The Zannah Trust has this week received its third, state-of-the-art, eye-gaze system, thanks to funding from the Barclays Wealth Community Awards. The Zannah Trust was awarded £12,000 for the charity’s ‘Eye-Gaze Project’ in November 2011 and this week has received delivery of the new system. The Eye-Gaze Project is supported by Dr Mick Donegan, director of UK charity, SpecialEffect.

Dr Mick Donegan is a leading specialist in Assistive Technology and his work research draws on his many years of practice-based work as a teacher and technology specialist with extensive experience in assessing and supporting people with complex communication difficulties. He introduced gaze controlled technology to Zannah Pemberton while she was being treated at Putney, following her accident in 2006, which was when he first met Andrew and Christine Pemberton of The Zannah Trust.

‘We are delighted to have received our third eye-gaze system from Barclays Wealth.’ said Andrew Pemberton.

‘It was wonderful to have received this much-needed third computer at a presentation at Barclays Wealth and to have given their staff the opportunity to see this amazing technology in action. This purchase will really enable us to share the system with even more disabled islanders and to give those who already use the technology the opportunity to spend more time using it. It can transform the lives of those who use the technology, allowing them to communicate when previously they may not have been able to.’

The Zannah Trust was set up in memory of Zannah Pemberton who, following her accident in 2006, regained some means of communication, and thanks to the SpecialEffect charity in the UK, who specialise in the field of computer control technology, she was able to learn how to use eye movement technology to control her computer and to communicate by typing using her eyes only, as she was unable to speak or to use her hands to type. Following this breakthrough, The Zannah Trust worked closely with SpecialEffect so that it can help more islanders to learn how to use this equipment. In partnership with Jersey’s health and educational authorities and various professionals who are able to customise the technology, the charity purchased two systems which are loaned to people in Jersey who have severe disabilities.

The £12,000 pledge from Barclays Wealth has been used for the purchase of an additional eye-gaze system so that the charity will now have three systems available for use by people on the island. Since The Zannah Trust Star Gaze Project began, there have been over 10 eye-gaze trials and/or loans of equipment to islanders with severe physical disabilities. In some cases, this leads to a long-term loan, as was the case with Royston Fuller, who used the system for communication, leisure and environmental control until he died recently. Diane De Freitas and James Dearsley, of Mont a L'Abbe School, also have a loan system between them.

James is using the system for early communication activities and his father, Trevor Dearlsey, is delighted with his progress: ‘Because of his severe difficulties with controlling his body movement, we have always felt that the way forward with James was through interpreting his eye movement. This technology gives him a wonderful opportunity to capitalize on his strengths.’

Over its 'lifetime' of five years, it is expected that the Barclays Wealth Community Awards funded system will be used for up to 20 trials and also long term loans. Nearly 40 applications were made to the Barclays Wealth Community Awards 2011 which is open to registered charities in Jersey that are looking for a grant to fund a local project or initiative that will make a real difference to people in a variety of ways. Of these applicants, 12 were shortlisted, with nine securing a share of the increased prize pot of £33,600.

Richard Corrigan, director, Barclays Wealth Intermediaries and International Jersey, Guernsey and Isle of Man said: ‘It is fantastic for us to see this amazing technology in action. Having a third eye-gaze system available to The Zannah Trust will mean even more islanders can benefit from the technology.’

In addition to the £33,600 given away by Barclays Wealth in Jersey, Barclays Wealth Guernsey also gave away £30,000, a total of £63,600 across the Channel Islands. The Zannah Trust continues to fundraise, which will enable them to purchase more eye-gaze systems (to offer a wider choice for more people) and for the continued provision of specialist training and support.