere in the community and get a taxi. I am more independent, I feel more confident and safer”.
For many, new technologies offer added convenience to their day. For others, technology provides so much more – independence and confidence. In a world where technology is improving at a rapid rate, it is exciting to consider what the future has in store.
By Katrina McNamara
Inner South Regional Communication Service