May 17, 2018 7:18 pm
Updated: May 17, 2018 10:33 pm

Durham school board adopts ‘accessible controller’ designed by a parent

WATCH ABOVE: Computers are being used more often for classroom lessons and that can be challenge for students with physical disabilities. But the Durham District School Board has now adopted a device designed by an Oshawa father who wanted to remove this barrier. Jasmine Pazzano has more.

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Nico Iemma had never been able to type on a computer by himself. The nine-year-old has cerebral palsy and is unable to put his hands together, so it’s nearly impossible for him to use a traditional keyboard and mouse.

“I had to ask somebody to write down what I say, which was kind of hard,” said the Grade 4 student, who attends Vincent Massey Public School in Oshawa.

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But now, for the first time in his life, Iemma can do everything on a computer that every student can do — including drawing and playing games — thanks to a new three-part device designed by his father.

He has better control of his right hand, and this is all he needs to use the technology that combines a computer software, a wireless detector, and a one-hand video-game remote with a joystick that controls the mouse.

“I just took the basic approach of keeping it simple and looked at technology that existed out there and how we can make it work for Nico,” said Patrick Iemma, Nico’s father who has a background in engineering.

“Rather than just left, right, up, down, it allows movement across as if you were using a regular mouse, so it allows them to move it quickly.”

READ MORE: Long-awaited accessible tunnel between Vendome metro and MUHC facing delays

After months of testing, the Durham District School Board has adopted the technology in hopes it will help all of its students with physical limitations.

“To get this out to kids that only have the use of one hand is incredible,” Iemma said.

Physiotherapist Matt Sanchez has many patients with physical disabilities and says the device may be filling a gap in technologies available to those who have a limited range of motion.

“I’m not shocked that it took a parent with a child in need to come up with this, but I’m impressed,” said Sanchez. “A lot of rehab technologies are coming out, and when nothing [has] been done before, you’re going to see things for the first time.”

His father says he is impressed by what he has seen his son do since giving him his device. ”

He put together a PowerPoint presentation… and he did that almost completely independently,” said Iemma. “The support that my wife and I gave him… was the same support you would give an able-bodied nine-year-old in doing a school project. So, that was completely him… picked out the pictures, copied, pasted, did all the wording.”

READ MORE: Paralyzed Edmonton toddler moves from homemade Bumbo wheelchair to treadmill

Inspired by his dad’s invention, Nico hopes to one day design his own accessibility devices. “I think it will be hard for me to not be able to walk,” said Nico, who uses a wheelchair, “so I’m going to build something that can help me walk.”

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