The Children's Institute Blog

Accessibility & Communication: Dylan Shares His Story

Posted: Sep 10, 2019 by The Children's Institute

Last week on our blog, we shared “The Art of Accessibility,” noting how for more than a century, The Children’s Institute of Pittsburgh has celebrated the achievements of our amazing kids, young people, and families. We see every day the impact a person makes on their world when they have access to the tools they need to connect with others.

That impact was seen on Wednesday, September 4, 2019 as The Children’s Institute of Pittsburgh was joined by friends and supporters for an exclusive, private viewing of the Carnegie Museum of Art’s temporary exhibit, Access+Ability. Access+Ability was organized by the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. This powerful exhibition resonates deeply with The Children’s Institute, as many of the devices on display have helped create a more accessible and inclusive world for many of our amazing kids.

Dylan Dzikowski, 2019 graduate of The Children’s Institute of Pittsburgh, communicated his speech for this special event at the Carnegie Museum of Art through his Accent 1000 eye gaze device, a beautiful representation of many of the accessible technology and innovations exhibited in the Access+Ability exhibit.

No one can tell Dylan’s story better than himself, so we are excited to share Dylan’s story in his own words – please enjoy Dylan’s speech from our recent event at the Carnegie Museum of Art:

My name is Dylan Dzikowski. I would like to thank everyone for being here this evening to explore this wonderful exhibit. I would also like to thank Sara for inviting me to say a few words about my device and how it has impacted my life.

My communication device is so important to me. It is my voice. Without it, it is very hard to communicate basic wants and needs. It is amazing to me just how far technology has come.

When I was little, my parents and teachers had to guess what I was trying to say even though I was good at spelling. It was a long process to get even the smallest point across and to let people know what I wanted or needed. It became very frustrating at times.

I had so much to say with no way of saying it. My parents and teachers would go through the alphabet and would stop when I shook my head yes when they got to the letter of the word I was spelling. This sometimes took a long time and we would both get frustrated.

All of this changed when I was nine years old and got my first device, which was the Dynavox. This was so amazing to me and so many more opportunities for communication opened up for me. I have had a few different devices over the years. I have had a Dynavox, an iPad, and now the Accent 1000 eye gaze. I have finally found the perfect device for me. What is perfect for me may not be perfect for someone else.

I have cerebral palsy, so it will sometimes be difficult for me to hit a switch when using the scanning applications on my other devices. I do not have the best motor control, so it would be difficult for me to use a touchscreen.

Now that I have the eye gaze, I just have to look at the letters and the device reads my eyes. My response time is much faster. I’m able to carry on a conversation without having a long wait time for a response from me.

I love being able to communicate with my friends and family, and all of you here this evening. I always have so much to say. Being nonverbal, I am quite the talker and practical jokester since I have my device. I am able to carry on a conversation with others, surf the internet, send emails, and listen to music – all from my device.

There are so many different devices out there now and I am happy to have found the perfect device for me. These devices are life-changing and I am proof of that. I am so happy to be a part of this evening and I am extremely thankful for today’s technology. Enjoy the exhibit!

The Access+Ability exhibit ran from June 1 to September 8, 2019. We are grateful to have had the opportunity to explore this amazing exhibit with supporters and friends of The Children's Institute.

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