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February 6, 2014

“No White Flags” ~ S.G.

empowerment1-300x336Post Contributed By: Amy Svensson M.A., CCC-SLP

It has been Seahawks mayhem here in the state of Washington celebrating our recent Super Bowl win on Sunday against the Denver Broncos. I never doubted Russell Wilson, a man of character, integrity and a fellow University of Wisconsin – Madison alumnus. My husband and I are proud to be in his company since he and I are both ‘Badger’ alumni as well.

I am not a huge football fan unless it involves watching the Green Bay Packers or the Seattle Seahawks.  I go to the Super Bowl parties more so for the commercials (and food).  I must admit the H&M commercial with David Beckham was rather enjoyable (and I am a frequent patron at the Swedish clothing store).  I was haphazardly watching the different commercials, but none were captivating me; then 4th quarter came.  I am sure the viewing rates were much lower given the score.  This is too bad because one of the most moving commercials, in my opinion, came towards the end.

The Microsoft commercial,  “Empower Us All”  is narrated by Steve Gleason, a Washington State University alumnus (which is where I earned my graduate degree) who in 1998 played for WSU in the Rose Bowl.  Gleason then became a pro football player and later was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) which he went public with in 2011.  Mr. Gleason is running Tobbi’s eye gazer technology on the Surface Pro to narrate the commercial.  I have watched this commercial over and over again since Sunday.  It makes me think of how every week when my friend Amy calls me or during every visit back to WI when I visit with her, she uses her pinky finger to point to each letter which is then read to me by her parents over the phone lines or as I sit next to Amy and say the letters out loud as she spells them.  I always ask Amy, “Do you want me to say the word right away when I know what it is you are saying or do you want to spell it all out for me first?  I do not want to interrupt you, but I know you have a lot to think about and want to say.”  Amy always looks at me and smiles nodding that indeed she wants me to finish the word/sentence for her if I know what it is she is spelling.  It must be so cumbersome for her and frustrating, but I know it is her way and the way she learned to communicate when her dad put the alphabet board and common phrases in front of her those 20 years ago.

Life is ironic…

Those who follow our posts, FB page, or know me as a person and an SLP know that I am not a huge fan of technology …  UNLESS it is empowering.  The irony is that my husband works in Xbox at Microsoft.  He likes video games and he helps build the systems that entertain so many.  He is married to me, a speech-language pathologist who promotes technology cleanses and does not allow phones/tablets/ or game devices at dinner.   It would seem to some that I am not in support of his career path.  It is SO the opposite!!

My husband joined Microsoft 7 years ago when there was just the Xbox.  Since joining the company, he has been part of the Kinect , Surface, and most recently Xbox One projects.  Over the years, he and so many in the same

My Husband and I celebrating our 11 year anniversary ~ 6/2013

My Husband and I celebrating our 11-year anniversary ~ 6/2013

organization and company wide, although they may not know or feel it, are empowering people with disabilities.  The Kinect allows for families and friends to connect who live states and seas apart and it has become a tool for therapists and families to use while working with individuals with special needs (i.e., improving coordination, social pragmatic skills by working on communication while looking at loved ones and friends through their own t.v. and comfort space).  The Surface Pro can be used as an assistive technology device giving people, such as Steve Gleason, a ‘voice’ even if it is through eye gaze.

I know first hand the countless hours that have been poured into these projects not only by my husband, but all of those at Microsoft who have worked on them and continue to do so.  It is my hope that they ALL know that even if they think they are just sitting behind a desk…  shooting off e-mails… or sitting in meeting after meeting… they are doing SO much more!!!  Each and every one of them is an integral piece of the puzzle that is creating the whole for positive change to those individuals with disabilities who will use this technology for their primary mode of communication.  Further, they are contributing to the advancement in research, science and medicine.  They are providing empowerment.puzzle-pieces 2

Amy sure does love her alphabet board, her ‘voice,’ but it is my hope that soon this technology can help empower her too. ~A

No White Flags” ~ Steve Gleason

 

 

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