Patrick Bates, National Star learner, 1985–1988
Patrick Bates communicates with his eyes. The technology he uses tracks his eye movement and enables him to write, to speak and to create art.
But he had to wait until 2009 to get that technology. ‘It would have been fantastic to have it earlier – at university it would have been invaluable,’ he says.
Patrick has athetoid cerebral palsy, cannot speak and can only move his head. He has benefitted from the development of assistive technology and the opportunities that each change has brought. He was one of the first National Star students to use switches to control a personal communication device. He operated the computer through twin switches on his head pads.
But it was slow going. Patrick was given a time allowance of 7.5 hours to complete the 2.5–hour paper for his GCE O–level in computer studies. The technology meant he was a model student.
‘With just two–step scanning on a keyboard emulator and a BBC computer, working was very slow indeed.’ – Patrick
In 1987 Patrick presented a paper at a conference for the International Society for Augmentative and Alternative Communication. Patrick first used a POSSUM (which is Latin for ‘I am able’), an electric typewriter connected to a display, which could be controlled with switches. Patrick gained GCEs in English, mathematics, accounts and computer studies. He went on to gain a BA degree in Social Science at Coventry University. Now he lives independently in his own bungalow, supported by carers.