Excerpts from Dan Keplinger's "King Gimp" Thoughts on My Life
If I could change one thing about my disability, it would be the way I speak. When the world cannot understand my words, I'm assumed to be deaf or retarded. People think I don't have any thoughts or emotions. I hear people talking about me in front of me, sure that I cannot make decisions for myself, that I can't think for myself. My thoughts race through my mind, slowed to a near standstill when I begin to talk. It's a frustration that never goes away.
One summer, I must have been about ten, Kennedy Institute starts fixing a communication board for me. My psyche has probably never healed from the experience of trying to use a communication device. There were times when I would cry not wanting to use it and being told to. It finally ended up in the attic.
Just before I went to college, Maryland Rehab tried a new greatly improved communication system. Yes, it was smaller, yes it had a voice. But, it was still not the answer. It was so damn frustrating, it needed repairs a lot because I was always banging it with my arms (my arms move on their own banging anything nearby). Everytime it needed repairs my weeks of programming would get wiped out and my life would come to a halt on all fronts. This communication system was mounted on my wheelchair which meant that I was confined to the wheelchair if I wanted to use it and I had to wear a headstick all the time.
At social events, I had to sit around in the wheelchair with a headstick on just in case I might get into a conversation with someone and needed to be able to use the communication system. Talk about looking disabled. I know that I was born at the wrong time. My body needs the technology of tomorrow and I think that my personality is from the past. There's no way in hell that the emotion of my words can be heard from the technology of today's computer. The flat voice of the computer without intonation does a shitty job of projecting my emotions, even destroying them. My true voice is emotion.
The voice of a communication system depersonalizes me, taking away from who I am and the relationship I am trying to develop. If you give me a computer voice you are taking away the substance that makes up who I am. The computer has no emotion, soul or feeling. It is flat, dull and cold without facial expression of body language. I need you to look into my eyes and relate to me when we are talking.