Chat Gave Me a Voice



In 1996, I started breathing on a ventilator due to having a form of muscular dystrophy. The first thing I found out, though, was that I couldn’t physically speak. It took over a year before I could speak a couple of words, and if I was lucky, I could get out a complete sentence. But, even then, it was difficult for family and friends to understand what I was communicating.

Fortunately, at that time, social interaction on platforms like AOL was now possible, as well as corresponding via email. I finally had a way to communicate with others on a social level. Then in 2004, Facebook started, and it quickly became a popular site to share about your life with others. It was also a fantastic way to connect with family members and friends I hadn’t connected with in years.


Last year, the pandemic required many Americans to stay at home. This, in turn, made online video platform services, like Zoom, a necessity for businesses. It also became popular for family and friends to use so they could see each other and stay in touch. For myself, the most crucial aspect of using these video services is that they had a chat box available. Instead of trying to speak a few words, I could now communicate whole sentences via a chat box and in real-time.


In September 2020, Teri from Santa Clara Valley Authority Open Space asked me to make a Powerpoint presentation about how nature had helped improve my overall health. At first, this gave me pause, for how was I going to share my presentation using the Zoom app? I couldn’t talk about each presentation slide. Thankfully, Teri knew about my speaking inability and told me she would do the talking for me. I could still, though, contribute by using chat. If she or anyone else attending had a question, I could quickly answer. The presentation went smoothly, and I was very pleased.


Since then, I have given a few more presentations and have been in a few business meetings, all of which used video platform services. Instead of just watching a conversation, I could now be part of it using chat.


There is another aspect to being able to use a chat box. As an accessibility activist, having equal access to parks and accessible trails is very important to me. If these video services didn’t have chat, I wouldn’t have equal access to conversations, whether with family and friends, giving a presentation, or in a meeting.


Video platform services are another step forward in having communication accessible and inclusive for everyone. For me, it is a new tool that I can use to share my experiences and knowledge about equal access to parks and trails. Chat has given me a voice. Hear me roar!