I got the chance to meet Dr. Susan Balandine, dynamic president of ISAAC (International Society for Augmentative and Alternative Communication) and promptly I requested for the book ‘Beneath the Surface’ published by ISAAC. She promised to send me the same and she kept her promise.
‘Beneath the Surface’ is collection of writings and art works of people who use augmentative and alternative modes for communication (AAC).
AAC is a way of communication other than by natural speech and comprises symbols, text, pictures, gestures, signs and electronic devices (adapted computer hardware and software). Through the use of these alternative communication devices nonspeaking children and adult express their feelings and reach out to the world.
‘Beneath the Surface’ is creation of 51 augmented communicators from 12 countries around the world. In these expressions many children, men and women who have faced a lifetime struggling to be heard, share with us their ideas and experiences. The emotional range is truly surprising. If there is sadness, loneliness and frustration at not being able to speak in:
Is There a Life After Speech?
Is there a life after speech?
Sometimes late at night
In the silence of my room
I think not
The world is made up of words
Words I cannot utter
Words that no one understands
Conversations only to myself
How can I live without them
It’s like being sentenced to die
Everyday is a struggle no one knows
A loneliness only I can feel
For without speech I am disconnected and apart.
(a poem by Carole Janow of USA)
Then the `Different One In the society’ is the experience of not only Magdelena of Poland but probably of all the Persons with Disabilities.
“I do not like when people pity me. Like those ladies in the shops or people on the streets. They stare at me as if I were a weirdo. I really hate that look. I want people to accept me as I am. Sometimes I just want to stick my tongue out at them. But I never do. I think to myself, it’s not worth it. Often, I ask myself the question, why don’t people want to understand me, isn’t so simple?”
A very simple essay ‘The Definition of Love’ reminds of a similar beautiful short story ‘A Brother Like This’.
The book has all the colours of life, be it anger, wisdom, humour, or even the experience of ecstatic pleasure of simple things.