Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Our own unique voice

First let me start by saying I am not a speech language pathologist. Now that is out of the way, let me say that the most powerful tool that we own and that is unique to each individual is our voice. For years, Augmentative and Alternative Communication has been about giving individuals who had limited use, lost or never had a voice the power of a voice. The downfall was that most AAC users that had similar devices also had similar voices. Over the years, the voice choices quantity and quality have improved immensely. Now technology has given one well known individual the power – the uniqueness of his voice back. Roger Ebert best known for as a Movie Critic on At the Movies lost the power of his voice because of complications from thyroid cancer surgery in 2006.

As many of us have done on a daily basis, Ebert was web surfing when he came upon a A Scottish firm called CereProc that was using text to speech to re-create famous voices. Life is always about chance meetings and possibility. Ebert came upon a possible solution for his desire to be back broadcasting and the possibility of his loved ones and fans to hear his unique voice once again.

Ebert appeared on the Opera show to demonstrate his “new” old voice. The most powerful image you can witness is his wife crying because it was the first time she has heard her love's voice since 2006.

For me, it gave me hope. It reminded me of a friend that had a rare genetic disorder that as it progressed would rob him of his voice. A voice that for so many years have given us chills, smiles and tears as we sat and listened to him sing. He once said, “One day technology will catch up to me and I will have me I was and the me I hope to be back.” My friend did not live to see the reality of his words come true.

For me, I hope the technology becomes a possible tool for the future AAC users. For now, I will continue to believe in the possibility that technology will allow individuals the power of knowing that a voice is a powerful tool. That maybe in the future if disease, rare disorders or accidents threaten to take the power of ones voice, we will have something in our tool kits to help individuals retain their unique identity the sound of their voice.

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