Can you imagine loving someone without having a common language?
Hanne Grav Semner (20) and Erik Juvet Johnsen (24) have not had language access for a long time. But PC gave them a chance to get closer to each other.
– It is good to have someone in the same situation. We are also very similar behind the facade. We understand each other. But we wouldn’t be lovers if we couldn’t talk together, says Semner.
The young couple first met at the Engineering Museum three years ago.
By looking at words and symbols on a computer screen in front of them, Semner and Johnsen were able to form words and sentences.
Just a few seconds after the eyes roam the screen, the sound comes out. If it weren’t for this technology, these two would never be lovers.
– I happened to be there. “We just started talking,” said Johnsen.
The girl who doesn’t give up
This technology is often abbreviated as ASK and stands for alternative and complementary communications.
For people with reduced or no speech, access to ASK can be groundbreaking.
Both Johnsen and Semner remember well how frustrating it was before they could express themselves in words.
– It feels weird to depend on someone else to say something. It’s a million guessing game. I’m a girl who doesn’t give up. Sometimes I get really frustrated when other people don’t understand what I mean, says Semner.
– It was very difficult, because we couldn’t say what we wanted. Only my family understands me, says Johnsen.
Only a few have access
But access to language technology is not uncommon. Not everyone gets the same help.
Semner was one of the first children in Norway to be given the opportunity to communicate through the eyes when he started elementary school in 2008. If it weren’t for his mother, he would never have had access to language technology, he explains.
– Language is everything. I would not be the same if my mother did not give me the language.
Today, few people have access to this form of communication. Semner and Johnsen feel sad that not everyone gets the same opportunities as they do.
They believe the system is not working as it should.
– Many struggle to acquire language, says Semner.
Therefore, couples have to fight to ensure that everyone gets the language in the future.
Support the struggle
Secretary General Eva Buschmann of the Cerebral Palsy Association said she has seen many lives changed as a result of more people gaining access to language with the help of eye control technology.
– Having access to language is a human right. Being able to talk to others is fundamental to us, our identity, to taking care of ourselves, learning, building relationships and participating in democracy, he said.
The CP Association and a number of other organizations work to ensure that eye-guided communication becomes a recognized language.
Buschmann wants ASK to be included as a minority language in the Language Act, as it has done with sign language. Few people have the right skills to teach ASK today, says Buschmann.
Therefore, it is often up to the parents to find the best solution for their children. Because Semner’s mother recognized her daughter’s language needs early on, action could be taken early.
But it’s not like that for everyone.
If ASK is granted minority language status, it will be very important as it will help children and youth to develop their own language adapted to them at an early stage.
– Some kids master eye-controlled communication early on and then the professionals and all of us around them have to be there for them, says Buschmann.
Dreaming of the future together
Erik Johnsen lives in Lier, and Hanne Semner frequently visits from his apartment in s. This young couple dreams of becoming people who live together and get married in the future.
– We’re just plain sweethearts like everyone else, says Johnsen.
Semner says that being in love is “a very good feeling.”
– A rose dance most of the time.
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