José Afonso Braga, 47, was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in 2013. The disease attacks the central nervous system and causes progressive and irreversible motor paralysis. Already in the first year after confirming the diagnosis, Zé, because he preferred to be called, lost all body movements and also sounds.
He even tried the speech targeting application, but most options on the market were limited to English, fixed dictionaries, and confusing interfaces. With information technology training, miners, the father of three children, draw a kind of fight against time to develop alternative ways of communication. That's when WeCanSpeak arrived.
Zé spoke with Brazilian Agência in the living room of the house, in a condo on South Lake, under the supervision of his wife, Valéria Braga. A few minutes before the conversation began, as the photo reporter prepared, he joked: "Put the Tom Cruise (North American actor) type filter on the camera. So I look good."
Chat with reporters occurs solely and exclusively by the eye movements of the interviewee, who are directed to the computer screen lock to form words, then converted into audio. Despite all the limitations, he said that he was fine, especially because of the skilled care he received and the full support of family and friends.
WeCanSpeak's official launch occurred on the last day 3. In less than ten days, there were more than 300 downloads. This tool can be used on computers and tablets and is available for free. The paid version is offered to "more demanding users," such as Ze himself classifying.
Among the basic premises set for application development are: being universal; can be configured (users can create their own dictionaries with complete words and phrases that suit their daily lives); simple, practical, and intuitive (users do not need to go through several commands to pronounce simple sentences); and can be accessed (people with all types of purchasing power can access this tool).
This application even allows to receive friends at home on Thursday for poker games. Gambling, according to his wife, is still early in the morning. "Communication is the basis of socialization and losing the ability to socialize is probably the biggest pain caused by disease," he said.
Asked about his relationship to illness, he said he accepted the challenges imposed by life easily. At the end of a calm conversation, with the sound of equipment that guarantees Zé's mechanical breathing in the background, the sentence ends the interview, almost like a life lesson: "From the first moment, I committed not to leave the disease. Get rid of the joy of life.