(Editor's Note: The following is the second in a two-part series about Lawrence Smart, a 63-year-old man formerly of Plattsburgh who has no use of his voice due to having cerebral palsy. However, Smart has found his voice through the use of an electronic device known as a Liberator.)
PLATTSBURGH - Lawrence Smart has never let his cerebral palsy stop him from enjoying life, even when his Liberator, the device he uses to communicate, recently quit working.
The device, which had served Smart well for many years, was out of date and needed to be replaced. Pam McDonald, Smart's speech therapist, introduced him to a more advanced Liberator, which is based on the same coding system as his older one. The "Liberator ECO 2" has granted Smart even more independence, giving him more functions at his disposal and the opportunity to make life-changing decisions for himself. He can now talk on his cell phone, go online, and keep a photo album with his new device.
Dawn Pray, a support staff member at Sunmount in Keeseville, where Smart resides, said it is more convenient for him, but has taken some getting used to.
"He gets frustrated, because the timing is different," she said, adding that Smart will sometimes ask fellow staff members questions about the device.
The best part is the machine has granted him the chance to take control of his life, she said.
"He's so excited. It makes him feel really good to tell people his story," Pray said.
Most recently, McDonald has been encouraged him to study along with literacy volunteers at the State University of New York at Plattsburgh to learn how to read while using his Liberator.
"He's expressed to me that it has been a lifelong goal for him," McDonald said. "He's been doing really well."
And, just as Smart's Liberator has given him a chance to partake in activities he could never be part of before, so has a device attached to his wheelchair chair. The steel ramp is specially made to allow him to roll a bowling ball down two adjacent bars to the bowling lane.
He's become so good, he even recently entered in a bowling tournament. Louise Tedford, Smart's sister, watched in amazement as the bowling ball slid down to adjacent bars hooked to smart's chair that allowed him to role his own ball down the lane.
"I was so surprised ... he scored a 122," Tedford said.
The independence Smart has achieved through the use of technology has inspired him to reach for many different goals in his life. One day, Smart would like a job and a house of his own. In the meantime, he continues to be an inspiration to others, with his constant positive outlook on life.
"It's wonderful to see people who have so much to communicate finally be able to," said McDonald.
Now, utilizing his new Liberator, his previous model won't be left out on the curb. When he passes away, he has asked to be buried with it.
"I don't know he ever managed without it," said McDonald.
In last week's edition, it was stated Lawrence Smart was born in 1971. He was born in 1947. We apologize for this error.