Toronto biomedical engineer Tom Chau has created a device that allows nonverbal children to express what is in their head. The device is called the “Hummer” and is a neckband that converts vocal cord vibrations into a digital signal that is then sent to a computer that deciphers the noise. The devices are currently in use by over 30 children in Toronto. One of these children is Maria. Maria has cerebral palsy, a neurological disorder that interferes with the signals passed between the brain and muscles. The condition makes it difficult to move one’s arms and legs and in Maria’s case, it makes it difficult to control the muscles used to speak. With the Hummer, Maria is finally able to let her personality shine. She now has full conversations with her peers and is even in a regular class where she answers teachers’ questions and writes test; just like any other student. Although only a small number of individuals are using the device now, Chau estimates that there are 90,000 Canadian children who would be eligible to benefit form the Hummer. This means that there are around 90,000 children, in Canada alone, that can finally have their voices heard.
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