Our first tester is Don Danbrook, who has served on the Neil Squire Society board of directors as treasurer since 2003.
Charles, one of our mechanical engineers, helping assemble the LipSync for Don.
Don was a 24 year old welder in 1983 when he fell off a porch onto his head, causing damage to his spinal cord and crushing his vertebrae. He could no longer move his arms, hands, or legs.
One of the Neil Squire Society’s first clients in 1985, he began to learn to use a computer, first using a mouth stick to push the keys on a keyboard, then moving to a sip and puff switch (new window) that used Morse code (new window) to type.
In the 1990’s, Don become an early adopter of the Jouse, an accessible alternative to the standard mouse developed by the Society.
“It made it a lot more simple to use a computer,” Don explained. “It made it a lot more functional.”
Now, Don is a certified general accountant, and gives back to the community, volunteering and serving on the boards of a variety of non-profits including Spinal Cord Injury BC (new window) and BC Association for Individualized Technology and Supports for People with Disabilities (BCITS) (new window). However, he cannot use a smartphone or tablet. “They haven’t really been accessible to me at all,” he said. “There’s sticks and styluses, but it’s not really effective.
“I have these devices, but I have other people use them for me, so it’s not very effective.”
That’s where the LipSync comes in.
Don in action, navigating the tablet using the LipSync.
One of the key suggestions Don made was to increase the sensitivity of the device, allowing it to be moved with less pressure. He noted that with the Jouse, he was able to run it with his tongue, and not move his head.
This also serves us to see the differences in how the LipSync must operate for different devices. Much of our work has been done looking at smartphones, where a smaller screen means less sensitivity is needed — you don’t want the cursor to go too fast and be unusable. But the bigger screen of the tablet meant that the sensitivity was just not high enough.
It was good to get a look at what a potential user thinks and really helps us see what we still need to do and what work still needs to be done. It was also just exciting to see it in action. Don, who also tested the original LipSync prototype six years ago, was excited about the progress.
Don scrolling through his music library.
“It’s exciting to see this technology coming along,” he said. “This would go a long way in making these things useful for me, so I could use them like anyone else.”