Dundee University professor Annalu Waller knows better than most the challenges faced by people living with disabilities.
The academic was born with cerebral palsy and learned the hard way the discrimination and assumptions people in her position have to deal with.
For the past few decades, the South African has been working with the university in order to make life easier for those who live with disabilities which make communication harder.
She has developed several different methods for communication, including a piece of computer software which uses context clues to create speech for those who have difficulty talking quickly.
Professor Waller believes that helping those who struggle to communicate is very important, saying: “My focus has always been on communication, because that’s what makes us human.
“If you can’t speak or process language, life can be very isolated and lonely. It’s no good going somewhere if you can’t talk about it.”
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She said the work she has done has been incredibly rewarding because of the help she has been able to provide.
She said: “My very first client was someone with a very bad stroke which left him totally paralysed and unable to speak.
“We prescribed him with one of the first speech systems. It was a privilege. Helping someone to develop and find their own voice is something that will never leave me.”
The computer expert also explained some of the main challenges that her and her team face, saying: “Our big challenge is define what people are actually trying to say.
“The majority of people I work with are still learning to write into their 40s and 50s. How do we give those people access to speech?
“One problem is that people make the assumption that some people may never learn to read and write.
“Technology is a tool. Giving people a piece of technology won’t just make them able to communicate.”
Annalu also praised the V&A for its work with Capability Scotland during its design, however she believes Dundee still needs improvement in order to be more accessible.
She said: “I came to Dundee 1989 to do my PhD and Dundee basically adopted me.
“I think that all cities have a long way to go for people with disabilities, however things in Dundee such as the V&A do help.”
The professor also explained that many of the problems faced by those with disabilities could be blamed on society, saying: “I don’t suffer from cerebral palsy, I suffer from people’s attitudes.
“When I first graduated nobody would employ me because they said I would scare the other staff.
“90% of the challenges faced by disabled people are imposed by society.
“People make assumptions about disabled people and I use it to get away with murder.”