“I lived in Pakistan until I was 15. I never went to school when I was in Pakistan because there are no schools in Pakistan for people with disabilities. I couldn’t stand up or walk. I couldn’t close my mouth. My family carried me everywhere I went. I did not have a wheelchair.” These are the words of Adil Sanai, who attends the Adult Day Services department’s Joseph T. Weingold Center. Adil was born with cerebral palsy, a condition which caused his mouth to remain open, making it impossible for him to speak, and which caused Adil to have severe mobility impairments when he was young. Adil and his family immigrated to the United States in 1999. After arriving, Adil underwent multiple surgeries.
“When I came to the United States I received medical help,” says Adil. “I had surgery on both my legs and mouth. I was very determined to have a better life in the United States, so I exercised a lot and work really hard to get better.”
Even though Adil’s surgeries have enabled him to close his mouth, he still experiences speech limitations, but thanks to the use of an Assistive Technology Device called Chat PC, Adil’s can communicate out-loud. When Adil has something to say, he types it into his hand-held device. The device uses predictive technology, which provides Adil with words to choose from, as he enters each letter of a new word into the device. After Adil has typed a sentence into the Chat PC, he presses another button which reads the sentence out-loud, facilitating his communication. He can also save his entries for future use, and make modifications when needed.
“I can make changes on the device by myself,” adds Adil. The Chat PC is small enough to be worn in a small pouch at Adil’s waist, and he carries it with him everywhere, using it to communicate with his friends, family, colleagues, and supervisors.
Adil continues to work on his verbal skills with his Speech Therapist, Lorraine Cohen, M.S., CCC-SLP. Lorraine is AHRC NYC’s Assistive Technology Specialist and is knowledgeable about the Chat PC device that Adil has used for the past two years.
Today Adil works in quality control at Joseph T. Weingold Center, overseeing the end of the facility’s production line. Adil is also a Merchandise Floor Associate at Marshalls Clothing store, in Queens, NY. Some of his job responsibilities at Marshalls include sorting clothing according to size, tagging and preparing items for display, removing damaged items, and notifying his supervisor. “My device has helped me to get a job and talk to my boss,” says Adil.
Karen Deckman, Assistive Technology Specialist, is the New York area representative for the Saltillo Corporation, a company which specializes in providing helpful solutions for people with adaptive living needs, and the manufacturer of the communication device Adil uses every day. Karen recently viewed Adil’s video, Finding a Voice Through Technology on YouTube, which was produced by Adil and Eric Martinez, Community Support Professional. The video documents Adil’s use of his assistive technology device, as he completes his job duties. Submitted to the International Society for Augmentative and Alternative Communication, (ISAAC,) to raise awareness of assistive technology device users around the world, the video gained Karen’s attention. She routinely shows the video to high school students who use Alternative and Augmentative Communication devices, and to their parents, to encourage them to set the bar high for what is possible.
An Ambassador for Communication Technology
Shortly after seeing the video, Karen contacted Adil, and invited him to become the official brand ambassador for Saltillo Corporation. From November 2nd through the 5th, Adil and his father joined the Saltillo team at the Assistive Technology Industry Association Conference in Chicago. Adil worked in the Saltillo booth along with Karen, meeting and greeting visitors.
“I am very happy that I am a member of the Saltillo family now,” adds Adil, expressing his gratefulness to Karen and other members of Saltillo for the opportunity. Karen believes Adil is the perfect role model for others who use adaptive technologies.
Outside of work, Adil celebrates his heritage. “I am a Muslim,” says Adil. “I pray five times a day. I leave work program at 12:30 on Fridays to go to Mosque.”
Adil also participates in the running group, Achilles International, for exercise and to be a part of his community. “My dream came true,” says Adil. “I was able to finish the Achilles Hope and Possibility 5 mile run in June of 2011. For a person who was not able to walk and run, I think this is a dream come true.”
Adil wishes to thank his family and his AHRC NYC support team including, Michael Kaplan, Facility Manager, Munni Gurung, Program Psychologist, Maria Hubbard, Job Coach, Eric Martinez, Community Support Professional, and his Speech Language Pathologist and Assistive Technology Specialist, Lorraine Cohen, M.S., CCC-SLP.
“Thank you, Lorraine, for helping me get the device,” says Adil. “It is my new voice.”