Sunday, March 3, 2019

Speaking Louder Than Most


Have you guys met my friend Jeffrey?

If you haven't - you need to...

Because Jeffrey is AWESOME!

He's got a heart for people - for justice, equality, love, empathy, compassion, inclusion...


And he's got a couple incredible siblings who are molded just like him!


Aren't they a beautiful bunch of kids?

Oh... and I almost forgot... Jeffrey uses a wheelchair and is non-verbal.

It's easy to forget though - cuz Jeffrey gets around like none other. He and his dad have completed insane amounts of races together! Honestly - they're superstars in that space!

And as far as speaking up? This kid does it louder and more often than most!

Check this out...

At the beginning of February - I kicked off a "Black History Month" series where I was just researching and sharing awesome unsung black heroes I was discovering.

Shortly after posting the first few - I got a message from Jeffrey's mom that said:

"I was wondering if you have your Black History Month series images in an easy to email format? I thought it would be cool for Jeffrey to share some of these awesome people from history with his class daily to “enhance” their standard curriculum for the month which oddly only includes 2 African Americans (MLK Jr and Jackie Robinson—which both amazing men, but seriously there are MANY more incredible folks to learn about!)

The software for JARVIS will let me input the image file as the picture that is displayed (basically in a box representing a button or icon available for selection) then when Jeffrey holds his gaze long enough on any one image icon (his pages usually have two to four choices displayed at one time) then JARVIS will read whatever text we want.

As I was doing the curriculum for school - and the main influence for Black History Month being MLK Jr. - it made me keep thinking about his famous quote about continuing progress no matter what (if you can not march then walk, if you can not walk then crawl etc) and that really got me to thinking about Jeffrey and the kind of kid he is.

He is the kind of kid who wants people to speak up for what is right, and if he - a non verbal kid from Wisconsin - can embrace King's message and teach people to use THEIR voices to speak up then how awesome would that be?

This kid can't even talk - but he is going to push for progress however he can -- if you can not walk then crawl, ok sure; how about if you can not talk then use your computer generated speech device?"
I was floored at the request - humbled he'd wanna use my content - and 100% down to make it happen!


So I started daily sending his mom the copy and images - and she started loading them up in his JARVIS tool to share with his classroom!


Here's what it looked like on the screen - and better yet - give the video below a whirl to hear it in action!


Pretty stinking cool - isn't it?


I was just so moved by this kid - shouting louder than most people I know about amazing black folks from history we should all know more about!

I just had to know more about this incredible system he's using - and when I asked his mom about it she shared this:
"Here is the link to the augmentative computer that Jeffrey uses - an i15+ with eye gaze technology that runs Communicator 5 software.

Due to cerebral palsy using communication devices that require the user to touch a screen or hit a switch don't work well for him -- he *can hit switches, it's just really hard for him to control his arms/hands purposefully to activate them.

For many years, prior to getting Jarvis, we communicated only through asking questions that could be answered with a "yes" or "no" response because Jeffrey will intentionally turn his head to answer (to his left is "yes," to his right is "no").

With his device being gaze controlled he just needs to look at icons on the screen, then hold his gaze for a predetermined length of time (3.4 seconds, which doesn't sound like much until you are staring at an icon on a computer screen without blinking or shifting your gaze at all).

He has had Jarvis for about a year and a half, and is finding that having a voice is a really big deal-because he knows what it's like to not have one at all. "
Is this kid coupled with this technology not the most amazing combination ever?


And if that wasn't enough - as I was wrapping up the month - I decided to share out mini-bios on my four kids - definitely four brown heroes of my own...

I didn't send them to Jeffrey and his mom at first cuz - ya know - they're just my kids and all...

But what do they do?

They share them anyways!

So humbled by their efforts - their love - and their willingness to be a voice.


Jeffrey... you and your family have amazed, impressed and humbled me for years as you've supported Brighton Their World and been all around awesome forces of good in the world.

You never cease to amaze me with the heart and spirit and love you display regularly.

Thank you for being a model for ALL OF US on how to speak up and use the platform God has given us!

Go ahead... try to speak louder than Jeffrey... I double dog dare ya!

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