Speak for Yourself by Kobi Arieli


Do me a little favor. As you read these lines, look up for a moment and say something. Out loud. For instance, “Pizza with olives.” Someone will come into the room in a panic and ask if you lost your mind. You will laugh aloud and say: “It’s nothing. Just that weird Arieli with his nonsense. Everything is fine.”
Communication. This handy word that we instantly associate nowadays with an exclusive interview with a government minister or a strike by workers at the TV channel or a news bulletin. We’ve almost forgotten that it also has a basic meaning, more basic than any other: The ability of man to maintain a connection with those around him. To benefit from others, to give to them, to ask, to express emotions, to reflect other people’s emotions. To live. That is what you did just a moment ago. You produced a sound. Someone asked you something. You answered. That is how human society lives.
pr voca 2012 1506_ne_photo_stories1_27301We have almost forgotten that some people lack this basic ability. Ezer Mizion National Headquarters. Fourth Floor. The Speech Generating Device Lending Center. Ezer Mizion’s remarkable place for technological solutions for the speech impaired, one of only three of its kind in the entire world. This floor of Ezer Mizion provides responses for the almost infinite spectrum of people who were not gifted with – or lost – the ability to communicate with those around them through speech.
Just before, they brought here a 43-year-old fellow, precisely my age. Until 4 years ago, he was just like you and me. Actually, even more – he was active and made a career in the business world. He talked and laughed and exulted and issued orders and told stories. He never stopped talking.
Then came the illness, and with it, the degeneration. Gradually, his muscular systems crashed, one after the other. His body became paralyzed, incapable of the slightest movement. From this entity of roaring life, nothing is left but a pained, extinguished look, eyes that seek death, but cannot even express the wish. An unfortunate man, imprisoned in his body.
pr voca touch chat 1517_ne_photo_stories1_ab143A smart system for communication via focused eye movement is positioned opposite his wilting look. Someone explains to him the operating instructions and there is a glimmer in his eye.
A keyboard on the screen.
Effort. Concentration.
“Shin!”
The letter “Shin” appears clearly on the screen. He said “Shin”! He wrote “Shin”!
“Lamed!”
“Vav!”
“Mem!”
Shalom! He said ‘Shalom’! This man, who was submerged in depression for a half year, shackled in the muscles of his frozen body, said “Shalom!” Suddenly, you could see a spark of life race through him. A light appears at the end of his dark tunnel. He apparently will never get back on his feet, but he will love and ache and experience and will also be able to express it all.
This case is at one extreme of the spectrum. The population of communication disabled is large. The number is estimated at 1.5 % of the general population. Ezer Mizion provides solutions for them all, beginning with children on the autistic spectrum, who receive basic systems and accessories, and on to complex, sophisticated systems like the one described here.
All the communication solutions, all the life solutions, under one roof.
pr voca“We encounter these scenes daily,” says speech therapist Yonit Hagoel Karnieli, director of the Center for the last twenty-five years. “We are privileged to feel the rush of emotion each time anew when a girl on the autistic spectrum says ‘Ima’ for the very first time, when an ALS patient manages to communicate again, when men and women suddenly step back into the communication loop, into the life circle.”
This Center, which operates in collaboration with israel’s National Insurance Institute, is the only one of its kind providing a response to residents of Israel.
When all is said and done: What is a more natural cause for an organization whose banner and symbol is mutual responsibility than a center promoting interpersonal communication? Thank you, Ezer Mizion!

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