Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Communication AT Success Story

Damary Bustos, YO! Volunteer
Hi! My name is Damary Bustos and I am from Hayward, California. I just turned 21 years old last month. I was born with Cerebral Palsy which affects my walking and it’s hard to control my hands movements sometimes. I also have a speech disability which makes it really hard for others to understand me. But I'm thankful that last month I finally got a device to communicate with others!

When I was in elementary school I had a keyboard to communicate with others. Two years after I got it, it acted up and was very slow so I decided to not use it anymore. I'm naturally very talkative but because of my speech disability I was a little shy to talk to others. I started going to a speech therapist when I was in 4th grade so I would be able to improve my speech. 

I was excited every session that I had until, one day, the speech therapist said to me, "Look at your legs, you will never walk! And you will never talk!" Those were some really strong words for a 4th grade girl. As the days passed by, my mom noticed that something was happening to me because I looked sad and wasn't talking like before, so I told her what had happened and we had an I.E.P. (Individualized Educational Plan) meeting with my teachers.

I stopped going to that speech therapist after that, and I decided to just give up and not see other speech therapists. I was talkative with only my friends; during elementary school kids would make fun of my speech disability and I felt so bad.  I would tell on them but that doesn't take away the bad feelings that I felt when they were making fun of me and, as time passed by, I decided to just ignore them. 

When I entered high school, I was very quiet and even a loner. I hated that because I wanted to have friends to hang out with and say stuff without them having trouble understanding me. I think I would have friends to hang out with if I didn't have my speech disability. My sophomore year I was again offered a chance to see a speech therapist. I overcame my fears of what had happened to me in elementary school and decided to see him. He told me that there wasn't much to do about my situation but he said it in a nice way. I still didn't expect that answer but said to myself, "Oh well." I would communicate with others by writing on a piece of paper, typing it as text, or someone else would translate for me.

When I joined DANY (Disability Action Network for Youth) I was happy to be around other youth that have speech disabilities. I finally felt like I wasn't the only one. About a year ago, the DANY coordinator told me about this presentation at the Ed Roberts Campus for people with speech disabilities. So I went and checked it out. They introduced me to an app on the iPad called Verbally which I felt was really useful to me but I didn't have money at the time to buy it. Later in that year my dad bought the iPad 2 but I still never used it.

During Disability History Week I was doing a presentation at a high school and someone was going to translate for me. A day before the Disability History Week presentation the person told me that she couldn't make it. I was worried on how I was going to present with my speech disability. So I asked my dad to let me borrow his iPad 2 and I downloaded the app Verbally and I wrote out my slides for the presentation.  Then, during the presentation I  just copied and pasted my slides from the notes app into the Verbally program and just clicked on the "Speak" icon and it spoke aloud everything that I had written.The students thought that that my presentation and the way I presented to them was so coo.

I used my dad's iPad 2 for like a month for DANY stuff and then I was approved to be a YO! Volunteer with YO! Disabled & Proud.  I realized that I would really need an iPad now that I'm a volunteer because I'll be going to lots of events and I also just made the decision to try out college, too. So I earned enough money to buy my own iPad. Last month I bought the iPad Mini and downloaded Verbally. I take my iPad Mini with me everywhere I go. I'm very happy now that I don't have trouble communicating with others! It’s very easy to say what I want to say and everyone can understand me.
screeshot of Verbally app


  1. Damary, thanks for sharing your story! I am deaf myself and could really use that app! I usually use paper and pen for short interaction with cashiers, store workers, etc. I've tried using speak function on iPhone, but the environment was too loud for that person to be able to hear my iphone speaking. I am wondering, were you able successfully to use that app (or speak function on iPhone) in environment such as a crowded store?

  2. Hello Damary -
    I love your video! I am the product manager for Verbally and I was thrilled to see your success story! I tried to contact AT network via email, but was unsuccessful. I'd love to get you Verbally Premium. The features will be so much better for you to communicate. Please email me at
    All the best -

  3. Carlisle, I just noticed your query about using speaking apps in noisy, crowded environments. My experience with people using those apps has often been that they need to add amplification (speakers) because the iPhone/iPad is not loud enough by itself in those situations. They are a great option though. Cheers, Charlene