So I was at yet another technology fair for people with disabilities. I was cruising around with my aide when suddenly I got stopped by a guy with cerebral palsy who worked for Dynovox (he used a Dynovox himself). I should let able-bodies know that Dynovox is a company that makes augmentative communications devices or AAC's-think Stephen Hawkins's voice. He asked me if I was interested in getting a Dynovox and I shook my head no (my board was in my backpack). He then asked me why I didn't want one. I signaled to my aide to get my board and the following conversation ensued:
"I like my letter board."
"Don't you want your own voice?"
"My board is my voice."
"But you're not independent. You have to rely on people to read it."
"I don't think that makes me less independent because I always need full time assistants to accompany me in public. So they can read out the board and the conversation has a better flow."
"But you are dependent on them."
"I don't see it that way."
He was stumped and gave up , but not before giving me a disapproving look. The topper was, as soon as he rolled away he summoned his aide to help him drink -after lecturing me about being independent.
There are two reasons I told you this. The first is it's funny and it shows that even people with disabilites can discriminate against each other. The second is because many of you have asked me (in a much nicer way) why I do not have an AAC device. You are probably thinking that it would make life so much easier because I could tell people off directly, show them I'm smart, and not rely on others to translate for me. However, partly because of how I would have to use one of those AAC devices (with an infrared sensor) it would take me about 5 minutes to type out a sentence. That would either make people leave because they don't realize that I'm about to say something, or be so in awe of the technology that they don't really hear what I have to say.
Another view I have encountered (from both the disabled and non-disabled) is that people assume that since I don't use an AAC, I must be lazy or too dumb to operate one. I have actually learned how to use one but it did not feel right to me. I was 14 and my dad insisted that I learn to use one (he actually paid me!- a great way to get a teenager to do something). However, he was pretty surprised when I refused to take it with me on the first day of school that year.
My board is so much better for me because of a few reasons. First, it's extremely portable and you can make one on a whim if need be. Second, it doesn't have technical problems- I know a few people whose AAC device broke and they could not communicate for a few days. Finally, and most importantly, my board gets people to get to know me rather than just ooooing and ahhhing at the technology. It's very interactive and any literate person can learn it in like 2 minutes. Even if someone is having trouble reading the board (and this happens frequently at first), my aide can always be there to translate.
I know some people have great success with AAC devices and I am in no way bashing those that choose to use them. This is just what works best for me. I hope this explains your wonderings.
For those who have not seen it, I posted a video of me using the board on my very first entry. Here is a link: http://thedealwithdisability.blogspot.com/2009/08/hi-and-welcome-to-deal-with-disability.html