In part 1 and part 2 of this series,
DJ Kimble, a 41 year old man with Duchenne, shares how he lost his ability to speak as a teen and how – after 15 long years – he was finally able to communicate with the outside world again.
DJ concludes the series below by explaining the available Eye Gaze brands and how to get them.
To contact DJ, email him at:
Eye Gaze Devices
There are many options for Eye Gaze devices and apps:
1. TobiiDynavox is the leader in Eye Gaze Technologies. They have several different models to fit every need and ability level. They have communication devices with computer access such as their I-series, the EM-12 that utilizes the Microsoft Surface Pro and the TD Pilot that utilizes the IPad Pro.
I use the EM -12 and it does absolutely everything I ask of it. TobiiDynavox offers a stand alone Eye Tracker, the PC Eye that allows you to connect eye gaze to any Windows desktop, laptop or tablet. It is pretty much plug and play out of the box. They have devices for every need and budget. Pictures are included below.
2. PRC offers several options for every ability and budget as well, including their Accent line, the PRIO and the Via.
3. Control Bionics has a new device that has intrigued my curiosity. The device is named the Neuronode Trilogy. It not only utilizes eye gaze but also EMG waves and sensors that detect motion and touch.
I believe this is the next big technology for the Duchenne community. If we are able to capture the electrical impulses of the body, then nothing is beyond our abilities.
Eye Gaze Apps
There are also several apps available for eye gaze and facial gestures as well. The one I want to discuss is Activate.
Activate was developed by Google to allow those with disabilities to simply use facial gestures to communicate their needs to others. I am very proud of this specific app because I was part of the testing team that helped work on this app.
The Activate app is now available to download from the Google app store. The way Activate works is that you simply choose from numerous facial gestures and you can activate specific phrases you want to communicate. You can have your phone activate your call button and you can even activate your phone to make calls or send texts with a specific phrase.
I especially found that Activate helped me when I didn’t have access to my computer, like when I was in bed to help me wake my mom when I needed assistance!
The Process & Financing
The process of getting an Eye Gaze device varies depending on your needs.
1. If you can establish with your doctor and a Speech Language Pathologist that you have a speech disability, the process is fairly easy because the government deems communication a necessity.
You just submit the order of your communication disability and it’s usually approved quickly. Then the insurance has to ensure you can use eye gaze effectively, so your Speech Language Pathologist will have you demo a few different devices to find what works best for you. Once this is established, you submit the final order and it’s usually approved within two to four weeks.
2. If you are still able to communicate but don’t have the ability to use a computer for school or work, then you still have a very good chance of having eye gaze approved by insurance.
You will have to have your doctor support your need by stating that you can still go to school or hold a job. Once you do this, you will have to have an occupational therapist or a vocational rehab agree and repeat the process from above.
3. If you don’t have any challenges such as communicating, loss of some ability or if you
have lost all ambulation then the process gets very difficult because the government does not consider computer access as a necessity, even though every aspect of life today depends on computers.
If you are in this situation, some avenues you could consider include applying to organizations that help families and individuals acquire devices to help with everyday life. You can also crowd fund to help with expenses.
Finally, if you or your family is in a position to purchase out of pocket, you can. To be honest, the cost of eye gaze technology is not too out of line considering what a difference it makes in our lives.
If I could sum up this article, I would simply urge everyone that has Duchenne or if they know of someone with Duchenne that struggles with communication or computer access: please look into or share the technology of Eye Gaze with them.
It will absolutely improve yours and their lives beyond measure!!