Electronic Communication Aids
There is a segment of the ALS population that can speak but can not use their hands and need access to a computer. Most communication software for computers consist of basically an on-screen keyboard (the keyboard is visually displayed on the screen thereby bypassing the traditional keyboard) that enables a disabled user to have full control of their computer even if they do not have use of their hands. The on-screen keyboard will be present anywhere in a Windows environment and this is what enables users to send e mails, web surf, etc. The software also has an on-screen mouse that functions exactly like a hand held one. This is critical if you want to use Windows. As you know, if you can’t use a mouse, Windows is useless. The on-screen mouse enables the user to emulate a hand-held mouse. Most computers now come equipped with on-screen keyboards (they in the accessories menu). If not, there are free on-screen keyboards available on the internet at www.lakefolks.org.
PALS can download free text to speech software that will enable any Windows (or some Macs) to speak whatever it typed into the computer. This would enable the Netbook to be used as a communication device. This list was compiled by Antoinette Verdone at the ALS Assoc of NY:
There are more expensive communication softwares available that are part of a communication device (or they can be purchased separately). Communication softwares offer text to speech software as well as communication pages that have pre-programmed phrases and sentences so all the user has to do is press a button and the machine will say what has been programmed into it. Most systems are open platform systems running Windows as the operating system and the communication software for communication. The user has full computer controls including web features. Many of my clients use this type of package because it allows them to do everything they could in the past. Access to the internet also allows them to meet other people that may or may not have ALS. Because of the destructive nature of the disease, as the illness progresses, we see people more and more locked in because their physical condition has deteriorated to the point they can no longer leave the house. The internet provides them with the medium to find others in their same situation or vent their frustrations in chat rooms or via e-mail.