This article originally appeared on the National Post(new window).
Millions of Canadians live with at least one disability. Through the Assistive Tech for Good™ program, TELUS and Neil Squire Society are ensuring people have access to the assistive technology they need to independently connect to the digital world.
Three words — Born This Way — tattooed in dark ink along Kaileen Selig’s slender right arm say a lot about who she is and how she wants to be seen in the world.
The message, in part, pays homage to Lady Gaga, Selig’s favourite artist and muse to her own creative expression as an accomplished mouth painter.
But it’s hard to miss their deeper significance given Selig was born with an extremely rare neuromuscular condition known as Charcot-Marie Tooth Type 2 (or CMT Type 2). Since she was a child, she’s faced a series of physical challenges stemming from the progressive loss of strength and range of motion. At 27, she is unable to walk, hold a pen, use a smartphone or breathe easily without the aid of a ventilation mask over her nose.
To Selig, though, all that was manageable. She graduated from college, moved in with her boyfriend and landed a job she enjoyed in the technology field. It was only when she lost her voice — her best and easiest form of independent communication — her normally unshakeable positivity wavered.
“I love to talk,” she says in a strained whisper that leaves her exhausted. “My best friend and I used to talk on the phone for hours.”
It’s why, when the Neil Squire Society, in partnership with TELUS, recently introduced her to an innovative piece of assistive technology that makes it possible for her to reclaim her voice, albeit in a different way, she embraced it without hesitation.
The LipSync is a deceptively simple-looking device that enables people, like Selig, who have limited use of their hands and fingers to control a mouse cursor attached to a smartphone or tablet and tap keys on the touchscreen by either sipping or blowing into a mouth-operated joystick.
The device is one of several assistive-tech innovations made available through Neil Squire, a national nonprofit that works with people with disabilities.