Do It Myself Blog – Glenda Watson Hyatt

Motivational Speaker

The Cost of Transitioning from Silent to Verbal

Filed under: Living with a disability — by at 4:51 pm on Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A couple of years ago I challenged the “functionally non-verbal” label placed upon me by medical experts by giving my first ever speech. Since then I have given a few more presentations. My head still bobs for invisible apples, but, for the most part, I have accepted it as another quirk of my cerebral palsy. Some people become a red lobster when they speak publicly; I become a head bobble.

Up until now the content has been prepared ahead of time, so giving my presentation meant hitting a few buttons on my laptop. This weekend I was at a strategic planning session as a Board member for the Social Planning and Research Council for British Columbia (SPARC BC) and had the opportunity to take the next step with my public verbalizing.

For the first exercise, the facilitator had each of us share our top short-term priorities for the organization. Thankfully he wanted us to succinctly phrase our idea in five words, and, thankfully, he started at the other side of the table. Using my new roll-up keyboard plugged into my small Toshiba Libretto, I was able to plunk out my five words by the time it was my turn. Taking a deep breath because I hadn’t used this particular software live before (what NOT to do!), I hit the “speak” button in the NextUp Talker trial version and my words were shared with the group.

We went around the table again and again; each time I was able to keep up and offer my thoughts. Had the group been smaller or had the facilitator wanted a detailed explanation, I may not have been able to type my thoughts fast enough. Thanks to the technology, this was the first time in my life that I was able to offer my own thoughts in this kind of group setting. I did not have to pass this time like I had done every other time, even though ideas and thoughts were no doubt zinging around my head.

But, because this was the first time, I found myself self-censoring a lot. Was that idea good enough? Was that really what the facilitator was looking for? Maybe it was too general or too specific? It is one thing to have the technology to be able to communicate in this fashion, but having the confidence that one’s ideas are good enough to share with a group is something else; something that takes as much practice as learning the technology, something that I’m not sure is realized when individuals are taught how to use augmentative communication devices.

The second exercise was to discuss specific topics in small groups. Once again I was able to contribute a few thoughts in an abbreviated format; I would have liked to offer more expanded thoughts, but it was more than I had been able to offer in the past. It was definitely a step forward.

However, with the small group, timing was much more of a factor. By the time I plunked a response to a thought someone had put forth a moment ago, the rest of the group was already ten thoughts ahead, so my contribution felt rather disjointed and out of sync.

Through this journey of coming out of the silence, I’m seeing how verbal communication is really situation-dependent and there are subtle differences that many people may not even realize. But, going from the written word to the spoken word, I am picking up on these differences and am still figuring out how to mold the technology to fit the situation.

One addition to the technology that would help somewhat is to have the word prediction/completion feature of EZ Keys software that I have on my desktop computer. This feature saves me a bit of typing, and hence, slightly speeds up my output. This means I may be able to type a longer response per contribution.

To have EZ Keys work on my laptop, I would need to move the softkey – the hardware that enables the software to work – from my desktop to my laptop each time I head out with my laptop; a hassle but doable. Another option is to buy another EZ Keys license with the softkey for $695US to use on my laptop in conjunction with NextUp Talker, which is $100US. Alternatively, EZ Keys also has a text-to-speech feature, which I didn’t purchase the first time around because I didn’t envision doing what I am doing now. The complete EZ Keys package with voice is $1395US. I understand this is a business and I definitely don’t want charity, but I feel my voice is being held hostage for a ransom I cannot afford at the moment.

With my husband’s support and insistence that I have the tools that I need, we have purchased the laptop, the speakers, and the roll-up keyboard. Now I need another piece? It’s frustrating that I need something so cumbersome and expensive in order to do what most people take for granted: communicate verbally.

But, I know Darrell and I will find a solution because that is what we are good at. And, in time, I will be giving presentations complete with Q&A sessions, even though my responses may not be as well-thought out or elaborate as they would be had I been using my comfy written word.

If you enjoyed this post, consider buying me a chai tea latte. Thanks kindly.

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Comment by Karen Putz

November 27, 2007 @ 7:09 pm

Bobble heads are all the rage now. 🙂

Do you have a rehabilitation agency that could purchase the software? Here in the states, we have a couple of organizations that provide access to assistive technology. I wonder if Canada has something similar?

You can always write to Bill Gates! 🙂

Comment by Lori-ann

November 27, 2007 @ 7:25 pm


Sometimes all you have to do is ask. Write the company, explain the situation. They may just issue you with another access code considering this is software that you already own and it is for your own use.

What’s the worst thing they can say?

Comment by Glenda

November 27, 2007 @ 7:52 pm

Thanks Karen, there are agencies that will purchase assistive technology if you have a job or a job offer, but if you are self-employed, you’re hooped!

I’ll try that, Lori-ann. The thing is I need a piece of hardware, not simply an another access code.

Comment by Kathy

November 27, 2007 @ 8:34 pm

Hi Glenda,
Glad to hear you are speaking out about these issues. I was there for your first speech and it was a zinger! As a facilitator, I was excited to read about how you were able to participate so actively in the SPARC meeting. I guess the next step is to write another book. Have you thought about selling e-books on your website? You have so many good ideas. Internet marketing is supposed to be a hot way to make big bucks. If you are interested I may have some helpful stuff stashed away in my collection.

Comment by Denise Lance

November 30, 2007 @ 11:48 am


I make mp3’s for my speeches that aren’t spontaneous, using NextUp’s TextAloud. I love the variety of voices available. I bet they are better quality than EZ KEYS voices, although I have not heard them lately.

I have CP too, I understand your needs when it comes to spontaneous speech. For the quality and savings, I would probably go with the option that allows you to use NextUp Talker.

What do you need EZ Keys to do?

Also, could you buy a dock for your laptop, so that you would only need one computer, rather than a desktop too? That would save the cost of duplicate software.

Please let me know if I can help brainstorm with you. I know how frustrated you are. Been there!

Tech-Can-Do Blog

Comment by ken white

November 30, 2007 @ 2:24 pm

If there is anything we can do to help, please let me know.

Ken White
Listen and Get Smart

NextUp Talker – Improving Communications for the Voice Impaired

Comment by Glenda

December 1, 2007 @ 11:59 pm

Denise, I also use TextAloud for creating mp3s for presentations. Isn’t that great!
The reason for needing EZ Keys is for the word prediction/completion feature to speed up my typing. I still need to explore my options. If I win the Blog for a Year contest, then I can afford another EZ Keys package (I need a second SoftKey hardware that enables the software), if that indeed proves to be the best option.

Ken, you were next on my to-email list to ask if Talker has a word prediction/completion feature or if such a feature is in the works.

Comment by Denise Lance

December 3, 2007 @ 10:15 am

I use a program called Instant Text for word prediction and abbreviation. It is much cheaper than EZ keys and has some handy features so you don’t have to recall so many abbreviations. I believe I had over 500 when I used an old abbreviation program years ago.

Anyway, the site is:

I hope you win or find an affordable option soon!

Tech-Can-Do Blog

Comment by Glenda

December 4, 2007 @ 10:05 pm

Denise, thanks for mentioning Instant Text. It is good to hear from people who actually use the software. And, in an email, Ken mentioned some people use WordQ with Talker. Looks like I have some test driving of free demos to do.

Comment by Dallas Hinton

December 18, 2007 @ 1:13 am

Re EZ Keys – I suspect from the specs that the device is plugged into the parallel port? There are several types of “dongle” as we call them, but the most common is one that has various resistors cross connected with the wires, all inside a little box. If it is not sealed, most competent electronics buffs can duplicate it. Be cautious, by the way, of buying a new laptop as many no longer have a parallel port at all!

Meanwhile, keep up the fight — we salute you!

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