Communication Technology“Can you imagine knowing everything you want to say inside your head, but not being able to say it out loud?”

As heard on The Ryan Tubridy Show

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Danny Millar is currently doing a Performing Arts Course at the National Learning Network’s Roslyn Park College, having completed a TV and Video Production course earlier. He wants to work in the film industry and is a big fan of Quentin Tarantino. So why is he on The Ryan Tubridy Show? Danny has diplegia cerebral palsy, which restricts his ability to speak. He communicates through augmentative communication technology, which essentially means that he speaks through a computer, much like the late Stephen Hawking did – although Danny’s computer-generated voice is far more life-like than that used by the famous physicist’s.

“Take care not to be fooled by my appearance – because inside, my thinking and language processing is just the same as everybody else.”

Danny references Hawking as an example of the technology that allows him to communicate:

“I do not think I am as smart as he was. What we have in common was a good sense of humour and a way to communicate.”

Without the technology he has been using for the past year, Danny tells Ryan that his life would be “non-existent”:

“Can you imagine knowing everything you want to say inside your head, but not being able to say it out loud?”

When you’re unable to communicate through conventional means, people jump to all sorts of conclusions – something that Danny has been experiencing for most of his life.

“People can be very judgemental and many people have thought I am intellectually disabled – or just plain stupid.”

He went through secondary school almost completely silent because he didn’t have the communication tech he has now and he thought he could be like everyone else, instead of embracing his difference. He used the Note tool on his phone to communicate with people – a slow and frustrating process, both for him and his fellow students:

“People never heard what I had to say because it took me [a] long time to type what I wanted to say. They lost interest waiting.”

The tech he uses now goes quite some way to levelling the playing field. Now, he goes to college on the Dart, attends classes, has his lunch, just like his fellow students. He’s sent his CV to most of the companies on the Irish film and TV database, but hasn’t had any responses, which just goes to prove that many people can experience communication problems. Maybe, he suggests to Ryan, he needs an agent? Sounds like a golden opportunity for some enterprising agent-type. As Ryan says, even the name Danny Millar sounds like a movie director’s name. Let’s hope we’ll be seeing his work on screen in the not-too-distant future.

You can hear Ryan’s full chat with Danny here.

Niall Ó Sioradáin


© The Listener 2020

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