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Epping Forest College,
 Borders Lane,
Loughton, Essex, IG10 3SA.  
Tel: 020 8508 8311
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MEDIA RELEASE
Issued: May 3, 2017
PICTURES: Pictures of Mark Stratton for media use can be downloaded HERE
 
Severely disabled student given a 'voice' for the first time
 
He may not be able to talk, feed himself and dress himself - or use his arms and legs - but that does not stop Mark Stratton from being a successful student at Epping Forest College.

Mark, who has severe cerebral palsy, uses an electronic communication 'text to speech' device to communicate.

During his many years as a student at the college Mark has studied English and photography.

He is currently studying on a Meal Prep and Cooking course. He also studied Art by painting and controlling his brush with his feet.

Mark leads an independent life and a very busy one too. He works for a housing association and recently undertook a work trip to Leeds.

Mark's college tutor, Andrea Slade, said: "Mark’s independence also stretches to employing his own Personal Assistants who he relies upon for his round-the-clock care as Mark has very severe cerebral palsy that renders him completely unable to talk, feed and dress himself or use his arms and legs.

Speaking through his new device, Mark describes his days at college as "very good".

Mark 'speaks' by typing using a switch control. His right foot controls a sensor that enables him to select the row and column of the letters on the digital screen.

"I waited for a long time, he said. "It’s from 'The Hub' at St Thomas Hospital. It is easy to operate, I have more control with (my) right foot."

The device can also be operated by the user's eye movement but Mark finds this more difficult as his glasses are too strong for the device to recognise his eye movement.

Mark, who is in his late 40s, lives independently and runs his own car which is driven by his Personal Assistants. 

During his years at the college he has received a number of awards for outstanding achievement. He has also been a student rep at the college and an Equality and Diversity Champion. 

Andrea said: "Mark is very sociable, good humoured and enjoys a prank or two when he can get away with it! 

"He is very popular and well liked among his peers. He is a man that knows his own mind and will make all choices and decisions for himself. He is not afraid to speak up about things that he feels strongly about."

Away from college, Mark enjoys travelling abroad - he has enjoyed a two-week cruise to Barbados - and watching his favourite Liverpool football team.

He also enjoys social networking sites such as Facebook.

Mark has never been able to speak but his father has regularly made him word boards, which he attaches to his wheelchair. 

The board is an alternative way of communicating through a board with key words and the alphabet.

Mark is able to sweep his thumb over to either a key word or spell out each word individually.

While it has been an effective tool it is painstakingly slow, very limiting and needs a familiar person to understand him.

Andrea said: "Conversation for Mark is never private. About seven or eight years Mark indicated that he wanted to bring his communication into the 21st century. There has been rapid progress in technology and this appeared to be the way forward, however the cost of an electronic communication device is extremely expensive and Mark did not have the means to fund one."

A promised device never materialised however Mark eventually learned about The Hub, an assistive communication service that supports adults and children with complex physical and/or communication disabilities. 

It is based at Guys and St Thomas’ Hospital and supports boroughs across London.

After a lengthy procedure, Mark was accepted for a device and through the service, will now receive loans of electronic communication devices for life.

Andrea said: "To say that Mark was ecstatic was an understatement."

Mark received his first device earlier this year.
 
Issued by the Everything Local News media service - www.everythinglocalnews.co.uk - part of the Everything Epping Forest local news and information website.
Contact: David Jackman 07710 447868
Copyright © Everything Local News, on behalf of Epping Forest College.

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