We made a performance yesterday with T., a 61-year old man in a wheel chair. T. has limited movement, but good control and he told us that he loved the piano, so we let him play Adrien's patch. Since he could not raise his arms above his head, we adapted the controllers so that he could play the chord generator at a position above his right shoulder.
The patch he was using, by Adrien Garcia, gave him control over musical combinations of notes. T. controlled his gestures and expressed something from inside himself. Now, you might want to say that it was the _fact_ that he played piano that made people clap so long and not _what_ he played, but you were not there! From where I was sitting, it looked like human spirit transformed into something more universal -- the word I believe is "art". He only had about 5 minutes to practice; imagine if we had had weeks and months!
The challenge we face today is not the technology, but the mindset. Profound differences in bodies and mental functioning limit people in many ways, but they can also give a person a special power of expression. Through them, as with any artist, we might see ourselves in a new way.
We can make the tools, but will they reach those who need them?
There's nothing I hate more than when artistic impulses are not given the chance to breathe. There is no reason on earth -- no good reason -- why this gentle man, or the millions in some way like him, should be denied the tools for artistic expression.
It is not just a matter of principle, its the law! The UN charter Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (1996) describes the principle of full participation in society, including cultural activities.