POSSUM 1960: The Birthplace of the modern-day Assistive Technology Movement

Another incredible video from POSSUM for those fascinated with the history of Assistive Technology (AT) or Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) devices.

You can catch a glimpse of my personal hero, Reg Maling, in this clip (in white lab coat) who alongside Derek Clarkson built the POSM device (Patient Operated Selector Mechanism). Amongst many firsts, was the first sip-puff input device, the first electronic scan and select environmental control system and the first Electronic AAC device that wasn't morse-code based. This also led into the Possum User Association (now the Sequal Trust), which brought together (and was run by) people using this new pioneering assistive technology.

The influence of the POSM through the people it reached is hard to over-state. This included many thousands of people enabled by this technology to live fuller more independent lives such as the poet Hilary Pole and computer programmer Dick Boydell. It influenced the likes of AbilityNet, NASA, Toby Churchill, the systems used by Stephen Hawking, the work Apple do today with switch access and much more.

I'm hoping to spread a little more light on this underestimated work and its influence with my book the One Switch 100.

A young man in a wheelchair has a sip-puff tube in his mouth, looking at an illuminated alphabet and command board in front of him (via light-bulbs). A type-writer with magnifying glass sits between them.

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4 Responses to 'POSSUM 1960: The Birthplace of the modern-day Assistive Technology Movement'

  1. # Blogger Douglas Fir-tree

    It's come along way from its original conception the current version I'm currently trialling on a galaxy tablet it's absolutely fantastic and I do not know what I would do without.  

  2. # Blogger OneSwitch.org.uk

    Yes, definitely! Would that be the Qwayo? I was very impressed when I saw it earlier this year. Great to have such full access on an Android machine. Do you play games with it at all out of interest?  

  3. # Blogger Douglas Fir-tree

    Hi Barrie yes I saw it at the Naidex show a number of years ago and really liked the Qwayo I have had my Possum for over a decade it was very workmanlike a horrible beige colour, but it did exactly what it said on the tin.
    I phoned Bristol NHS environmental control people and badgered them to let me loose on one and I am currently the test guinea pig, the guys are actually coming down on Wednesday for me to make some suggestions comments.
    It's a great having the Internet in bed as well as all the normal controls for TV, SKY, door entry, telephone, Electric sockets which in the summer it's an absolute necessity to be able to cool down by using a fan independently of my overnight carer.
    Hope you are well, still looking to get the puff blow control system for xbox going which we discussed previously!

  4. # Blogger OneSwitch.org.uk

    Hi Douglas, that's really cool re. the power Qwayo is bringing. Good to be a guinea pig sometimes, if you get the latest gear. Re. Xbox One with puff/blow.... I've got this working well, but it needs a bit more work still. I think there's a way to speed this up. Would you be able to send me an e-mail to barrie.ellis@specialeffect.org.uk - and I reckon we could get this moving. Is it Xbox One or Xbox 360 BTW. Cheers! Barrie  

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