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Madonna Rehabilitation Hospitals

Madonna researchers develop communication technology for patients with severe disabilities

June 12, 2017

Susan Fager, Ph.D., CCC-SLP, looks on as Madonna patient Clay Patterson demonstrates the Safe Laser communication technology. 

“The Communications Center at Madonna’s Institute for Rehabilitation Science and Engineering focuses on developing technologies and strategies that support the needs of our most severely injured patients,” said Susan Fager, Ph.D., CCC-SLP. 

Fager is the director of the Communication Center of Excellence.

“We saw that there was a need for a very easy head-pointing option. So for those that have severe physical impairments, and they might have just a little ability to use their head, we wanted to be able to harness those capabilities so they could use that to communicate,” she explained.

“We worked in collaboration with a company called InvoTek, and they helped us develop this eye safe-laser pointing system. A patient could put this laser pointer on a headband attached to their head and use that little bit of head movement to point to letters on a communication board and communicate that way.”

Madonna patient Clay Patterson demonstrated how he is able to use the technology.

 “Well, I just hover over the letter I want and it types,” he wrote, allowing the tablet to speak for him. 

“Coupled with a tablet, this device enabled Clay to use his head pointing to spell out and speak all of his messages using synthesized speech,” Fager said. “The tablet allowed Clay access to word prediction, which is a feature that he used quite often to conserve his energy when spelling messages.”

“Clay really liked this technology early in his recovery, and I think it’s because it was such an easy to use tool. At that point, he was able to direct his cares, communicate with therapy staff, really have input into his plan of care, and then we were also able to see his really unique personality.” 

 “Clay’s use of the Safe Laser access system really exemplifies the work underway in the Research Institute at Madonna. All of our work is very patient-centered.”

To learn more about technology available at Madonna, click here.