Communication. A frequent everyday occurrence. Hardly a blip on our radar. Until it’s not there. Until one needs a simple drink of water and cannot express himself. Until a soldier’s face is contorted with pain and he cannot relay to his nurse where the pain is coming from.

Mrs. Yonit Hagoel Karnieli,, head of Ezer Mizion Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) Division presented on Zoom to 380  speech and language professionals, parents of children with communication impairments and governmental representatives in the Ukraine. The topic was “What is AAC and how it used in Israel.” Following this presentation, the Ukrainian government is interested in further collaboration which is being discussed.

Communication board to be translated into Ukrainian

Israel is considered one of the leading countries in high tech and the Ukrainian government was interested in learning from Ezer Mizion how to raise the bar of AAC use in Ukraine, particularly to benefit their soldiers who have been injured in combat in the current military conflict.

How did Ukraine hear about Ezer Mizion’s  AAC Division?  With the deluge of Ukrainians fleeing                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              their homes and being brought to Israel, the need arose for a segment of the population who require assistance in speech. The speech impairment may have been due to a birth defect, a stroke or the recent trauma of having to leave their home. These people were not able to communicate their needs and Ezer Mizion found it necessary to translate its many communication boards to Ukrainian.  Word spread and Ukrainian leaders became aware of the availability of these innovative tools and requested further information.

This Lending Center is the only one of its kind in the Middle East for speech generating devices and one of the few existing in the entire world.

The Center operates under the direction of Yonit Hagoel-Karnieli, a speech therapist specializing in Alternate Augmentative Communication (AAC). Every year, thousands of devices are loaned to children with special needs and adults with a range of communication impairments.

Two types of speech generating devices are available for loan: units that generate digital speech that work with pre-recorded vocal messages, and sophisticated units such as iPads and talking computers that generated synthetic speech with unlimited message possibilities. The Lending Center also features a unique, highly professional accessibility unit and the “Omer” Center for evaluations.

Twenty-five years ago, at age 58, Dr. Melamed-Cohen was diagnosed with ALS. He was married with six children, a PhD in Special Education, a leading position in Israel’s Ministry of Education, a pioneer of special education programs throughout the country when his world fell apart.

But he refused to give up.

Ezer Mizion’s Alternative Communication Division was at his side. He was provided with an eye-tracker system, a highly complex device which Ezer Mizion was able to successfully train him to use. This gifted him the ability of communication, learning, social involvement and constant personal growth – despite his debilitating disease.

Since then, he wrote 20 books on many topics: research, poetry, education, and prose. Filled with joy of life, he learned how to create pictures digitally. Ten exhibits of his pictures, drawn with eye control, have been displayed in Israel and abroad.

Dr. Melamed Cohen passed away in November 2020 at the age of 83 after a fulfilling life that was enriched through AAC developments.