Shirley McNaughton, CM, PhD
Born: January 3, 1931 - Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Entry into the AT Field: 1971
How I got into the field
Working as a teacher with children who had a physical disability and who also were nonspeaking.
Important event(s) that influenced my early decision to get into the assistive technology field
My major involvement has been in the field of augmentative and alternative communication (AAC). I was strongly influenced by RESNA members - Greg Vanderheiden, Barry Romich, Rich Foulds.
Why I chose the AT field
My motivation was to bring broad communication capabilities to those who are unable to speak and also unable to read.
My inspiration and mentor
David Yoder was an inspiration and supporter of the work I was doing with Blissymbolics. He seemed to always precede me in giving lectures and paved the way for me to share my work in Blissymbolics.
Why the field is important to me and the central focus of my work
Technology is a critical component in AAC systems. The central focus of my work has been to apply Blissymbolics with persons with severe physical limitations. This cannot be done without technology.
My memorable successes and greatest contributions to the field
Some of my most memorable successes involved the early prototypes of Bliss communication displays in the seventies and eighties. I felt a major breakthrough had been achieved - to enable individuals who could only control a single switch, to express their ideas prior to achieving literacy.
I feel the ongoing development of Blissymbolics for over 3 decades and serving as founding president of ISAAC have been my greatest contributions.
My most memorable failures
Failure to market Blissymbolics in a way that would enable this language to help more persons. I responded to this failure by working with other dedicated volunteers to bring assistance to as many nonspeaking persons as we could.
Significant changes and advances in the field since I first entered it
The widespread use of technology with ever-improving synthetic speech. The development of voice output devices that can be controlled by those who have not achieved print literacy. This has made it possible for many individuals to gain the communication and language experiences that can serve as the foundation for literacy acquisition.
On the future of rehabilitation engineering and assistive technology
I would hope forever improving capabilities for the individual prior to learning to read, to control and produce his own vocabulary.
My role within RESNA and what it gave back to me
RESNA has been a "fellow" supportive organization during my years of association with ISAAC.
On the future of RESNA
Hopefully always responding to the needs of those RESNA serves in a practical way and making technology available to all who can benefit.
My suggestions for those just entering the field
Always keep the consumer at the centre of all you do.