Michael Nash operates a computer using EagleEyes technology with the assistance of Prof. John Michalczyk (Fine Arts), at right. Looking on are (L-R) BC Campus School teacher Marialice Curran and director Philip DiMattia, and in the foreground, O'Neill Library Circulation Assistant Ronald Marsh.
Nash is wheelchair-bound and has no natural expressive language and almost no voluntary muscle movement. He was judged as having the mental capacity of an 18-month-old and classified as mentally retarded.
"But his family saw something else in Michael: a vibrant, humorous, intelligent person, bursting with a full range of emotions," said Michalczyk, the film's director, co-writer and co-producer. "Through his own hard work, his family's determination and a revolutionary program at Boston College, Michael proved the experts wrong."
EagleEyes' innovative technology, developed by Egan Professor of Computer Science James Gips, Assoc. Prof. Peter Olivieri (CSOM) and Assoc. Prof. Joseph Tecce (Psychology), allows people to control computers by moving their eyes or head enabling them to run educational and entertainment software, spell out messages, and navigate the Internet.
"EagleEyes is Michael's prosthesis, if you will, his artificial language," says Campus School Director Philip DiMattia. "As teachers, we are here to help people learn. Eyes usually take in the world, but we have asked Michael to reverse nature and use his eyes to communicate."
In the film, Nash shows that he can handle everyday questions as well as comprehend the wisdom of Shakespeare. Viewers follow Nash's morning at Marshfield High School and afternoon at the Campus School. "Michael is a learner now, not a spectator. Michael's voice is speaking to us in this film," adds DiMattia.
In fact, Nash co-wrote the film's script, with the help of his aide Maureen Gates and following a structure created by Michalczyk. Nash's friend John Cottone '02 serves as narrator. O'Neill Library Circulation Assistant Ronald Marsh co-produced the film, in conjunction with Pulse Media.
"Michael's Eagle Eyes" is the first in a series Michalczyk is producing titled "I'm in Here!" The series will tell stories about overcoming disabilities based on scripts co-written by the disabled person.
"Michael's story of overcoming catastrophic disability is inspiring," said DiMattia. "It offers a great sense of hope and shows that technology can be a great equalizer. If inclusive education is going to be a reality, we need to raise people's consciousness and encourage innovation by educators. Michael has changed people's perceptions of people with significant disabilities."
Michalczyk said, "We hope those that see the film will consider the potential for those cut off from society to contribute."
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