"I love you, Lorraine," said Don Moir, for the first time in more than a decade. "I can't imagine life without you. You have made the last 25 years fly by and the last 20 with ALS more bearable."
The farmer and father from rural Canada didn't physically utter these words to his wife of 26 years and mother of his three children. In 1999, four years after being diagnosed with ALS, he was fitted with a ventilator and lost the ability to speak. But, using a computer program, Don "typed" the sweet message with his eyes and a digital voice recited it.
Up until this momentous occasion, Don used a physical “letter board” to communicate. The piece of paper contains four quadrants, each with a set of letters and numbers written in it. By following Don’s eye contact and the letters he lands on, a second person can piece together the words he wants to say.
While driving one day, Lorraine heard a radio interview with Mick Ebeling, the founder of Not Impossible Labs, discussing the Eyewriter, a glasses-like device that enables people who can’t move to create art by moving their eyes. She reached out to the team about working with her husband. Not Impossible Labs is a startup that leverages “technology for the sake of humanity,” creating tools for individuals that could potentially help others.
Javed Gangjee, an engineer and volunteer, began working with Don, developing a computerized version of the letter board that he could operate independently. With the program, any message Don scripted, by making eye contact with each letter, the computer would then speak.
Using this setup, Don told Lorraine, “I am looking forward to the next 25 years.”