My Eyegazer Computer by Jason Hubal
I use a FRS ComLink LT computer communication device, which I control with my eyes. Basically it is a touch-screen tablet computer with an EyeTech Digital Systems camera connected to the bottom. (This package was put together by Forbes Rehab Services Custom Solutions.) How it works: The camera and infra-red sensors mark my pupils and wherever I look that’s where the mouse arrow goes. So my eyes control the mouse cursor, and with a blink of my eye I can select an item. For typing, there’s an on-screen keyboard. I type by staring at each letter and then blinking. It’s slow at times, but now I don’t have to rely on someone to type or move the mouse for me anymore. I’ve had this since at least April 2009. It has given me independence and privacy.
How my dream became reality:
For years I had attempted to find device(s) /computer program(s) to be able to use the computer. I tried a voice dictation program, but it wouldn’t work for me. Over the years, I’d heard about assistive technologies – switches, sip-n-puff, etc – that physically challenged people used it to run their computers. So I knew there had to be something that would work for me. They have had a few articles in the MDA Quest Magazine about assistive technologies. This one guy who was paralyzed put together a laptop, which helped him operate the computer with an eyebrow switch. He could also drive his electric wheelchair with it. His story really made me yearn to research assistive technologies.
After much online browsing, an assisted technologies guy said try Easter Seals. (web search your state Easter Seals) They sent us an application, which we filled out and sent back. Upon receiving a response, they required that I see a speech therapist for an IQ evaluation. Of course, I passed and the next step was to determine what device would help me. I wasn’t strong enough to use a switch, so the therapist thought an eyegazer computer was another option. She sent for a loaner and I got the opportunity to try it out two weeks later. Following a few minutes of set up, I actually began to control the computer! I was playing Solitaire!
With all the evaluation reports sent by my therapist and signed by my doctor, we got in touch with Forbes Rehab. Medicare approved funds for my communication device. Forbes put it together and shipped it. It took me awhile to get comfortable using it once it arrived, but once I found the right sitting position, off I went.
Supplemental by Timothy A Carey
My quest for assistive technology was similar to Jason’s. I was looking for something because my Duchene Muscular Dystrophy continuously makes my muscles weaker. I sometimes have trouble using my special flat pad mouse when my hand gets cold and from fatigue. Being a web designer and online advocate for people with disabilities requires me to be online almost all the time during the day. I was at an assistive technology conference in Stevens Point Wisconsin when I met a man from Talk to Me Technologies. Matt Dunning was showing off an Eye Response system. He later came to my home to show me. It runs very similar to Jason’s system. After waiting forever Medicaid approved the eye response communication system as a communication device because at times with a ventilator it is very difficult to hear me in a group setting. But Wisconsin Medicaid evidently says communication devices should only be used for communication purposes and the rest of the system is to be locked other computing purposes like using the DVD player or making computer programs. I had to have a grant unlock the system for other computer use. In Wisconsin there is something called Telecommunications Equipment Purchase Program (TEPP) run by the Wisconsin Public Service Commission. TEPP grants help people with disabilities purchase specialized equipment they need in order to use basic telephone services. I argued on my applications that the computer would be part of my life. With email and Skype it would allow me to call on the phone and communicate with the public as well as help me with my employment. Every state is different, but your state should have a similar grant program. I can still type somewhat by voice, but there are times when I really need my system turned on to complete capacity. The company that creates the Eye Response sold out to a company called DynaVox. The DynaVox communications company used this technology to create the EyeMax, which I described trying out in a past newsletter.
Yes Jason is correct, there are many ways that you might be able to use assistive technology to operate your computer. Right in this article Jason and I described two forms of eye control assistive technologies to operate your computer. There are more forms of eyed controlled computers, for instance, the tobii. And there are many other forms of assistive technology you may be able to use. I hope people with disabilities all find the correct assistive technologies to operate a computer. After all we all want to be a part of the community, which also includes cyberspace. For more help finding assistive technology resources in your area contact Timothy A Carey at tcarey@DisabilityVoice.us