This project was designed for a 14 year old boy named Michael,
who will be referred to, in generalizations, as "the
client". He is confined to a wheelchair and is unable to
communicate in an effective manner. He suffered damage to the
fine motor control area of his brain shortly after birth. This
prevents him from being able to speak or operate complex input
devices such as keyboards. He is at or above normal intelligence
as determined by the public school system and the government aid
agencies that supply him with special books on tape.
Unfortunately it is far too easy to dismiss him because of his
inability to communicate his ideas and this fact as much as any
inspired this project. I spent a week with him and his family and
learned a lot about them. During this time we, myself with a lot
of input from his parents, came up with a good idea of what his
abilities and limitations are as they relate to a communication
aide. From this knowledge we made the following list of design
criteria for the aide we would be building:
- He can hear quite well, and has no trouble understanding
spoken English. He demonstrated this by his ability to
respond to being spoken to and his ability to
successfully negotiate "20 questions" with a
single sound to communicate some of his desires (what he
wanted for lunch).
- He can read if the text is tilted toward him, does not
move, is fairly large, and does not have a large number
of lines of text involved. This was ascertained by his
teachers and parent and communicated to me. He is able to
read straight from reading primer books, but not
traditional small type books. He is able to understand
his books with a comprehension level of upperclassman in
high school as ascertained by the government agency that
supplies his books on tape.
- He can operate 8 large buttons if they are distributed in
a widely spaced fashion. Between his physical therapist
and parents they belief that he can operate buttons as
small as 1" with 1.5" spacing, but the larger
the buttons and the more widely spaced they are enable
him to operate them more easily and with greater speed.
- He lacks the control to be able to "lightly"
press anything, so everything that he uses must be able
to withstand abuse. Also determined by his physical
therapists and parents.
- When he gets excited he tends to become spastic (loses
control of his motor functions). Witnessed by myself and
verified by his physical therapists and parents.
- He is intelligent and patient. Witnessed by myself and
verified by all parties.
We also received information about his previous experience
with a communication aide called a Touch Talker™ (see Notes
From Existing Communication Aides). With this information we
began to design an aide for Michael.
Section Next Section Return To Thesis Home Return To