EyeGazing Art: In the blink of an eye

by · February 4, 2013

EyeGaze-SarahThey are both artists and make colorful, vibrant paintings. The gentle and swaying strokes of color can inspire anyone to look at life through a colored glass. The languid abstracts and landscapes evoke a sense of liberation. The refreshing pieces of art are available online…but just as one of my good art curator friend asked the first time she browsed through the online gallery, “What is so special about these artworks, nice as they are?”

Indeed, there is something very special. These are no ordinary paintings. These are painted by eyes. Eye movements to be specific.

Sarah Ezekiel and Patrick Bates are both world-famous EyeGazing artists. They have disabilities that make it difficult if not impossible to create art the conventional way. So they braved the world and found a technological solution that helps them express themselves.

British-based Sarah was living the ideal life with her family when she was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease also referred to as Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) eventually leading to a collapsed marriage, extreme muscle atrophy and a very depressing, and scary life.

Patrick, on the other hand, suffers from Cerebral Palsy. But he never let his condition be an obstacle to his education. He has now successfully completed his degree in Social Sciences using mechanical head switches to write throughout his studies.

Both made personal triumphs by starting to indulge in painting. The success that brought a positive note to their lives was made possible with what is called the EyeGaze eye tracking technology which has helped many people who are unable to control their body movement or speak. Through this assistive technology, people like Sarah and Patrick with disabilities such as ALS, Cerebral Palsy, or even like Multiple Sclerosis, spinal cord injury, etc., are able to use their eyes to communicate and express themselves. Not only can they speak or write with this technology, they can even perform complex tasks such as operating computers and controlling appliances etc.

Mada (Qatar Assistive Technology Center) as you probably know is a non-profit organization dedicated to connecting people with disabilities to the world of information and communication technology. In fact Mada has successfully brought Sarah Ezekiel’s art exhibition to inspire Qatar.  Her selected works will be exhibited at the Katara Art Center as part of a week-long series of activities around Disability and Art & Technology. The exhibition will run for 4 days from February 10 to 14 in building number 5 at Katara.

EyeGaze-MohammedMada has already introduced Eyegaze to Qatar. Case in point is 23-year-old Qatar resident Mohamed. He is diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy and is attached to the post-school community service department at Shafallah center as a trainee student.

Mohamed has spastic quadriplegia, needs a wheel chair and needs assistance in all activities of daily living. Mohamed has complex communication needs. Most of his communication is through eye gestures and by nodding his head. He responds by raising his brows to indicate “yes” and “no” by shaking his head.

When he first visited Mada, a full assessment was conducted by a Mada Assistive Technology specialist and this included an initial EyeGaze system assessment. Just after a few sessions Mohamed became well versed in starting conversations on his own and even enjoying himself during these conversations. Today Mohamed is fully able to conduct prayers independently using the EyeGaze device and that is a feat he is very proud of.

People like Sarah, Patrick and Mohamed are all inspirational as well as role models for all of us and the EyeGaze art exhibition is living proof that disability is not an obstacle if you want to let your creative juices flow. So, if you know someone who can benefit from Assistive Technology direct them to Mada. And if you don’t know anyone like that, well, visit building number 5 in Katara and be inspired by Sarah Ezekiel’s special art!

Post By Anirudh Sharma (34 Posts)

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