Communication is something most of us take for granted, but for many, being heard is a daily struggle.
Brian Denny, 56, is one of those who relies on others and on modern technology to voice his thoughts, wants and needs. But he is among the lucky ones who has been fortunate to be able to have his ‘voice’ provided by one of the caring staff at Action Mental Health Promote and with the help of a very special gadget.
The Bangor man attends AMH Promote, based in Conlig outside Bangor, which provides opportunities for adults with a learning disability to be socially active and develop new skills in a supportive and engaging environment.
Brian has experienced gradual speech loss in recent years and finds it difficult to articulate himself. But in response, Skills Coach Cahir McCann has stepped in to provide the voice Brian lacks.
Just as people living with motor neurone disease (MND) have found their ‘voices’ through people with similar regional accents, as featured in recent national news, Brian can convey his wishes via the advances in modern technology.
Brian has been gifted with an electronic pad – a communication device called ‘GoTalk’, which was provided by his Speech and Language Therapy Team.
So instead of issuing his thoughts and desires through a robotic or computer-generated voice, in the style of Professor Stephen Hawking, himself a victim of MND, Cahir, who has a familiar Northern Ireland accent, does the talking for him.
Cahir said he was delighted to be able to provide the voice for Brian, who presses particular buttons on the device to speak for him.
“Now Brian has a voice that he didn’t previously have, which caused frustration for him. Brian is able to use the device very effectively, due to the physical (rather than digital) nature of the device,” Cahir explains.
“It works by recording the audio orally/manually, then, when a specific image/button is pressed, the corresponding vocal recording will play. It is much simpler than a digital equivalency, however this has proved to be very effective in Brian’s case.”