High-tech to Disabled Students
Todd Hollingshead, The Salt Lake Tribune, January 31,
For more articles like this
Britt Allen is
an ace when it comes to zapping aliens - with his eyes.
He may not have laser-beam sight like Superman, but just one
glance sends the intruders to oblivion.
On Monday, the 24-year-old - whose cerebral palsy has him in a
wheelchair and inhibits his speech - shot down video-game aliens
with perfection as he demonstrated a new eye-based technology to
faculty at Oakridge School.
The EagleEyes technology enables nonverbal and paralyzed
students to play games, type words and even express feelings
simply by moving their eyes.
Boston College and the Salt Lake City-based Opportunity
Foundation of America teamed up to donate two of the $1,200
devices to Oakridge on Monday, making the Springville school for
severely disabled students the second statewide with the tool.
Last June, Jordan District's Jordan Valley School in Midvale
became the first school in the nation to receive the
groundbreaking EagleEyes devices.
"We were so enamored with what this technology could do," said
Debbie Inkley, founder and executive director of The Opportunity
Foundation of America. "It is not a magic answer, but it is a
means to help young people move on with their life."
EagleEyes fosters communication and independent activity through
a computer by translating eye movement into mouse movement.
Several electrodes attached to a student's head detect movement,
then send the signal to a small box apparatus, which then relays
it to the computer.
Just like that, a paralyzed child can play video games, type out
sentences or study on the computer with a flash of the eye.
"It takes a lot of practice and patience," said Rick Olivares,
whose 12-year-old son Cameron has cerebral palsy and attends
Jordan Valley. "Hopefully. it will open up new windows of
Oakridge landed two of the devices by promising to act as a
trainer location for other schools and individuals looking to
use the technology.
Boston College recently signed a licensing agreement with The
Opportunity Foundation to distribute the devices for free, and
five more special-needs schools in Utah are slated to receive
the gear this year.
Oakridge Principal Richard Kay believes the device can be used
as a tool for autistic children and students with communicative
disabilities. He plans to give every one of his 34 students a
chance to use it.
"If we can help them with those communication skills, all sorts
of other things will open up," Kay said. "I see EagleEyes as a
way for students to access themselves and the outer world."
Students at Jordan Valley have made great advances, said teacher
Linda Eller. "It has empowered them to be in control."
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