How are things in Barnet ? This post is not about how things are in Barnet , but it is about my communication . I am writing it for everyone’s interest and for your use , if you speak with me .
The Repeating Phrase – the Delete key is next to the Speak key on my computer , and I often hit Speak when I mean Delete . Andy , who lives in Barnet , told me how things are there . Five minutes later , he got the same question and said things were as before . We laughed , but sometimes the repeated phrase causes annoyance for the listener and frustration for me . It provokes reactions like ‘Didn’t you listen to my answer?’ or ‘I am not stupid , I heard you first time.’ Sometimes the phrase repeats five times , and now you know why.
The Phrase For Someone Else – when I am having a conversation , I write down my next phrase with my eyes and it is visible on the screen . Carers , nurses , friends and family look at the screen , often because I don’t want to use the spoken voice or because they are in the room . You can imagine the potential for misunderstandings and privacy breaches .
Expressing Yourself – even for fast users of eye gaze , getting your message across is totally different compared to normal speech . For visitors or longer subjects , I prepare in advance . During conversation , I am slow , can’t vary voice volume or tone and have limited body language . I make facial expressions , though my mouth muscles have wasted . I leave many conversations feeling not heard or misunderstood .
Speed Of Conversation – linked to the previous point , but needs a separate one . You won’t notice , but we talk and respond quickly , such that by the time I am ready to Speak my answer , there have been one or two more questions . My words are out of context . By now , you will have realised that it’s not easy being the speaking partner either . Banter , irony and switching languages in less than a minute are impossible . Conversation slowly works well . The biggest loss is good communication with Valentina and Sebastian .
Stress And Fatigue – I am writing this at a good speed , but there are times when I can’t make contact with any key . People wonder what is happening , I get frustrated . It often occurs when I need to say something important .
Clarifications – I try and be accurate to avoid the need to clarify , but balance the accuracy with brevity . Sometimes the gamble pays off .
Bright Light – the eye gaze doesn’t work with glare , but not everyone knows this and so can’t understand why I am not talking . I can’t tell them the reason for my silence of course . To speak I need to move , often to the position where they are . I just start moving and hope that they are not offended as the 200KG wheelchair advances towards their toes .
The Question In The Negative – Here are a couple of questions , but the answers are not obvious . ‘Are you not feeling well?’ and ‘Do you not want to have this?’ Take the first question . The answers can be ‘ Yes , I am not feeling well ‘ , ‘No , I am not feeling well ‘ or ‘ I am well’. Negative questions always cause confusion , especially when I am answering with nods or headshakes.
Or Questions – these questions are a nightmare . How do I answer ‘Would you like to eat chicken curry or fish ?’ When I am answering with nods or headshakes , I just look at the person asking and wait until they give me one option . By default , the second option will be clear depending on the answer to the first option .
Sunglasses – the eye gaze doesn’t work with them , but not everyone knows this . This can cause frustration .