Giving disabled people like Tim a voice in the pandemic

9 April 2020

Tim at Livability Treetops

Tim, who has cerebral palsy, is a natural communicator and listener. Tim’s disability means he can’t speak verbally with others, but by using specialist technology he’s still able to communicate with friends and family at this difficult time.

With self-isolation and social distancing now in place, this technology is more important than ever for Tim. He can’t visit his mum at the moment but thankfully it allows him to stay in touch with her by phone.

The technology, called Dynavox, allows Tim to spell out what he wants to say using head-operated controls. It works by displaying his words on a screen or playing them as audio, to the people he talks to.

Tim says, “Being able to use Dynavox is so important to me. I feel less isolated. If I didn’t have my device, communication would be very slow and frustrating.’’

Tim lives at Treetops, a care home run by Livability in Colchester where he was taught how to communicate using this vital equipment. Since then the technology has opened up many opportunities for Tim that simply wouldn’t be possible otherwise, including recently undertaking training to become a counsellor.

Staying in touch

Rachel at Livability Treetops

Down the corridor at Treetops, Tim’s housemate Rachel is an avid user of social media. Rachel operates her computer with eyegaze technology rather than a headrest control, using eye movements to access what she wants online.

“It’s massively important to me,” Rachel spells out on her screen. ‘’My favourite thing to use is Facebook so I can keep in touch with family and friends. I do get frustrated with it at times but it does stop me feeling isolated because I can talk to people outside of care.”

Rachel’s family often visit her at the home but with the lockdown in place it’s just not possible. That’s why it’s even more important at the moment for Rachel to connect with her family on social media.

Making the most of technology at Livability’s care homes

At this difficult time, assistive specialist technology can help break down communication barriers for disabled people, allowing them to use social media or smartphones to stay in touch with family and friends.

Amanda, Livability Care Home Manager

Amanda Nixon manages Livability Treetop’s high-dependency residential care home in Essex, which provides 24-hour nursing and personal care for younger disabled adults.

She’s incredibly proud of how her team are pulling together to provide round-the-clock care to support the young adults in the home whilst the coronavirus continues to impact our everyday lives.

Amanda says, “It’s incredibly important for the disabled people we support that they can stay in touch with their friends and family. We’re having to self isolate and many of our residents aren’t able to see their own family which is incredibly hard. At times like this it’s vital they can stay in touch and the specialist equipment they use to help them do this is essential.”

How Livability supports disabled people

Treetops care home is part of a group of services that Livability runs to support disabled people. Livability also run rehabilitation centres for brain and spinal injuries, wellbeing and educational centres and other care homes across the UK. Livability also works closely with local churches to encourage social inclusion and community projects that support disabled people.

Livability is a strong believer in the power of connecting people with their communities, through technology (including assistive technology) and new innovations. It’s something they’ve been doing for the past 170 years and they recently introduced an extra telephone to all their care homes so residents can continue to keep in touch with loved ones whenever they want to.

Find out more

Livability have just launched an emergency appeal to support disabled people in need through coronavirus.

If you’d like to find out more how you can support through this difficult time, visit Livability’s website or contact Michelle Carillo, Legacy Manager at mcarillo@livability.org.uk. Alternatively, you can call Livability’s supporter care team on 0207 452 2121.