Ten years ago, Barry Elbasani was paralyzed from the neck down after diving into shallow water. After three months in a rehabilitation hospital, he moved back home with his parents in Kansas City, Mo. The state's vocational rehabilitation agency helped him with everything from equipping and learning to drive a wheelchair-accessible van to using technologies that would enable him to go back to school.
Witnessing the power of vocational rehabilitation firsthand, he decided to pursue a master's degree in rehabilitation administration. Nuance Communications' Dragon Naturally Speaking speech-recognition software helped him keep pace with the demands of college by dictating notes and allowing him to control his computer by speaking.
"It was instrumental to me early on," Elbasani says of the software. "It falls well into the philosophy of independent living, so it was very apparent to me what an amazing thing this was."
Now Elbasani is a supervisor with Missouri Vocational Rehabilitation in Lee's Summit. In his four years with the agency, he has introduced clients to the same technologies that he uses, such as Dragon Naturally Speaking and various assistive iPad apps. He's even found success with some built-in tools in Windows, such as a setting that provides an onscreen keyboard. The iPad, he adds, also has a setting that puts the home/start button onscreen.
"I've come full circle," Elbasani says. "Now I can give back and help others."