When it comes to Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) devices and how they work in the real world, not many people know more than 26-year-old Kathrin Lemler, from Cologne, Germany.
(Below is a new user story on Kathrin Lemler. If you want to know more on Kathrin, we encourage you to read the first cover story Tobii wrote on Kathrin about 5 years ago and see the movie that was made.)
Kathrin works as a consultant at the center for AAC at the University of Cologne. She also travels across Europe giving talks about AAC and meets with people enduring communication disorders to share her experience. People take her advice seriously and for good reason – Kathrin has been and to some extent still is, in the same situation. Kathrin has Cerebral Palsy, but with the help of AAC devices like the Tobii C12, she can say whatever she wants.
Growing up with AAC
Kathrin’s experience with assistive communication began relatively early. She was only four years old when she was given her first communication aid, a symbol book that helped her match pictures with words. As she grew older, she was introduced to a wide range of different aids, both high and low-tech devices and input strategies. “For years I used three switches fitted in the headrest of my wheelchair and one knee-switch,” explains Kathrin. “After longer working periods I was exhausted. My neck ached and my body was very tense.”
In 2005, however, she got the chance to try something new that turned out to be the best communication device yet – an eye-tracking device from Tobii.
What is Eye Tracking?
Eye tracking is a technology that accurately tracks a user’s eye movements, translates the movements to a mouse cursor and allows for selection by blinking or dwelling. In a Tobii AAC device, it provides total control of a computer using only the eyes. It also allows users to say whatever they type using a clear and understandable built-in voice.
Kathrin has tested and used many AAC devices, both with and without eye tracking, however, the one she uses the most at work and on the road is the Tobii C12 with the Tobii CEye eye control module. It is portable, offers a large screen and makes it easy for her to write speeches, do research and communicate with others using the built in voice.
“I can write long texts without having sore muscles afterwards. Because of the speed I can participate in conversations with non-AAC users and keep up with my colleagues. At home I can use my C12 for making telephone calls on my own. I can chat much more than I did before and even afford the luxury of being polite.”
Independently accomplishing goals
Kathrin has always been convinced that she can combine her personal experiences with knowledge in order to support other people in finding an AAC device that fits their needs. That is why she decided to study educational science at University. In doing so, she became the first non-verbal person to graduate from university in Germany. For Kathrin, the Tobii C12 is the best solution for writing texts, doing research on the Internet or communicating.
“Tobii gave me the opportunity for a more independent life,” says Kathrin. “I am able to talk to strangers even without the help of caregivers and am able to communicate indirectly, over distance, using a lot of functions like sms, chat and social networks like facebook.”
If you want to know more on Kathrin, we encourage you to read the first cover story Tobii wrote on Kathrin about 5 years ago and see the movie that was made.