Assistive technology helps woman with cerebral palsy find career in cinematography


Sady Paulson was born with cerebral palsy. Assistive technology has provided Paulson with many opportunities that help her succeed in adulthood. With adaptive switches on her electric wheelchair’s headrest, Paulson has learned to use various technologies that help her connect with the outside world. She earned a full scholarship to Full Sail University where she received a degree in digital cinematography and has become a very talented cinematographer. The Anne Carlsen Center TechnoCamp at Camp Grassick in Dawson, North Dakota, has helped Paulson and many other individuals learn different technologies that have transformed their lives.

Mark Coppin, director of assistive technology at Anne Carlsen Center, first learned about Paulson’s desire to edit videos at TechnoCamp. One activity individuals can learn at TechnoCamp is photography. At the end of each camp, Coppin would take all of the campers’ photos and create a camp video. Paulson saw Coppin working and said she wanted to give video editing a try. “I gave her five photos and showed her how to put together a video. By the end of camp, she had created a high quality video with pictures, movements, transitions and titles.” Coppin said.

“I knew I was witnessing something very special. She was only limited by the technology, not her abilities.”

Paulson quickly became an expert at switch scanning, the technology that allows her to edit the videos with Apple technologies such as the iPhone, iPad and MacBook Pro. She used a software called SwitchXS. Coppin knew the software developer, who would make changes based on Paulson’s needs. Eventually, Apple included scanning software in their operating system. “It is amazing technology and it is incredible that Apple invests time and money into developing this feature into their operating system,” Coppin said.

The Anne Carlsen Center TechnoCamps have drawn international attention. Coppin has conducted TechnoCamps in Ankara, Turkey, and in New Delhi, India. He also has given two presentations in the United Nations. TechnoCamps are designed to serve children with physical disabilities, and an important focus of the session is augmentative communication. Campers attend technology and music classes, participate in recreation and crafts and work on communication. Campers also enjoy boat rides, swimming, hay rides and many other fun camp activities.

The next camp is June 26 through July 1. This year’s camp theme is “Weird Science” and will focus on Science, Technology, Arts, Engineering and Math education (STEAM) activities at camp. Campers will get to run lab experiments with Graeme Wyllie, Ph.D., from Science Academy of Concordia. “Many times our campers are not exposed to science in a meaningful way. We are taking this opportunity to showcase how science and technology can be accessible no matter what your ability is,” Coppin said. “We will have adapted microscopes, adapted telescopes, adapted cameras, telepresence robots and drones for our students to try. Campers will then make electronic books showcasing their science experiments, which we will hope to publish on the iBooks store. We also will have a TV studio set up where students will do a daily broadcast from camp.”

Today’s technology can level the playing field for many individuals with disabilities. Coppin’s TechnoCamps are just one way the Anne Carlson Center teaches individuals’ the power of technology. “I never guessed that one person could affect another person’s life so strongly with one simple suggestion,” Paulson said in one of her videos. “However, this is true when Mark Coppin shared his knowledge of technology with me.”

Today, Paulson is known worldwide for her switch scanning and editing. She has many people from all over the world following her journey. She has support from big names, such as award-winning Sports Illustrated photographer Bill Frakes. One of her biggest supporters is and will always be Coppin. He says she is an inspiration to other individuals. “Sady takes every technology and pushes it to the limit,” he said. “Her drive and skill set and passion will help her go far. She has a bright future.”


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