August 05, 2023 3 min read
When my mother-in-law was diagnosed with Motor Neuron Disease, it was a shock for all of us in the family. She had always been very active and to see her slowly degenerate to the situation she is in currently is quite difficult.
My interactions with her made me better understand the importance of communication. With the loss of her voice, she communicated with an Alphabet Board, pointing to letters to spell words to tell us about something. My family felt that since there was no available treatment, the least we could do is to ensure her comfort while she is struggling with the disease.
Initially, I had assumed that with her illness, she needed a way to communicate to ask us to provide something that she needed. However, I came to realize that communication is two-ways and it was important that I too made small chat to comfort her. As the strength in her hands deteriorated, she lost her ability to move her pencil or pointer and the alphabet board became ineffective. We invited an AAC specialist to visit us at home to be aware of the available AAC devices that may be useful to her. That was the first time I was introduced to the world of AAC. I realized that besides alphabet boards that were used with the hand or pencil, there were also alphabet boards which used eye movements. Besides that, there were also proprietary AAC tablets which used switches to operate. My mother-in-law tried out all the AAC devices, but none seemed to be useful. The AAC specialist then advised that we try out the high-tech option which was the eye-tracking solution. She tried it and although it seemed difficult for her, we decided to purchase the solution thinking that there was no other alternative anyway. My family hoped that while the $7000 high-tech solution was expensive, she would get the hang of it and that would allow us to continue communicating with her. However, this appeared not to be the case. She had to stare to focus on the letters causing her eyes to strain and get tired quickly. She trained daily but still found it difficult to aim on the letters. It was also a solution that required setting up and since it required her to look at the eye tracking tablet instead of us, it was less personal and enjoyable and she lost interest quickly.
Gradually, it became more and more difficult for us to encourage her to use the system. I continued my research online and realized that there were other alternatives. Instead of using her eyes, a laser could be used to point to the Alphabet Board. I decided to create the solution by modifying quality lasers pointers to ensure that they are safe to use. The laser pointers could also be operated by a switch instead of continuously pressing a button as is the conventional way of using laser pointers. This solution comes with an Alphabet Board, Alphabet Board frame, a clamp to hold the Alphabet board in a flexible yet sturdy manner and a cap with a laser point holder to ensure that the laser is securely fixed. Hence, the Keep On Talking Solution was developed.
In addition, I also realized not many people knew that the Android Accessibility Suite application provided free access to navigate Android tablets using switches. Hence, there was no need for expensive proprietary devices. With good switches, a user can use switches to navigate their existing tablets to access existing common applications such as Facebook, Youtube, Google search, e-readers, Netflix etc. Based on this discovery, I developed the Keep on Surfing Solution which includes a foot switch, a hand switch and a strong tablet holder. This solution which is again priced at a fraction of proprietary AAC tablets allows someone to use common applications in their existing Android tablet.
Based on feedback, in addition to the package solutions, we will also be offering individual devices to meet specific requirements and needs. It is my hope that Keep On Solutions will empower communities to have the ability to keep on being connected with the rest of the society.
Syed Hassan Alsagoff
Founder of Keep on Solutions Pte Ltd
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