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New Institute Program Gives First Demonstration

August 2013

PHOTO: Karen Latimer demonstrates equipment as others look onThe Environmental Access for Individuals with Significant Spinal Cord Injuries program provided the first of a planned 25 demonstrations per year in late July 2013.

The new program funded by the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation offers one-on-one demonstrations of equipment designed to assist people who have limited movement due to a spinal cord injury to function independently in the home, office and community.

This cutting edge technology allows individuals who are otherwise unable to turn on the lights, for example, or use the television remote control or change the temperature in their home, to control these devices without using their hands.

Jamie Prioli and Karen Latimer, Assistive Technology Specialists in Pennsylvania's Initiative on Assistive Technology, a program of the Institute, met with Whitney and Ann, residents of AristaCare at Meadow Springs, a specialized rehabilitation facility in Plymouth Meeting, PA.

Joining Jamie and Karen was Graham Bunce, the representative from Speak4Use, the manufacturer of the equipment being demonstrated.

Jamie, Karen and Graham worked with Whitney and Ann, both of whom have high level spinal cord injuries, to demonstrate how this technology can offer greater opportunity for independent living, continued education and a return to home and community.

The Speak4Use technology allows the user to control select items around them by speaking commands into a wireless microphone connected to a laptop computer.

"First we had to create a voice profile," Karen Latimer said. "That is, we had to teach the computer the specific voice pattern of the user."

Whitney and Ann were then able to test the technology. They turned on the computer by just saying the words "computer on."

"It was a turning point for both of them," Karen said. "They didn't know this technology existed and didn't realize that they could have this level of independence. They immediately saw the possibilities open for them."

Both Whitney and Ann want to continue their education and with this new technology, they can take online courses, and research, write and communicate using the computer. But they were most excited by the possibility resuming their daily activities.

"Whitney and Ann want to return to their homes. They want to begin caring for their families again. They want to be able to have a private telephone conversation, to control the television, to open the front door and to contact help in case of an emergency. Before this demonstration, they did not feel empowered to do any of that."

Whitney and Ann are now seeking funding to purchase Speak4Use technology.

The Institute is available to demonstrate Speak4Use as well as technology using eye-gaze technology for computer control, to any facility or individual in Philadelphia and the surrounding counties.

For more information, or to schedule a demonstration, contact Jamie A. Prioli: email: Jamie.Prioli@temple.edu; telephone: 215-204-5974; 866-268-0579 (TTY). (Editor's note: Due to staffing change, the contact information has been updated since original posting.)

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