Stephen William Hawking was born on 8th January 1942, exactly 300 years after the birth of Galileo. He was born in Oxford, in England (the place of the famous university). When he was about eight, his family moved to St. Albans, which is about 20 miles north of London, and when he was eleven, he went to St. Albans school and then onto Oxford University College. At college, Stephen wanted to study Mathematics (his father would have preferred him to do medicine), but Maths was not available at University College, Stephen had to do Physics instead. After three years of lazy work, he was awarded a first class honours degree in Natural Science.

Stephen requires special needs because he has motor neurone disease. Motor Neurone Disease is the name given to a group of related diseases affecting the Motor Neurones in the brain and spinal cord. Motor neurones are the nerve cells along which the brain sends instructions, in the form of electrical impulses, to the muscles. Stephen got a severe case of pneumonia, which led to the loss of his speech.

Stephen can not use standard IT equipment because he can not move much. He can move his hands but he can not move much else.

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Stephen went onto Cambridge to do research in Cosmology.

After he gained his Ph.D. he became a research fellow and then got promoted to a professorial fellow at Gonville and Caius College.

Stephen has many honours; he has a CBE, a CH and is a fellow of the US National Academy of Sciences.

How he uses IT for his special needs

Working Life

Stephen has to use a computer system to communicate with; he uses IBM Compatible computers on his specially designed wheelchair. His computers run off batteries from underneath his wheelchair, and the screen is mounted on the arm of his wheelchair where he can see it. Stephen uses a programme called Equalizer, which is written by a company by Words Plus inc. A cursor runs across the upper part of the screen, he stops it by pressing a switch in his hand. In this way he can select words that run across the bottom of the screen. When he has built up a sentence, he sends it to the speech synthesiser which ‘says’ the sentence. He can save what he has ‘said’ to his hard disk, and he can write lectures with the programme.

Because Stephen is a university lecturer, he needs to be able to communicate with his class of students. An advantage he has is that he can write his lectures hours before he has to say them and when he gets to the lecture, he can just press a button on his dashboard and he starts the lecture.

If Stephen needs to make a phone call at work, he can do it like any normal person. He can connect his mobile phone to his wheelchair and he can select the person he wants to call on his wheelchair and it dials the number on his mobile phone. He then uses his usual software to ‘talk’ to the person on the other end of the line.

Home Life

A lot of IT equipment is required at Stephen’s home. He has many technologies around his house that helps him live a normal life. .

Because Stephen is in a wheelchair, he is restricted from doing things like turning on lights or putting the kettle on for a cup of tea in the morning. But to enable Stephen to do this, he has a universally programmable infrared remote control attached to his wheelchair. This helps him operate many electronic items in his home, such as TV’s, Video Players and hi-fi systems.

He also has a radio-control affixed to his computer system, which enables him to open doors and turn on lights etc at the touch of a button.

Social Life

To have a social life, Stephen needs to be able to communicate with people in some way. The main way he communicates is by using his IT software to speak. If Stephen did not have this software, he would not be able to ‘say’ what he thinks. I think that this, along with his wheelchair is the most important peice of IT equipment he owns.

The phone he owns will play a vital part in his social life as he can not go out as regularly in public as he would if he did not have his condition, he can make phone calls to anybody in his family or friends like any normal person.

He can send e-mails off his wheelchair if he puts the internet on his computer. This can be useful if he needs to write to somebody (because he can’t write manually), or if he needs to speak to somebody very far away.

Reporting my Findings

He uses computers because if he did not, everybody would have to push him around in his wheelchair and he would not be able to talk. This is because his computer controls the operations of the chair; he controls this by moving his joystick on his dashboard. He needs his computer to speak, this works by him putting the required information into the synthesiser that ‘says’ the words for him.

Stephen uses remote controlled doors because if he did not have it he would not be able to open doors. This is because when he presses a button on his dashboard, it operates a motor in the door, which opens the door. The infra-red remote control

works because all of his electronic appliances work on the same frequency and he only needs the remote on his computer to operate. Stephen phones people by having pre-entered numbers in his wheelchair and when he presses an entry; it dials the numbers for him. He has sensors in his doorways and when he passes through the doorways, the sensors in the wheelchair communicate with those in the door, which, in turn, operates the light bulb.

Conclusion

I found out that if Stephen did not have IT, he would not be able to be independent. He would need a person with him all the time to help him operate normal, everyday things. This technology meets Stephen’s needs very well; he is able to live a life, which is as ordinary as it can be for a person with a disability as bad as his. The reason it is so important that this man needs all these special needs is because he is a very important person, he has lived over 30 years of bad motor neuron syndrome, if he did not have all of the technology he has, is doubtful that he would have lived as long as he has.

Stephen would not have a very good social life if he did not have these technologies, he wouldn’t be able to tell people how he felt and from a professional’s point of view, he wouldn’t be able to work because he could not give his lectures at university. He may have many more health problems if he did not have IT because he would not be able to tell the doctor what is wrong with him.

He has a wife and children, I think that if he did not have the technologies that he has, I don’t think his marriage would have lasted.

To conclude, I think that in the future, many people will be having exactly the same type of IT technologies as him to help with their disabilities.

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