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10 April 2012, 05:00
A charity based in Oxford that helps disabled people who can't communicate says thousands will be affected when it closes at the end of June because of Government cuts.
The ACE Centre - which has Stephen Hawking as its patron - recommends the best assistive technology for vulnerable children and adults with conditions like Cerebral Palsy and autism to use.
The aids range from simple boards with pictures for children to more complicated systems where people use their eyes to bring up an alphabet to spell out sentences, check their emails and change their surroundings, like opening doors or closing curtains.
The charity says they, along with hundreds of others, have seen funds used to support the 260,000 children and adults who require this kind of service withdrawn or reduced.
Claire Malone is one of those whose life has been changed by the ACE Centre. Despite battling with Cerebral Palsy, a condition that affects her speech and motor control, she is now studying Physics at Imperial College London thanks to the help and guidance of the charity.
In addition to using a specialised joystick to control onscreen software, Claire uses Eyegaze technology, an eye-operated communication and control system to communicate and interact with the world around her.
With this, Claire can speak, write, interact with information technology and even control systems in her home or at University.
Since it opened in 1984, The ACE Centre has provided support for over 5,000 people like Claire who struggle to communicate, by carefully assessing their needs and recommending the right technology that literally enables them to speak, write and access education.
The Centre also provides essential training and free information services for parents, carers and professionals within education and health services .
Bill Nimmo, Trustee, The ACE Centre, Oxford, said they are deeply saddened they will have to close their doors;
“Vital services like ours that provide so much support through high levels of expert knowledge and understanding of people’s needs cannot be allowed to close and we ask the Government to urgently review the sustainability of these essential services.
"Despite significant efforts to ensure the sustainability and future of our Centre, we are unable to continue to operate in the current financial climate.”