'Eagle Eyes' allow severly disabled to use computers

By Jed Boal  |  Posted Nov 29th, 2011 @ 5:09pm

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Kids and adults with certain severe disabilities can feel trapped in their bodies and unable to communicate. But, advanced computer technology is opening up a new world for disabled students in the Canyons School District.

It's true that computers open up a world of creativity and accessibility for all of us. But, for those who cannot use their hands or even words - the severely disabled - their eyes are the key to unlocking their future.

7-year-old Angel Danis is eager to play and learn on her computer at the Jordan Valley School. The special electrodes of the Eagle Eyes system placed around her eyes let her do that by measuring the muscle movements in her eyes.

When the lights are dimmed, Angel controls the cursor on screen, and starts to paint.

"Between the motherboard and the electrodes, it converts the electrical signal of the eye into a mouse cursor-slash-joy stick," said Not only can she paint, she can shoot down aliens. She can also apply those eye movement skills to access all kinds of educational opportunities.

The technology was developed at Boston College in 1994, and the Opportunity Foundation of America has distributed 80 systems nationwide.

"These kids are absolutely incredible. I believe they are here for the rest of us to learn to be more patient, loving, kind, giving, sharing," Inkley said.

Students from Cottonwood High School have embraced Eagle Eyes as a fundraiser, and watched the demonstration today.

"To see these kids and the amazing things they're doing, and the amount of effort they're putting in to it, it really humbles me," said Parents who once thought their kids were imprisoned in their own bodies are excited and reaching out into the world around them.

"It's just been amazing to watch how she has developed a personality because she's been able to get out of her body," said Freyja Robison, parent of another disabled student.

The Eagle Eyes project is always looking for more volunteers and money in order to share the technology with more students.

Email: jboal@ksl.com


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