Disabled Kincardine teen receives first EagleEyes system in Canada
Keith Creighton (R) of Kincardine gets some help from his sister, Katie, in using the EagleEyes system at Kincardine District Secondary School Tuesday afternoon
Celebrating the arrival of the EagleEyes system for Keith Creighton (R) of Kincardine, are classroom teacher Sandy MacLeod (L), resource teacher Joan Mowle, Keith's mom Lynne Creighton, educational assistant Karen Cassista, trainer Ron Williams, and Linda Marak of Community Living
By Liz Dadson
Lynne Creighton can hardly wait to see what her son's first words will be.
Her son, Keith, is 18 years old but was born with cerebral palsy and has never been able to communicate with anyone - his family, his teachers or his friends.
That is all about to change as the Kincardine teen has received the first EagleEyes system in Canada.
This new technology allows a person to control a computer simply by moving his eyes or head. It is based on the measurement of the Electro-Oculographic (EOG) potential, through electrodes placed on the head.
This innovative eye-controlled technology was developed by professor James Gips at Boston College. It helps individuals with profound physical disabilities to interact and learn by using a computer.
Through EagleEyes, people can run education and entertainment software, spell out messages, and navigate through the Internet just by moving their eyes.
The Opportunity Foundation of America manufactures the systems, distributes them and provides the training for them.
Which explains why Ron Williams of Salt Lake City, Utah, director of training and education for the foundation, was at Kincardine District Secondary School Tuesday, working with Keith, his family and his teachers, helping them learn how to use the EagleEyes system.
Trainer Ron Williams (R) of the Opportunity Foundation shows Lynne Creighton how to apply the electrodes around Keith's eyes for the EagleEyes system to work
"This is an awesome opportunity for us as a foundation and for Keith to pilot this program in Canada," said Williams. "With the information age today, once word gets out into the community about the EagleEyes system, it mushrooms from there."
The Opportunity Foundation donated the $1,200 (U.S) system, while MTC Computers in Kincardine donated the laptop computer for Keith to use with the system.
Linda Marak, family support co-ordinator at Community Living of Kincardine and District, was the one who discovered that this system was available and applied to get one for Keith.
“I happened upon this rather unknown technology while doing an Internet search to find something out there that could help Keith to interact more with the world around him,” said Marak. “I filled in an on-line application for an EagleEyes system on behalf of Keith and heard back from the foundation that same day!
"It is our hope now that Keith’s life will be enhanced through self-directed recreational opportunities such as eye-controlled video games, but even more so by learning to use this technology to communicate clearly his thoughts and wishes.”
Williams was on hand all day Tuesday, training Keith, his teachers and his family on how to use the EagleEyes system. They can then work with Keith to practise the "cause-and-effect" action of moving his eyes to operate the system himself.
To work the system, Keith has five electrodes put on his face - one on each side of his eyes, one above each eyebrow, and the fifth under one eye. Using his eyes, he moves the cursor on the laptop computer until it hovers over what he wants to do, such as an icon for a particular song. Once the cursor stays there for about a half-second, it clicks and selects that icon.
Keith can be hooked up to the system for an hour per day - at home and at school.
"This is so amazing," said Keith's mother. "After 18 years, he'll be able to speak to us, he'll be able to express himself. It opens up a whole new world for him. He'll be able to tell us whether he's hot or cold, and what he wants. It's great.
"I can't wait to see what his first words will be."
For more information about the EagleEyes system, check the Opportunity Foundation website at www.ofoa.net
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