Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Open Source Software that Changed a Girl’s Life

My friend Kaylyn, a student at the Olean City School District, is just like every other 12-year-old girl. She says things like “that’s the bomb” and “Wait till my mom sees this.” Kaylyn says “awesome“ a lot and she loves to draw. Specifically, she loves to draw hearts. She also has the best handwriting I’ve ever seen from any 12-year-old. But there is something you should know about Kaylyn. She does not have use of her arms and legs. This causes her life to be different.

Unable to use her arms and legs creates difficulty for her getting around school independently. She also has difficulty doing assignments, because typically there is much handwriting involved.
In September of this school year, since the Olean City School District subscribes to the Cattaraugus Allegheny BOCES Model Schools services, I went in to observe Kaylyn. This was an informal observation and I was just there to make suggestions. I was hoping these suggestions could possibly make Kaylyn’s life better.   When I initially visited Kaylyn I had absolutely no suggestions whatsoever. I had nothing. I was disappointed. I was unsatisfied with not coming up with anything but I continued work on it. Later, In October, I had an epiphany. I had used a software called eViacam and recorded a video of myself using it. YouTube Video of Rick Using eViacam eViacam is a free open source software that anyone can download to their computer but it seems to only be available for the Windows operating system (  I’m working on a Mac solution.  How does eViacam work? Well it uses the built-in camera or an external camera and ”locks onto your eyes and nose,” which allows you to operate the mouse with your head movement.

On November 18, 2015 I was one of the first people to witness Kaylyn not having to write her name on a piece of schoolwork using her teeth. This day brought goose bumps to all the educators who were in the room. This piece of software was a game changer for Kaylyn. She was now able to do more work [lg2] independently. If you think about it, that’s really what we want from all of our students. We want them to grow up and be lifelong learners, contributing members to society and independent.

A special thank you goes out to Marcie Richmond, Olean’s Special Education Director, Amy Buckner, Kaylyn’s Support Aide and all of Olean’s Tech Department. 
Kaylyn is a special girl and not because she can’t use her arms and legs. She is special because of her resilience, her stick-to-itiveness, and her ability to persevere. Kaylan is just like every other girl and that’s the way it should be. If she wants to dot her “I’s” with a heart or pass a note to another student in class when she should be paying attention, we as educators should do everything in our power to make that happen.   I’m so glad to have met Kaylyn and extremely thrilled to call her my friend.

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