Technology empowers people with disabilities

People with physical disabilities in Hong Kong can now further integrate into society by using specially developed technological inventions for their benefit. Reporting by Oasis Hu from Hong Kong.

Sunny Cheung Sai-ho (right) introduces CP2Joy alongside her father. Cheung, who was born with severe cerebral palsy, developed the system that uses joystick and voice recognition to help people with severe physical disabilities type and use a computer. [PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY]

Text messaging is universally used today, especially by millennials who are embracing the use of technology. But it could be a tough chore for some, like Sunny Cheung Sai-ho, who was born with severe cerebral palsy and can only move one of his fingers.

Before, it took him half an hour to type only five letters on the computer. That is now a thing of the past as he can do it in a minute using CP2Joy (cerebral palsy of joy) – the first human computer developed for severely disabled people in Hong Kong.

Cheung, 39, had difficulty using the keyboard or mouse due to muscle atrophy and violent tremors. “His hands were shaking all the time, damaging the keyboards as he tried to type,” Cheung’s father recalled.

For Cheung, many gadgets widely used to help people with disabilities have also not been helpful. His uncontrollable eyeball movements prevent him from using eye tracking and gaze interaction devices. Speech recognition software is also out of the question as it can only do a few monotones. Looking at the computer screen is also tedious.

CP2Joy – a system that Cheung created with both software and hardware – is tailor-made for people with severe physical disabilities. Instead of the traditional keyboard and mouse, CP2Joy uses a joystick, which Cheung finds easy to control using his palm instead of his fingers.

He was inspired to create the device of his wheelchair, which is equipped with a lever to control and operate it. By sending commands with simple syllables that sound like “A, E, O”, Cheung can trigger the preset shortcut on his computer through voice recognition software to control the computer. Although typing long paragraphs can still be a chore, he managed to usher in a new world by connecting to a bigger planet – the World Wide Web.

Prior to CP2Joy’s advent, Cheung relied solely on his parents and social worker to help him communicate with the outside world, including doing interviews and giving talks in public, as they were among the few people who could understand it. Now he has created his own companion who helps him through life’s challenges.

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