We first shared the stories of how technology has enhanced the lives of disabled students at Beaumont College in Lancaster in December 2014. We’re republishing it here as part of Scope’s 100 Days, 100 Stories project.
David, 20: “It gives me freedom”
For verbal communication, David uses a Liberator communication device, which he controls with his eye movements. It has a Bluetooth adaptor, so it lets him use any PC or Mac by sending commands through the Liberator.
“It was just the best feeling when I learnt to use it – it took me a couple of weeks. Communicating with people was very difficult before.”
He also has an ACTIV controller in the headrest of his chair in his bedroom, which means he can control his TV, Blu-Ray and music players.
“Technology is very important because it enables me to communicate and be more independent, which gives me freedom.”
Shaun, 20: “It means I can do more”
Shaun uses a Liberator communication aid with a head switch. The device scrolls through different rows and columns on a screen, and then he hits the buttons if he wants to create a message. He can also control things in his bedroom with it such as, open and close the door, curtains and windows, as well as his TV.
“I find it easy, but it took a couple of months to learn. It was life-changing – it means I can do more things. Before, I found communication with people was hard if they did not know me. It has changed my life for the better.”
Dominique, 22: “I wouldn’t be able to talk to my family on Facebook”
Dominique uses a joystick to move a mouse pointer and then clicks the switch with her head rather than the mouse button.
“It’s easy to learn, but it can take a long time to get used to – it took me about three weeks before I was nine out of ten!
It was weird because it was new, but it is very important. It lets me use a computer, and communicate in shops, on transport, in restaurants and pubs. I talk to my family on Facebook every day, and without my technology I wouldn’t be able to use Facebook.”
Cameron, 19: “I can produce my best work”
Cameron drives his wheelchair with a joystick. When using a computer he uses a different joystick, a touch screen and a large keyboard.
“It takes a bit of getting used to, but I am a very, very determined individual who will not stop until the task is completed to my own expectations! It took a fair few weeks, but I continued to push myself. It was a strange sensation – it’s kind of like when you play your first game of wheelchair basketball, because you have to use your strength to propel an object, only it’s a touch screen or keyboard rather than a ball.
Assistive technology helps me complete my college work – without it, my work wouldn’t be as effective. Because I’m at a college where the technology does exist, I find I can produce my work to the best standard I can do.”
Alice, 20: “Every time she uses it, she has a big smile”
Alice has complex learning, visual and communication difficulties, and uses a communication device with a PODD Grid to communicate. It’s an onscreen grid of symbols, and Alice uses a head switch to scan through them and point to the one she wants. She has a speaker in her headrest, and the device reads each symbol out loud. Her assistive technologist, Zak Sly, says:
“Alice has used a PODD book in the past, but before someone had to turn the pages for her – it took a lot longer to get to the words or sentences she needed. She learnt to use the new device in a few weeks and is now building up her skills, using it more and more in her day-to-day activities. When she first got the device, she smiled lots and every time she uses it, she has a big smile.”