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Commission Changes Lives with New Speech Generating Devices
May 9 , 2011
Salem, OR.  Noted theoretical physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking has one. And now-- Oregonians can have one too. What it is-- is a speech-generating device (SGD). Hawking is unable to speak due to a combination of severe disabilities caused by ALS known as Lou Gehrig’s disease as well as an emergency tracheotomy.
Now Oregonians with speech-related impairments have access to a wide array of speech generating devices (SGD) from the Oregon Public Utility Commission’s Telecommunication Devices Access Program (TDAP).
“These devices can make a world of difference for Oregonians who cannot communicate on the telephone,”  Jon Cray with the Commission said.  “We worked with Dr. Melanie Fried-Oken, Ph.D, who is a certified speech-language pathologist and a leading international clinician and researcher in the field of these devices at the Oregon Health Sciences University.  She helped devise the application and recommended SGDs,” Cray added.  “Our goal is to loan these devices to eligible customers who are unable to speak on the telephone. Due to limited funding, the devices are available first-come, first- served .”
Speech generating devices (SGD) are electronic systems that enable individuals with little or no speech to communicate their needs. SGDs are important for people who have limited means of communicating verbally, as they allow these individuals to become active participants in society. SGDs can produce electronic voice output using speech synthesis or by digitized recording of natural speech.
“Colin Portnuff, who represented the speech impaired community on the TDAP Advisory Committee, initially recommended that the Commission loan SGDs.  In February 2007, Colin succumbed to complications of Lou Gehrig’s disease.  Eligible Oregonians who have a severe or greater speech impairment will benefit from these SGDs in part because of Colin’s advocacy efforts,” Cray added.
So far, the Commission has loaned devices to 36 Oregonians, many of them children, who have never been able to communicate on the telephone before.  Both children and adults can have speech disorders. They can occur as a result of a medical problem or have no known cause.
While insurance may be a viable option for many people with speech impairments, it is not always available.  Many struggle with insurance to get a device. And would not have been able to get the device through any other means were it not for the state program.
Cray stressed that applicants should work with their speech-language pathologist to determine which device best fits their needs.  Secondly, applicants should first attempt to obtain a speech-generating device through insurance, if available, before they apply for a device through our program. 
Georgia, Pennsylvania and Texas are a few other states that offer a limited number of SGDs.