Ashleigh Smith is a deaf-blind user of the UbiDuo, dubbed as her favorite toy. She has been putting the UbiDuo to its full potential for almost two years now. 1) How do you feel about using the UbiDuo after almost two years to freely communicate with hearing people in professional or social settings? Ashleigh: After having many conversations on the UbiDuo for almost two years, I visualize myself as a hawk in flight – after being tethered to the confines in communication with the hearing world. I define communication not only as the exchange of words, but also the exchange of personality… While the paperand-pen method allows for communication, this method does not suit someone who is intellectual, who wants to go beyond the simple things in life such as where did one go to college, what was one’s major, where is one’s favorite place to eat… and the examples are endless. When you desire to connect with someone on a deeper level – whether intellectual or emotional, this often proves difficult because such connection requires the art of relating with one another. Relationship is a work of art in itself. The UbiDuo makes this work of art possible on a deeper level…. I am amazed at how rich I feel after having a conversation with someone on the UbiDuo – nothing is more wonderful than the exchange of personality. After all, aren’t words driven by personality? And especially face to face as I can participate fully in the process of relating… Isn’t this the beauty of the videophone where one can see the other while engaging in conversation? But the difference here is that the UbiDuo widens the lane as it allows for communication with those who do not sign or do not know enough sign to have a meaningful conversation. 2) What is your all time favorite UbiDuo experience? Ashleigh: Hmm… that’s a tough question… I enjoy every experience I have with the UbiDuo. But perhaps the greatest joy comes from chatting with my twin cousins who are elementary age when they could chat on the UbiDuo – that was last year when they were both six years old. Children are these little ones whom I want the most to know. I have one niece who is five years old and though she cannot type one sentence yet, she will eventually. She told me once, “Teach me to type.” Like many people, I enjoy the innocence that children seem to radiate through communication… and not being able to understand what these children are saying is a great loss. 3) What are your thoughts and emotions as you are able to hold your own conversations on the UbiDuo? Ashleigh: That is a loaded question… I have all kinds of thoughts as I converse on the UbiDuo and emotions range from happy to angry with everything else in between. The thought lane has its twists and turns – rarely does this lane stay straight as what comes about during communication is not easily predicted. The richness that the UbiDuo brings is amazing and complex… You just never know what to expect – just like you never know what a firecracker will do before it is set off with a flame. Aren’t people complex, especially when relating to one another? 4) What situations have you used the UbiDuo in such as meetings or social functions? Ashleigh: I have used the UbiDuo in a wide range of situations. Some examples include conferences with doctors, socializing with hearing friends at parties, enjoying family dynamics at the dinner table, interviewing for a job, conversing while on the road, and even conversing while watching a movie in the theater. While my family does sign, they are not able to have meaningful conversations with me in the signs they know. When we needed to connect on a deeper level, we often turned to instant messengers such as AIM and Yahoo or to email. What is missing from all this is the face to face aspect that only the UbiDuo is specifically purported to provide. 5) You mentioned that you have some visio loss. How has the UbiDuo helped with your low vision? Ashleigh: The UbiDuo has font adjustment with the largest being 24 pt. I am sensitive to a bright monitor and the UbiDuo has the option to switch between a bright background to a dark background to minimize glare. Being near-sighted when it comes to reading, having two separate units is helpful in efficiency. I have had other communication aids in the past that were not separate units… and that is probably the main reason why I returned them. 6) What other comments would you want to share with the public about the UbiDuo? Ashleigh: While the UbiDuo is a valuable tool to one’s arsenal for choices in communication with the hearing world, the UbiDuo is not a miracle solution when taking into account low vision in situations that are not on a one-on-one basis – such as weddings, baby showers, conferences, skits, protest rallies…etc. The visual aspects in these situations must be conveyed through a skilled sign language interpreter when one cannot see what people are doing such as sleeping through a lecture, opening presents, throwing flowers, drinking coffee, falling down from a chair, straightening a tie,… these are the visual aspects in communication that the UbiDuo cannot convey and are as integral to personality. For this reason, sign language interpreters are still valuable assets to the deaf-blind community. The UbiDuo would not have served me well when I went to Alaska with the Deaf-Blind Explorers where I went on a glacier to meet sled dogs, watched for whales to surface, watched dance shows on the cruise ship… The UbiDuo would only have served me well when having one-on-one conversations with hearing people on the cruise ship. Therefore, I am still grateful for those who put their time and effort into bringing the full range of the visual experience into our minds through the visual beauty of American Sign Language.