Assistive Technology Can Help Give Paralysis Victims a Voice

For a victim of a serious accident—like a car crash, slip and fall, or workplace accident—it can be devastating to suffer a spinal cord injury that causes him to become paralyzed. The trauma can become even more traumatic if he struggles to communicate with his family or loses the ability to speak entirely. However, new technology can help a person suffering with paralysis to talk.

Three Technologies That Can Help Paralysis Victims Speak

Technology is available to help those suffering with paralysis—and for others suffering with medical conditions that prevent them from speaking—to enable them to communicate in their day-to-day lives. Some assistive tools that could help include:

This is a mobile app that uses Brain Computer Interface (BCI) to transform brain signals into human emotions, which are then displayed as words through the mobile app.

Augmentative and Alternate Communication (AAC).

This new system analyzes changes in breathing patterns and converts breath patterns into words using pattern recognition software and a speech synthesizer to read the words aloud. It can be helpful for those too paralyzed to use movement devices—such as those that track blinking or sniffing gestures.

Eye-tracking or other facial feature devices.

Devices that track a person’s eyes or other facial features, such as cheek movements, can be used to allow them to speak or connect to a computer and the Internet to communicate. The famous physicist Dr. Stephen Hawking uses a cheek twitching device to talk with others.

Other devices—some low cost—are being developed to use a person’s eyebrows or brain signals that are converted to words to further assist those who cannot speak due to their paralysis. Some of these systems can be expensive—$5,000 to $15,000—but can dramatically improve an accident victim’s quality of life. It is important to consult with a qualified medical professional who will know all the tools available to help pick the one best for the person suffering with paralysis.

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