CAYA News 2008

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April 10th, 2008 – CAYA Services extended to age 35

On April 10th the Honourable Claude Richmond, Minister of Income and Employment Assistance and the Honourable Shirley Bond, Deputy Premier and Minister of Education announced a $500,000 grant to CAYA. This additional grant will provide for the extension of CAYA services to individuals with complex communication needs up to 35 years of age, from the previous age of 27 years. Simon Cox from the BC Association for Individualized Technology and Supports for People with Disabilities (BCITS) accepted the grant on behalf of CAYA. Inspiring speeches were given by current and future clients Cory Fisher and Scott Wilson and Jeff Riley, the Manager of CAYA.


News Release: April 10, 2008

To read a copy of the April 10th News Release click to download the pdf file.


Future CAYA client Scott Wilson holds up his letterboard for all to see.

Scott Wilson and Lois Turner after the announcement. Lois read a speech from Scott on his behalf since he did not yet have a communication device.

Lois holding the announcement poster over our CAYA display in the Rotunda of the Legislature.

L-R, Lois Turner, Cory Fisher, Scott Wilson, Simon Cox, Jeff Riley, Minister Richmond, Minister Bond

CAYA clients in rapt attention at the announcement

Jeff Riley demonstrates speech generating devices to Minister Bond and Minister Richmond

L-R, Lois Turner, Laurie Fisher, Cory Fisher (delivering speech), Simon Cox, Minister Richmond, Jeff Riley, Minister Bond

CAYA client Ashleigh Dukoff at the announcement.

Minister Bond chatting with Ashleigh


Good Afternoon

All people wish to contribute. Communication is a key component in expressing the need to contribute. The value that these kinds of devices and supports add to an individual’s ability to contribute is priceless.

We all know the value of communication in our daily lives whether we are in school, in government, being with our families or working in the community. Just think for a moment what it would be like if you couldn’t communicate for a day or a week or even a year of more.

This is the value of the CAYA project. It provides people with disabilities the opportunity to contribute and participate. Many of our non-vocal clients are working volunteering and managing their own care. Without the use of communication aids, this would be impossible.

BC has always been “forward” when it comes to providing assistive devices for people with disabilities. The first communication aids were provided for people with disabilities around 1970. They were very clumsy and mechanical but they worked to provide a basic level of communication

Today they are more intelligent and more lightweight. They offer such features as digitized and artificial speech, word prediction and a large variety of access methods for varying levels of disability. But there is a cost to this. Costs associated with assessment training, delivery, repair and of course the equipment itself.

So here we are today, we wish to work so that all individuals with disabilities get an opportunity to contribute. Where in the past, funding for such devices was scarce and dependent on charitable donations; government has stepped into help by funding the CAYA project. We are pleased to work in partnership with government to match our expertise, supports and equipment with the government’s generosity in providing funding to assist us.

We congratulate the government on their efforts to make BC the most liveable place for people with disabilities through their disability strategy.

Thank you to Minister Claude Richmond for his ministry’s work in this area. Thank you to Minister Shirley Bond and all the others who have helped to make this happen.

On behalf of our clients with disabilities, we are most grateful.

My name is Scott Wilson and I am 30 years old. Last year I lost my ability to speak and to walk because of a rare neurological condition. I could only use my hands in a very limited way and my memory was also affected. I was in hospital for months. It was frightening because I didn’t know if I would ever be able to do anything for myself again. Everything I wanted to do: go to a window and look out, brush my teeth, take something out of my pocket, took such a long time. More importantly, I could no longer do the things I enjoyed most: go places with my friends, play sports, work and go to school, be independent.

As I’m sure you can imagine, I was devastated by these changes in my life. The worst loss, though, was the loss of my ability to communicate. All of a sudden, I could not tell the nurse that I was in pain. I couldn’t ask questions about my medical condition. I couldn’t be part of any conversation. My friends didn’t know what to say to me because I couldn’t answer back. Even when I was surrounded by people, I have never felt so alone.

While I was at the hospital, I learned to spell everything I wanted to say using a letter board. That was but very slow. Sometimes it’s just easier not to talk at all. Then I tried a communication device with a voice and lots of ways to store messages. It was called a Lightwriter and it was great. I could see that if I had a communication device, the person I was talking to would not have to read the letters from my board over my shoulder. A communication device would let me talk to anyone, anywhere because I wouldn’t need to have someone with me who knew how to read the letters off the letter board. I used the Lightwriter while I was at the hospital and got really good at it, but since I’ve come home, I’ve been using the letter board because I don’t have the money to buy one.

My recovery has been slow but as you see I’m now able to walk. I’m very excited about getting a Lightwriter because if I have one I can be more independent, and go places without a care attendant. I’ll also be able to communicate way more quickly than I can with a letter board. Independence and the chance to talk to people more normally will make my life so much.


Following the remarks made by all of the speakers before me I am repeatedly reminded of the essential role of communication in our human experience. As we have heard from Cory and Scott today, the ability to speak independently drives all other aspects of their lives. Communication is the key to unlocking their ideas, and realizing their dreams.

Indeed, for centuries people have recognized the importance of communication in our lives. I would like to share a short quote with you. It comes from a man named Publilius Cyrus, a philosopher and writer from Roman times. Writing over 2000 years ago, Publilius stated that: Speech is the mirror of the soul; as a man speaks, so is he.

For millennia the ability to speak has been the defining aspect our humanity, setting us apart from all other creatures on the planet. And as Cory and Scott, and many of our other CAYA clients and families will affirm, communication continues to be the thread that binds the fabric of our lives together

In 2005, we began Communication Assistance for Young Adults, and began delivering devices and services to enable young adults across British Columbia to continue communicating, building their lives as adults, and participating in our society. We built CAYA upon the hard work of committed individuals, families, and professionals in the education system, who brought many of these young people with severe communication disabilities to the threshold of adulthood. With the support of our provincial government, we have been able to ensure that these young people enter adulthood with the essential tool to build a life – the tool of communication.

Today’s announcement means that essential tool will continue to be available well into adulthood, enabling people with severe communication disabilities to continue to speak and participate in the human experience. I would like to offer my sincere thanks to the many people who have helped make CAYA a reality. In particular, I would like to thank Minister Richmond for his leadership and the thoughtful people in Ministry of Employment and Income Assistance for their vision and commitment. As manager of CAYA I can tell you that we look forward to using these funds to ensure that more British Columbians will have access to essential technology for face-to-face human communication.

Thank-you very much!

Honourable Claude Richmond, Honourable Shirley Bond, staff and clients of CAYA, Communication Assistance for Young Adults, our families and friends,

Can you imagine living your life without a way to let people know what is on your mind? What if you couldn’t tell your friends or family how you feel? Or what you want to do? What you want to see at the theatre? What food you want to order at the restaurant???

I know what this is like because I speak with a language called Minspeak on a communication device. And if I didn’t have this I wouldn’t be able to do any of those things or be here today to thank you for the supports that are being added to CAYA.

I have graduated from Highland Senior Secondary in the Comox Valley. Because I have had equipment and support, I was able to say what I wanted to take and do.

I wrote and performed a part for my Theatre 12 production on Peer Pressure, I kept stats for my school sports teams and I wrote sports trivia for my school newspaper. My favourite course was Rhythm and Blues where I played percussion in the jazz band with my technology.

With my device, I can give my dog Rico commands. I can talk to my staff on my own ~ directing my care and the things I want, like Taco salads for dinner, when I need rest, or need my shoes off.

Over the past year I have become really high tech doing my emails, Internet, Facebook, and cell phone , all run through my system. With my device, I can have fun with my friends and I can be a friend. Maybe even a boyfriend!

Now I am making a movie about the rest of my life because there is still a lot to do! I want a job! I want my own place to live. I wasn’t able to get into college this year to learn more about getting and taking care of my own assist dog. I still want to do that!

I want to meet other people like me who are a little older and find out how they make things work in their lives.

I want to be a speaker and teach people about minspeak.

…and now, CAYA will be there to continue to help me as I grow older.

If I didn’t have my voice or my support, I would feel very sad. I wouldn’t be talking to you today.
So, thank you very much from me and my CAYA friends ~ With your help, we can do more than imagine living our lives… we can all live great lives!

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