Eye gaze technology communication empowers adults with disabilities

GENEVA, Ill. (WLS) -- Accessible technology is offering a new level of independence for adults with disabilities at Marklund Hyde Center in Geneva.

Heather is one of several residents that uses eye gage technology to communicate with people and the world around her.

"I just got (this device) in February, I was so excited. I use this device to communicate," Heather communicated. "I make it work with my eyes, I look at the words I want to say. Pretty cool, right?"

Joanna Vicker, an occupational therapy assistant at Marklund, said the device Heather uses is called the Tobbii Dynavox I-15, which allows her to use her eyes to communicate what she wants to say.

"(Heather) she uses her eyes and looks at she wants say and the device speaks for her," Vicker explained.

The camera at the bottom of the device follows Heather's eyes as she focuses on what she'd like to say. The device comes programmed with common phrases of conversation and is customized by staff to Heather's personal preferences.

"The technology is actually really amazing because it gives clients a sense of independence they may not have had," said Marklund Developmental Instructor Kevin Gatto. "Our residents haven't necessarily been able to choose when they have their lights off or when they listen to music or when they don't. Now they have that choice."

Vicker said the device has helped Heather

"It's just opened up her environment. She was also able to use her device to watch YouTube videos and we're getting ready to set her up so she can use Facebook and other social media sites," Vicker said.

Eye gaze technology has also helped Heather convey emotions to those who are important in her life.

"Heather and her best friend Dawn have both been at Marklund practically their whole lives, however before Heather was never really able to tell Dawn how much she really means to her. Once she got this new eye gaze technology she was actually able to tell her for the first time that she loved her," said Marklund Group Home Manger Devyn Doering.
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