By Javier Chavez, AAC device user
My name is Javier Chavez but I also go by Javy. I have been an AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication) user for about 30 years. I started to use the Prentke Romich communicators when my parents and I moved to Salinas, California from Puerto Penasco, Sonora, Mexico at the age of 9. My speech therapist, from my school, gave me the Touch Talker communicator to use because my speech was not clear enough. My cerebral palsy not only affected my speech, but also my body movement. My speech therapist would put a head pointer on my head in order for me to operate the communicator. At first I resisted using the communicator because I wanted to use my own voice.
Some years had passed and Prentke Romich Company released a new communicator called ‘Liberator’. My speech therapist and my teacher wanted for me to use the Liberator because they believed that I would benefit from it. I have to admit that the Liberator had many more cool features than the Touch Talker. Using the Liberator, I noticed that it was easier for others to understand me. On the other hand, my head pointer was embarrassing for me to use. At that time, I was in my teen years; therefore, I did not want to look funny for girls. As I became mature, I got over the embarrassment. I noticed when I used the Liberator; that I did not have to rely on others to interpret for me. I started to like the feeling of independence from using the Liberator. When the Pathfinder came out, which was the newest communicator available, I reached out to my insurance company to see if it was possible for them to purchase one for me. The insurance was able to purchase a Pathfinder for me.
When I graduated the director from the AAC department, at my school, offered me a job as an AAC mentor/trainer. I was surprised because I never imagined that I would be able to help others learn to use their communicators effectively. Using my Pathfinder, on a weekly basis I would deliver speeches to my students. At home I would compose the speeches to be ready for the next time that I would meet with my students. Throughout my speech I would ask questions and would have them respond back using their communicator. I would not only give them speeches; I would also demonstrate different techniques for them to try. For example on meeting days with my students, I would use a regular speakerphone to call the library to ask for certain books. Sometimes I would call different pizza places to ask if they had any deals going on. The students’ teacher would invite me to their field trips which gave me the opportunity to demonstrate even more in a different environment.
My communicator has become very essential because it is the only way I can communicate effectively. When I wanted to become a U.S. Citizen, like many people I had to go through the process. I knew that at my immigration appointment I would have to use my communicator to maintain a successful conversation with the immigration clerk. After I studied all the citizen questions, I programmed my Pathfinder with all of my responses. Of course during my interview I was nervous because it was a very important day for me. After 4 or 5 questions of history, the interviewer stood up and said to me, “Congratulations! You have passed the test!” She also congratulated me on how well I communicated using my communicator. I have the privilege to be a citizen of this awesome country.
When my family and I moved to Bakersfield, we didn’t have any relatives or friends. In order to find addresses to places such as, the Department of Rehabilitation, the Social Security office, etc. I used the internet to access the phone numbers to contact them. I called them using my communicator. When I would call these offices, I already had a pre-programmed sentence which said, “Hello I am using a machine to speak with you, but I understand everything. Can you please be patient with me because I need several minutes to program my answers?”
A year later, my Regional Center case worker introduced me to the director of the Assistive Technology Department. She felt that he could help whenever I needed aid with assistive technology. At my meeting date with the director, after a few minutes of chatting with him, he asked me what I wanted to do in the future. I explained to him about my job at the school in Salinas and I asked him if he can help me find a job similar to that one. Unfortunately he couldn’t hire me at the time but he offered me a volunteer position; entering data in the computer and I gratefully accepted it. Several months later, the director asked me if I was interested in forming a support group for AAC users. Of course, I said, “Yes!” with glee and we formed an incredible support group called Chatting with Power.
This group became very successful and influential spreading our messages of hope across Bakersfield. Throughout the time that the group was together, we held social events in order to practice our social skill while having fun. This group became a second family to me.
About 6 years ago, I got involved in an organization which offered me the opportunity to either work in the community or start my own enterprise business. The neat thing about this program was that clients can choose their dream business and use their talents to make it into a reality. I decided I was going to create my own micro business because I thought that my business could help people. In my business, I create and sell all occasion greeting cards. At my home, I write the messages that go inside the cards which God inspires me to write. My business is called ‘Divine Reflections’ and I love what I do. When I am not at home creating cards, I participate in community events to sell my products along with other clients. Of course, I take my Accent 1200 Communication device which allows me to socialize with customers. My opening line is usually, “Come and check out these incredible cards. I have the best ones in town!”
Aside from managing Divine Reflections, I give inspirational and emotional speeches at different organizations and different churches. I would like to tell people through my speeches that there is hope in every circumstance. We shouldn’t question God regardless of hardships because He is always perfectly in control. For example, since God allowed for my speech to be incomprehensible it is for a reason. He planned for me to use the assistive technology. The Lord Jesus Christ gave men the intelligence to invent the augmentative and alternative communication device for those who have a speech restriction to be able to communicate better. I use my Accent 1200 communicator to deliver my speeches. I feel good when I see people laughed during my speeches.
For the past 7 years, I have been writing my autobiography. In my autobiography, I shared all the struggles and the joyful moments that my family and I went through. My goal is to publish my book because I strongly believe that my autobiography could encourage many people to succeed regardless of their disability. Unfortunately when a family member suffers from a disability, the whole family is affected. No one is prepared for the challenge this will add to life. But with love and patience, anyone can overcome any obstacles and preserver through life.
My book has been revised and edited several times by different people but my book needs a final editing by a professional author. I have done a lot of research on professional editors and found that they charge a lot of money. I understand editing is hard and tedious. I researched online and found this editor who is local and not as expensive as others. Unfortunately my business doesn’t produce enough revenue for me to pay the editor. I was awarded a grant that will cover the publishing expenses. However, I am short with covering the editing fee. Therefore, I need $5,000 to pay this professional editor to do the final editing.
I am searching for generous people who would like to distribute toward my dream. Any amount that you donate is greatly appreciated.
If you wish to donate towards my dream/goal, you could go to my Go Fund Me Page
If you have any questions email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks May the Lord Jesus Christ bless you abundantly
P.S. Thanks PRC for having great communicators for our needs.
Communicators In Action