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Disabled people draw on high-tech help with TalkLink

    20150319_113318A grant of $20,000 from the Rotorua Trust will help provide high-tech assistance to people with disabilities who might otherwise have difficulties communicating.

    TalkLink, a charitable trust, does receive some government funding but relies on grants to extend its work throughout the country, says Ann Smaill, TalkLink’s general manager.

    In Rotorua, this has seen the Auckland-based speech and language specialist Paula Shennan and a colleague from Wellington work once a month at the St Chads Communication Centre. They work with low-tech communication systems for adults who have intellectual disabilities.

    The St Chads group is also using communication tools to interview people in the community about their work and then to broadcast the interviews on a new in-house radio station set up at St Chads.

    The funding from Rotorua Trust will help provide a range of trial equipment, including software to make specific picture symbols for people who cannot read. Very simple communication devices allow a message to be recorded and then played back so, for example, the message could be broadcast over the radio station.

    The funding for trial equipment will also help people in the community who have acquired conditions, such as Motor Neurone Disease, and as a result may not be able to speak. They need to try out technology options before accessing this equipment through government funding.

    One example is the “head mouse”, which allows people to control a computer mouse with their heads.

    “We are now looking at a range of equipment” says Ann Smaill. Specific equipment using touchscreen technology is also proving extremely effective in making communications easier for a range of people with communication disabilities.

    “We are grateful for this additional funding to purchase communication equipment, which is often high cost as it is not readily available to purchase off the shelf due to the specialised nature of the technology.”

    For more info:

    Ann Smaill
    General Manager
    09 815 3232