"I canít find enough words to describe how the Liberator has changed my life. To sum it up Ė I am a person again," expresses Graham Clarkefrom Cape Town, South Africa.
Graham Clarke is a man full of adventure and has had some incredible experiences throughout his life. He grew up in a small town just outside of Durban, South Africa with his brother and two wonderful parents. After graduating from boarding school, he completed a year of compulsory military service. During his military service, Graham says he accompanied a health inspector from site to site and states, "This eventually led me into the field of public health. I studied it for three years . . . and then was employed by the Durban City Council." However, Graham resigned from his job with the city after realizing that it was far from what he had experienced in the military. Sometime later he decided to accept a position as a weather reader on Marion Island, a remote South African weather station half way between South Africa and Antarctica.
While Graham was working on Marion Island, a very isolated island, he had time to do some "soul searching" and decided he should go back to college to study something in the disability field, i.e., biomedical engineering, social work, or occupational therapy. "Then after three months (during a second assignment on Marion Island), I fell seriously ill and had to be rescued by a Navy ship, which brought me back to Cape Town," Graham stated. After numerous tests, doctors established that he had had a massive stroke, which has left him completely paralysed and speechless.
"My disability was (has been) the biggest challenge I ever faced as it was such a shock to wake up one day and find yourself in another world. I overcame it ó well, there are times when I donít feel as though I am winning at all. Letís say I regularly overcome it by returning to the basics and build myself back up again through determination. I am not going to lose this fight."
For several years after he lost his speech, he just used an alphabet chart for communication and it was not until a student at Cape Town University majoring in computer science told Graham about a new "talking computer," the Light Talker. "I was so excited because it would eventually mean that I would be in control of my communication," he exclaimed. He obtained the Light Talker some months later and currently uses a Liberator. "These are incredible little computers," he adds, "which have allowed me to regain my place in this world. FANTASTIC!"
Graham has set many goals in order to overcome his disability. Presently, he is working on his goals of completing a book on his life experiences, moving out of the institution where he is currently living and into a place of his own, and owning a modified vehicle that will transport him wherever he wants to go.He also plans to attend the ISAAC Conference in 2002 and plans to create an awareness regarding AAC in South Africa. According to Graham, the most interesting things he has done in the last three years includes "being privileged enough to go to both the Pittsburgh Employment Conference and then off to meet everybody at PRC."
He contributes success and accompaniments to God, or "a higher power above as others may prefer," and to having determination and believing in himself. Graham says, "Without God I donít believe I would have had the strength to overcome such a predicament." Secondly, he is thankful for his motherís and familyís support and that they believed in him from the beginning. He is also thankful for his own "makeup" that has been etched in him from his youth. "We were taught to NEVER give up," says Graham.