Everyone at AbilityNet is saddened to hear about the death of renowned scientist Stephen Hawking at the age of 76.
We have often featured him on our website because, apart from being one of the best, if not the best scientific minds of his generation, he became one of the best known users of adaptive technology.
Most will know that he was diagnosed with the debilitating condition, Motor Neurone Disease in his twenties and only given a few years to live.
Without the ability to speak, Prof Hawking needed to harness the power of technology to help him In his work. He could at one time control the computer by using one hand, but by 2005 this movement was gradually deteriorating, and he needed another way to use the computer. The technology that he chose to work with to keep him working was a switch which was connected to his glasses and could detect movements in his facial muscles.
This switch was connected to software that enabled him to use the mouse to control his computer. Some people wondered if this would be a barrier to his work but we continued to benefit from his genious. Hear Professor Brian Cox reflecting on Stephen Hawking's legacy
In 2012 Hawking was presented with AbilityNet's Tech4Good Special Award for the way that he embraced technology to enable him to keep working, despite his worsening condition. You can listen to his acceptance speech, below.
Robin Christopherson, AbilityNet’s head of digital inclusion looked at the technology that Hawking was using back in 2015 to not only communicate, but to write papers and also to give lectures. Christopherson was lucky enough to meet the Hawking and gave his reflections on the scientist's death.
“I was fortunate to have briefly met Professor Hawking at technology conferences and exchange a few fascinating words,” says Christopherson. “It’s impossible to imagine a more inspirational ambassador for technology and its enormous potential to change lives and enable people, regardless of any disability or impairment they may have, to reach their full potential. Without technology the world would not have benefitted from the wry humour, immense intellect and almost incalculable scientific contributions of the dearly loved and now sorely missed Professor Stephen Hawking.”
Hawking was a great example of someone who embraced adaptive technology to get his work done and he has been, and will continue to be, a great inspiration to people around the world for his spirit.
Are you an older person or someone with a disability who'd like help using technology? Check out our IT free volunteering service.