The design inspiration was to provide a flexible personal communication system for Toby Hewson. Toby is the founder of JUST DIFFERENT, a charity that was started in 2007 to make a positive difference to the lives of disabled and non-disabled people. Toby, aged 28, has cerebral palsy, and cannot walk or speak (except through his pathfinder voice synthesiser) and requires 24 hour care. With no hand ability Toby has to operate the synthesiser just with his elbow. He is very intelligent and articulate with a good sense of humour and has travelled all over the world.
JUST DIFFERENT aims to raise awareness among schoolchildren of how much disabled people can do and it is a great success; with others they visit schools all over the UK to give workshops that are linked to the National Curriculum. The children are fascinated with all Toby's gadgets and amazed at his presentation skills.
Currently Toby is chairman of Communication Matters, a UK National charitable organisation of members concerned with the augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) needs of people with complex communication requirements and he attends many conferences involving issues related to disability and equality in society.
The wheelchair communication system is comprised of a transmitter located on the wheelchair that sends the output of the Pathfinder synthesiser to a receiver connected into a laptop computer through which Skype™ communication is carried out. The incoming messages are transmitted from a second transmitter fitted to the laptop, which are then sent to the receiver unit on the wheelchair to which headphones are connected. There is a mixer in the laptop unit, which enables Toby to hear what he is sending out as well as what is received.
The object of the system is to provide Toby with private communications and therefore carers or bystanders hear no sound unless intended. The synthesiser can produce Toby's output either in speech for normal conversations or muted for private communication or writing.
“Our first thought was to use Bluetooth which was easy enough to buy although we had to find two systems that wouldn't interfere. Pairing was a bit of a hassle, and it was difficult to package the proprietary equipment to suit our specific needs on the wheelchair.” says Mike Ingle, Director of MRI Services. “Range wasn't really an issue but output quality from the Bluetooth could be variable.”
“I finally chose the LPRS’ modules because I'd used other products of theirs and they regularly send me updates of their latest products. As we were having problems using Bluetooth successfully I suggested to our electronics designer that we try Circuit Design’s WATX/RX-03-R wireless modules. The modules were very competitively priced at LPRS, even for small quantities and they proved completely successful. We achieved a much better signal, increased range and instant connection. All in all the LPRS’ modules gave us a clearer communication system that worked as soon as power was applied.”
Peter Cubbage, Sales Director of LPRS comments,
"We are really pleased that the Circuit Design modules have proved themselves to be a reliable solution to this fairly unique wireless communication requirement. We have over 10 years’ experience of supplying short range modules for unregulated wireless applications and we are happy to share our expertise with our customers to ensure they get the best solution to their wireless needs and the shortest time to market for their projects.”
Led by a Chartered Engineer with experience in many engineering disciplines including; aeronautical, mechanical, and electronics; MRI Services is a consultancy mostly known for specialist services to dental surgeons. In addition to bespoke design work MRI Services also offers equipment installation and updating as well as service and maintenance. Working with a number of subcontractors skilled in engineering, building, plumbing and electrical installation MRI Services also offers building renovation, surgery layout and installation services.
About Toby Hewson/Just Different: JUSTDIFFERENT was started in 2006 to make a positive difference to the lives of disabled and non-disabled people. JUST DIFFERENT provides innovative, exciting and educational workshops, on disability and difference. Challenging outdated and often un-informed perceptions of disability, the workshops are specifically designed to engage children and young people into thinking more imaginatively about the world they live in, and the diversity of the people within it. Created and presented by young disabled adults using a variety of simple interactive methods, the workshops encourage children onto a path of learning that is captivating and enlightening. Specifically trained to contribute to the social and emotional education of young people, the presenters are modern-day story tellers bringing a light-hearted attitude to disability and difference. ‘We may look or appear different on the outside, but we are all the same on the inside’.