This weekend, we had the opportunity to do something with Schuyler that I’ve been looking forward to doing for a very long time. We took her to see The Theory of Everything, the new motion picture biography of the noted theoretical physicist and early assistive technology pioneer Stephen Hawking. For obvious reasons, I was very interested in how she would respond to seeing his story play out.
For myself, I found the film to be outstanding. Not so much for the science, which gets a pretty bare treatment aimed largely at dummies like me. But as a portrait of a brilliant but complicated and flawed human being dealing with both profound disability and the intricacies of deep love, it works incredibly well. Eddie Redmayne’s performance is absolutely astonishing.
The film’s depiction of Hawking’s assistive technology is extremely effective. For dramatic purposes, the inherent delay of AAC communication is presented with a great deal of license, but the characters do make reference to Hawking’s slow pace of speech, so the audience is at least aware of the editorial choice to leave those delays out of the narrative. The film by and large gives a respectful and accurate look at how technology can make a real difference in the lives of people with disabilities. Speech tech gave Stephen Hawking the ability to communicate his powerful vision of time and space and the origins of our universe, and in doing so made the world a far richer and better place. Not just for one man or his family, but for the entirety of human civilization. That’s not too bad.
Over the weekend, Schuyler shared her own thoughts about the movie on her Facebook page. With her her permission:
Dear friends from Facebook,
My parents and I went to the movie theater and saw a movie called the theory of everything and I think it’s good to see someone else that used a device like me. Stephen hawking is a great and a smart man who knows science and technology with his teachers in college. I think it changes him about writing a book about black holes in space. It’s cool to how about the first man who used a device and can’t walk and talk. I feel happy to use my iPad to talk about my future and i want to go and see the new version of the world.
P.S: what do you want to go and see your future? Just let me know.
We talked about the film over the weekend, and a few interesting points came up. For one thing, Schuyler thought it was funny that Hawking, an Englishman, uses a synthetic voice with an American accent, while her own electronic voice has an English accent. And it wasn’t until I mentioned her first experience with some very simple AAC technology that Schuyler confessed that she doesn’t really have any memory of her life before assistive technology became a part of it. That hadn’t actually occurred to me before.
But I have to be honest. Schuyler didn’t have much interest in talking at length about Stephen Hawking’s AAC use. She wanted to know about the man himself, which made me incredibly happy. And then she wanted to talk about Smaug, the dragon from The Hobbit.
Because she’s Schuyler. Monsters trump everything. That’s her everything.
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