High Tech Low Tech

At the moment I’m trying to bring together the ingredients for a high-tech communication system for a kid who desperately needs one.  First component, we have accepted an offer of a working laptop from the UK, so we need someone who’s coming this way to bring it for us.  We can’t post or FEDEX it because even if it doesn’t get stolen on route (and sadly that appears to be on the increase here of late if our experience can be generalised), it will almost certainly be impounded in customs in Buenos Aires who (again from our experience) are likely to charge us 50% of what they think it’s worth in addition to "storage" costs meaning that we might as well have bought a new one here.  Hence it needs to travel accompanied as someone’s hand baggage.  Second component, I’ve located here in Buenos Aires a guy who has been innovating in the area of adapted technology and alternative communications for the last twenty years or so.  He designed the first virtual keyboard in Argentina back in 1986 in fact.  I’ve heard good testimony from someone who’s met him, and looking at his website I definitely need to fix up a trip soon.  A few years ago I would have relished a jaunt to Buenos Aires, now I think heck, nine hours each way on the bus, not to mention having to get round the city… cost… time… family… commitments; maybe I’ve become old and boring. 

So anyway, when I’ve managed to figure out how to bring together UK laptop, Argentinean virtual keyboard with a scanning feature, and a couple of foot-operated switches, I think we might have the basis of an absolutely fantastic communication system for my prime target, and then it will “just” be a case of teaching her to use it, although if she’s as bright as I suspect she is, that will probably be the easy part.  Till then, I’ve gathered some magnetic letters, and our favourite household-appliance repair man has cut me a magnetic whiteboard from the side of a dead washing machine.   I need to tape the sharp edges of same, and then we will have the basis of a low-tech communication aid.  I’m also thinking if I stick some magnetic strips to the back of some of the pictures that I’ve already been using then it might be a useful resource for some of the other kids in the group too.  Meanwhile in our garage at the moment there’s a whole pile of cut-to-size carton pieces which I’m hoping will form the basis of an approximately CAPS-esque wheelchair insert for another kid just as soon as I’ve paper-maché-ed it all together.  Sublime; ridiculous; but which is which? 

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