Here is my history in communicating.
I received my first communication aid when I was 6 years
old. It was called a bliss board. My speech-language therapist
taught me Blissymbols, visual-graphic symbols that represent
words. The Blissymbols were laid out on a board in categories
such as verbs, prepositions, adjectives, and nouns. The
board was made of cardboard and had a plastic covering with
a yellow bag. (Yes yellow bag, not very good for my image)
Symbols were pasted on the cardboard and had the equivalent
English words above the symbol.
The bliss board did not really
work in the real world. By ten years old I gave up on using
it, as it was too much hard work. My closed friends could
understand me so the teachers used to ask my friends to
translate what I was saying.
The one advatage is you can have a gossip to a friend without
anyone else understanding me.
It was frustaining sometimes
when no one was there to translate for me. I used to say
forget it!! When I was 15 years old I received a light talker.
It was the first voice synthesizer augmentative communication
devices' had, and it was not very clear. The light talker
allowed me to pre-program messages under icon sequences.
For instance, pressing a key with "drink icon"
in it, followed by a key with an icon of a pointing-finger
on it, might result in the retrieval of the sentence "Please
will you go to the bar?" Whereas "drink icon"
plus a person icon might retrieve "Do you want a drink?"
Without my light talker I wouldn't
be able to do many things. I don't think I would have got
on as well at college, as I didn't have any friends coming
The light talker was a valuable
tool for socializing. For the first few years at college
I learnt more outside the class room by socializing. It
was like going into a new world.
The light talker has made me
much more independent as I can order take ways. (very important)
I used to always to go into the pizza shop, as it was easy
access to get into. They would get the money out of my pocket
after I had typed in the order. Then they would put the
food in the bag and hang it on my wheelchair.
As you can see I am much more
independent with the light talker. I really needed a new
one as after finishing at university I decided to set-up
my own web design business called Technowebs.co.uk Therefore
when I am meeting my new clients I rely on my talker. Three
years ago I tried getting a new up to date model from the
NHS, as my talker was 12 years old. Well, let's just say
I am still waiting. Now I know why people are still using
bliss boards, as it is really hard to obtain a talker from
On the NHS a person can received
hearing aids, glasses, special shoes, wheelchairs/sticks,
. So why not provide a speech synthesiser? I think
speech synthesisers are essential to a person who requires
them. If a person was hard of hearing and also had a very
poor speech, he/she would obtain a hearing aide to allow
the person to help hear people talk to him/her, but he would
find it very hard to reply back without a speech synthesiser!
The speech synthesiser is important and essential to the
quality of a person's life, so I think it should be free
on the NHS as it's an aid for communicating!
To buy a new talker to suit
my needs will cost £6,500!! No-way I could afford
one, and after waiting for 3yrs for the NHS, so in October
1993 I decided to build one from the following.
I bought a normal laptop computer.
I wanted one with 2 batteries together, so I went to Pc
world, Curry's, Comet etc to see if I could find a laptop
with 2 batteries. The assistants looked at me as they thought
I did not know what I am talking about. If I asked a question
they would tell my mum the answer. She would say, "don't
tell me tell him." Anyway I didn't find a suitable
laptop in Hull, so I went on the Internet and found one
with 2 batteries. I wanted 2 batteries because laptop batteries
don't last long. This particular laptop has 6 hours continues
use, so it should suit my requirements.
After buying a laptop I needed a Switch interface and Software.
I bought these from Sensory
Software Company. The grid software was unsuitable for
my needs as the grids are designed for children. So I have
redesigned 90% of the grids - I am still working on them
as the grids are not perfect yet. The english languge is
very complex so it is never ending. My idea is to have multiple
of grids, as I will be faster. On my old light talker I
had one grid with 128 icons. I needed to press icon sequences
for a pre-stored word. This process is very slow for a switch
user and it is very hard to remember the sequences for each
For example if I'm saying on
the light talker the following-:
"I am going shopping"
I = 2 icons (I + I =I)
Am = 2 icons (I + InterJ =am)
Going = 2 icons (Frog + ing= going)
Shopping = 3 icons (apple + house + ing= shopping)
Total 9 icons to press or 12
clicks on the switch
On my new system
I will go in to the 'go' grid,
it will display the following
I'm going to the
I was going
Are you going
So I will select "I am
going" = 2 icons or 3 clicks
And then it will jump back
automatically to the main grid
I would go to the building
icon and select "shopping" = 2 icons or 3 clicks
Total = 4 icons pressed or 6 clicks on the switch
On the light talker I had to
click the switch 12 times but on my new system it is only
6 times. This means the new system is twice as fast and
less effort for the switch user.
Finally I needed to get the
new system mounted on my wheelchair. So I e-mailed Barry
Taylor at Medical Physics Hull Royal Infirmary and asked
if they could mount it on my chair for me! Thanks
All together the new system
has just cost me £1,500. This is a fraction of the
cost of the £6,500 talker. My new system is 8 times
more powerful and the screen is 3 times bigger then the