Success celebrated during Access Awareness Day

New apps open up a whole new world for students such as Shikita who have difficulties with communitcation. - Photo submitted
New apps open up a whole new world for students such as Shikita who have difficulties with communitcation.
— image credit: Photo submitted

Sarah Eves

Special to the Tribune/Advisor

In the last decade we have seen computers become smaller and more importantly they have become portable.

iPads, iPhones, and iTouches have literally put the power of a computer into your hand or pocket.  This remarkable move to portable and accessible technology has meant a revolution in the tools available for people with developmental delays and communication issues.

People who need help communicating have had their world opened up by an infusion of inexpensive, portable and cool technology.

In particular the app called MyTalk has dramatically improved the quality of life for many people all over the world, enabled them to communicate. MyTalk provides a blank slate that allows the user/programmer to create a person-centred communication device.  People can share and borrow what they have created on the MyTalk website on their computer and download any of it to the end users device (iPad, iTouch, or iPhone).

The best part about MyTalk is, it works.

In my practice, as a Learning Support Teacher, I began using MyTalk four years ago with one of my new students.  When Shikita came to my class she had limited ways to communicate with me.  She could sign approximately 20 signs but they were modified signs due to her fine motor difficulties, and sometimes hard to understand. Many days ended in tears and frustration for her, her fellow students and staff.  That is when I introduced her to MyTalk.   It was installed on an iPad, and working with Shikita and her ‘voice buddy’ (a verbal student that was the same age, gender and who had the willingness to commit the time and energy to Shikita) the creation process began.

Over the years we have refined her iPad ‘voice’ from simple information-sharing (her name, her family, her friends ...), to a system that allows Shikita to interact effectively with her peers and wider community.

Shikita’s iPad is focused on Williams Lake and includes all the major restaurants in town and what she might want to order.  It has her cookbook for her cooking class at school.

It has basic conversation starting, academic options, an ‘out and about in Williams Lake’ page, and more.  Shikita uses her ‘voice’ when we are out in the community and in the school.  People are not only patient as she finds what she needs and ‘talks’ to them but they are eager to see what she is doing.

Her ‘voice’ has been the entry point for Shikita to meet people that she previously never interacted with.

Shikita’s ‘voice’ has allowed her to truly blossom.

To commemorate Access Awareness Day on June 7, we appreciate the huge contribution that technology has made to the world of people who have communication disabilities.  Our hope is that the technologies will continue to be refined and developed to make the world more accessible to all.

Celebrated annually on the first Saturday in June, Access Awareness Day is a comprehensive campaign to raise awareness about disability, accessibility, and inclusion. Access Awareness Day has been made possible because of dedicated and inspired individuals who understand the importance of inclusion. Access Awareness Day is about the recognition that the right and the opportunity to participate in all aspects of community life are both essential for building healthy, vibrant and diverse communities.

Access Awareness Day is ultimately about more than just one day a year. It is a call to respond creatively and purposefully to build a society where barriers to inclusion are removed, and to ensure the independence, self-esteem, dignity, and security of all citizens.

Sarah Eves is a learning support teacher at the Lake City Secondary School Williams Lake Campus.


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