Our service aims to provide loans to those who are, or are becoming, communication impaired, while statutory services seek funding for equipment to meet that person’s needs. We do not have a full range of devices, although we are slowly expanding our holdings.
The types of equipment we hold are:
All of our computers have either Windows 7 or 10 operating systems. Normally the computers are supplied with the Windows operating system, i-Tunes, Firefox web-browser and Open Office, as well as the necessary Tobii software and either The Grid 2 or Tobii Communicator. Files included with Firefox allow the user to access online TV, radio, newspapers, books from the Gutenberg Project and other services, such as Amazon and Netflix. We also include the Cereproc Scottish voices Stuart and Heather.
While we may provide a device to aid communication, it is rarely a complete solution to the person’s needs. For example, we are unable at present to lend wheelchair mounted devices or devices to hang from rolling mounts, due to the wide range of possible configurations we might need to accommodate, and also because we are unable to securely mount the laptops and all-in-one PCs that we have available.
Where a patient needs help to access their own PC for communication purposes we can lend an eye-gaze, head-mouse or switches with associated software to operate those devices. Due to the costs of the licenses for specialist communications software such as The Grid or Tobii Communicator we are unable to provide these for installation on a person’s own PC but happy to provide copies of free software that do similar things, such as “Balabolka” or “Gazespeaker,” and are happy to advise on the accessibility and speech options built into Windows.
Normally we would lend following an assessment of the person’s needs by the Scottish Centre for Technology for the Communication Impaired (SCTCI), or a similar organisation, or a suitably qualified and experienced Speech and Language Therapist (SLT).
Legislation passed by the Scottish Parliament in 2016 will place a duty on health boards to supply communication aids for people who require it. At the time of writing no date has yet been set for when this duty will commence and provision of equipment across the country is currently variable. The range of equipment which is available on the market is much greater than the range we hold, so we are very much a stop-gap to keep the person communicating until their prescribed equipment is provided by the NHS.
We will take a request by email from yourself or the MND Clinical Specialist for your area. We would want to know the person’s needs and would probably want to speak to you directly to try to work out how best we can help. Usually we would set-up the equipment and software to meet the person’s needs and then have the device couriered to you so that you can deliver it to the patient. Most of our equipment is “plug and play” and for something more complicated we would arrange to talk you through the process of assembling the equipment by telephone.
If your patient is not communication impaired (or becoming impaired), and does not meet the criteria for which you as a statutory service would provide equipment, then our project would probably be unable to lend equipment or software. However, we might be able to advise on other possible solutions and may be able to help in other ways.