In one of my previous blogs, Technology Threw me a Lifeline, I explained how my special Eyegaze computer is my voice – I simply type what I want to say with my eyes using an eye-tracking technology and press the “speak” button. Other than helping me speak, Eyegaze (A.K.A “Diva”) also grants me with many other functionalities, most importantly, it helps me communicate with the world by enabling me to log onto the internet and allowing me to access a variety of social media channels, email and more.
The Eyegaze is hooked to my normal computer (as seen in photo) and with the use of my eyes, I can control the mouse – from then on, the world is my oyster. I can log on to the internet and function just like anyone of you, but because my eyes can only move the mouse one direction at a time, I am much slower ha ha! Having said that, I can type with my eyes faster than most of you can type with your fingers (speedy Gonzales 🙂 ). I have my regular office hours every day (just like you! ha ha) where I am able to check my emails, log onto Facebook, look up anything on YouTube, see what’s trending in the news, shop online and of course most recently, write my blog.
Being able to send my own emails gives me much needed independence. Because I have to rely on my caregivers to do everything else for me, it becomes a treat to do something on my own. It’s very uplifting to fly solo and be able to communicate independently, whether its emailing a friend, or bank manager. A few months ago, a whole new world opened up for me – my son, Zeid, downloaded WhatsApp Web on my computer, which allows me to use the messenger application, WhatsApp, on my browser instead of on the phone. You might think, “so, what’s new about that?” well, to me it meant being able to communicate with everyone PRIVATELY. It brought me so much happiness – I was finally able to use my own words and choose my own Emojis, I was like a kid in a candy store, ha ha! Before having this new ability, I used to type my messages on the Eyegaze which then my caregiver would type up on my phone and send it. Now, I can send all my messages on my own using Eyegaze/WhatsApp Web and I have the freedom to say what I want, when I want. Freedom, Privacy and Dignity are all words that take on a different level of meaning in my world of communication. Having lost my privacy many years ago, being able to have something that is private brings be immense joy and I feel like I got some of my dignity back.
Communicating with each other is a vital part of our existence – without the ability to do so, we might just as well be stone figures. Having struggled with my loss of ability to communicate on all levels years ago, I really appreciate and rejoice when someone understands me with minimum effort. For instance, my close family and my caregivers, who have been with me for years, can pretty much understand what I am trying to say by guessing the letters I try to mouth out when spelling out a word – they can then intuitively guess the word or the whole sentence almost immediately. I like to believe that those close to me understand me because they want to, and all I need to be understood is a little compassion mixed with a dose of patience. After all, isn’t that what everyone needs?