Can you imagine loving someone without having a common language?
For a long time, Hanne Grav Semner (20) and Erik Juvet Johnsen (24) did not have access to the language. But the PC gave them the opportunity to get closer to each other.
– It’s good to have someone in the same situation. We are also very close to the interface. We understand each other. But we wouldn’t be lovers if we couldn’t talk together, says Simner.
The young couple met for the first time at the art museum three years ago.
By looking at the words and symbols on the computer screen in front of them, Siemner and Johnson could form words and sentences.
After just seconds of looking around the screen, the sound comes out. Without this technology, the two would not have become lovers.
– I happen to be there. We just started talking, says Johnson.
The girl who never gave up
The technology is often abbreviated as ASK and stands for Alternative and Complementary Communication.
For people with a disability or inability to speak, ASK access can be groundbreaking.
Johnson and Simner remember well how frustrating it was before they could express themselves in words.
I felt weird relying on others to say something. There were a million guessing games. You are the girl who never gave up. “Sometimes I get really frustrated when other people don’t understand what I mean,” Siemner says.
– It was very difficult, because we could not say what we wanted. Only family understood me, Johnson says.
But access to language technology was not a natural thing. Not everyone gets the same help.
Simner was one of the first children in Norway to have the opportunity for eye-directed communication when she started primary school in 2008. Without her mother, she explains, she would not have had access to language technology.
Language is everything. I wouldn’t be as if my mother hadn’t given me a language.
Today, few have access to the form of communication. Siemner and Johnson think it’s sad that not everyone gets the same opportunity that they do.
They think the system is not working as it should.
Many people struggle with acquiring a language, says Siemner.
Therefore, the couple will struggle to acquire a language in the future.
Eva Buschmann, general secretary of the Cerebral Palsy Society, says she has seen many people’s lives change as a result of language technology.
Access to language is a human right. The ability to talk to others is so fundamental to us, our identity, to take care of ourselves, learn, build relationships, and participate in democracy, she says.
The CP Association and a number of other organizations are working to ensure that eye-directed communication becomes an equally recognized language as that of blind and deaf people.
Buschmann wants ASK to be included as a minority language in the language law, as happened with sign language. Few people have the appropriate proficiency to teach ASK today, says Buschman.
Therefore, it is often up to the parents to find the best solutions for their children. Since Simner’s mother was aware early on of her daughter’s language needs, early action could be taken.
But this is not the case for everyone.
If ASK gets minority language status, it will be of great importance because it will help children and young people to develop their own language which they adapt to at an early stage.
Some kids master eye-directed communication very early on, then the professionals and the rest of us should be there for them, says Buschmann.
Dreaming of a future together
Erik Johnsen lives in Lier, and Hanne Semner often comes to visit her from her apartment on the ons. A young couple dreams of becoming cohabiting and getting married in the future.
– We’re just regular friends like everyone else, says Johnson.
Siemner says falling in love is “a very delicious feeling.”
A dance on roses often.
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