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Giving the speechless a voice with the gaze of an eye

One of the challenges many persons with long-term or permanent disability in California face is achieving or recovering a level of function that allows them to live as fulfilling a life as possible.

Social Security Disability Insurance benefits are ostensibly available to help ensure that those who are eligible don't suffer undue financial hardship at a time when they can't support themselves. But getting the proper approval for those SSDI benefits is often a significant challenge in itself without an attorney's help.

And then there is the reality that very often, we don't know what we don't know. Those who are not disabled due to illness or because of some developmental concern often have no clue what hurdles those with disabilities face on a day-to-day basis. 

That some with disabilities may be unable to speak to advocate for themselves doesn't bring down those barriers any faster, either. So it becomes a good thing that new technologies come along to bridge the gaps.

The value of such devices was on clear display during the Farms and Ranches Enabling people with Disabilities Conference late last month in Los Angeles -- especially as shown by one 11-year-old speaker.

Casey Rohrer of Hermosa Valley School put in a 45-minute appearance as part of one panel and he had a lot to say, despite being non-verbal because of cerebral palsy. Rohrer reportedly wowed the audience by using a gaze-activated device, the Tobii C12, to talk.

Using his eyes, he moved a cursor across a display screen keyboard and spelled out what he had to share about how he avidly pursues his passions. He has acted in school plays, his favorite subject is language arts, and his mom says he likes to use Google to plan family field trips. His mom says the eye-gaze technology has been a real blessing because hand and foot operated devices had proving too exhausting.

Organizers say that by his contribution, Rohrer helped tear down some of the myths about what is possible.

Source: The Beach Reporter, "Eye gaze technology gives a voice to non-verbal speaker," Charles Pannunzio, April 3, 2014

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