Posted August 26th, 2010 by Engineering

Paralyzed Computer Engineer Helps Develop Technology for Children with Disabilities

The Virtual Music Instrument, a specialized software program Eric Wan  (ECE 1T0) played a role in helping to develop, is among several projects the computer engineering graduate has been involved with aimed at helping children with disabilities. The work is being done at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital, the largest facility of its kind in Canada.

Unlike many of his peers, Wan has a true understanding of the importance and need for such technologies to assist youngsters with disabilities. At age 18, he was diagnosed with transverse myelitis — a condition resulting from inflammation of the spinal cord — four days after getting a measles vaccination.

In the midst of his studies at the University of Toronto, Wan met Professor Tom Chau (IBBME), senior scientist at Bloorview Research Institute located at Holland Bloorview. The pair was connected through a respiratory therapist Wan had worked with while in long-term rehab.

Wan was brought on board as an undergrad to work with the Paediatric Rehabilitation Intelligent Systems Multidisciplinary lab, which focuses its efforts on children and youth with disabilities and special needs and on their families, by drawing on applied science and engineering.

“It was really interesting applying my skills in making software or electronic gadgets that enabled people to be able to do more, and so to improve their quality of life,” said Wan, who had a long-held interest in computer programming, learning the basic type of programming languages at age eight.

Follow the link to read the article on the Toronto Star website.