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Publication numberUS3651512 A
Publication typeGrant
Publication dateMar 21, 1972
Filing dateMay 5, 1970
Priority dateMay 5, 1970
Publication numberUS 3651512 A, US 3651512A, US-A-3651512, US3651512 A, US3651512A
InventorsGeorge D Summers
Original AssigneeFairchild Industries
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Visual display communication apparatus for enabling a handicapped or infirm individual to communicate information
US 3651512 A
Abstract
An apparatus for permitting a handicapped or infirm individual to visually communicate information including a display unit that has a display panel that has a series of compartments containing lamps and has translucent windows located over the compartments that have messages or other similar information. An illuminating circuit is provided to cause sequential illumination of the lamps in either a vertical or horizontal direction upon receipt of appropriate input signals. Various control units are also provided for permitting a handicapped or infirm individual to readily transmit input signals to the illuminating circuit to cause sequential illumination of the lamps.
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Description  (OCR text may contain errors)

[451 Mar. 21, 1972 United States Patent Summers 154] VISUAL DISPLAY COMMUNICATION APPARATUS FOR ENABLING A HANDICAPPED OR INFIRM INDIVIDUAL TO COMMUNICATE INFORMATION [72] lnventor: George D. Summers, Bethesda, Md.

Fairchild Industries, Inc., County, Md.

May 5, 1970 Primary Examiner-John W. Caldwell Assistant Examiner-Marshall M. Curtis Ait0rney--Michael W. York Montgomery [73] Assignee:

[221 Filed ABSTRACT An apparatus for permitting a handicapped or infirm in- 21 Appl. No.: 34,749

dividual to visually communicate information including a display unit that has a display panel that has a series of compart- [52] US. Cl. ............................340/325, 40/132 R, 340/225,

340/286 340/365 ments containing lamps and has translucent windows located over the compartments that have messages or other similar in- [51] Int. 5s FieldofSearch..................340/324,325,334, 337,365, Pmvlded 340/225 286 381, 372, 373; 40,130 R 130 L 132 sequential illumination of the lamps in either a vertical or horizontal direction upon receipt of appropriate input signals. Various control units are also provided for permitting a handicapped or infirm individual to readily transmit input signals to the illuminating circuit to cause sequential illumination of the lamps.

UNITED STATES PATENTS 3,255,442 6/1966 Kimberlin..............................340/334 l5Claims,6DrawingFigures PATENTEDMARZ] I972 3,651,512

INVENTOR. GEO RGE D. SUMMERS MA/W ATTORNEY PATENTEDMARZI I972 SHEET 2 OF 3 i mo INVENTOR. GEO RGE D- SUMMERS %u Q ATTORNEY Om NO N Nw PAIENTEDHARm I972 SHEET 3 OF 3 12s I n QQ Q CONNECTOR 9| |s\ NOB T CONNECTOR 95 TO CONNECTOR TO CONNECTOR 96 TO CONNECTOR 96 TO CONNECTOR 98 9 R O T C E N N O C TO CONNECTOR 95 TO CONNECTOR 92 INVENTOR. G EORGE D. SUMMERS BY;

ATTORNEY VISUAL DISPLAY COMMUNICATION APPARATUS FOR ENABLING A HANDICAPPED OR INFIRM INDIVIDUAL TO COMMUNICATE INFORMATION BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION The ability of one individual to readily communicate with others is almost a necessity in many instances in our modern complex world. Unfortunately, due to illness, speech impediments and the like many individuals experience great difficulty in communicating their needs and desires to others. Many patients are unable to communicate effectively due to paralysis or disease. With such patients it may be essential for the patient to be able to communicate with the physician and other individuals that are caring for him since his proper care and treatment may depend upon the patient providing information on his physical condition or on his senses. In a similar manner it may be important from the standpoint of the patients mental health to be able to readily communicate his feelings to others and it may be a source of intense frustration for the patient if he is not able to freely communicate his desires and feelings.

In some instances, the patient may be able to communicate with others by writing the information on paper. However, this is tedious and if the patient is weak or paralyzed, written communication may be impossible. In a similar manner, the patient could respond to questions that are presented to him by moving his head or some other body member. However, this method requires that the individual who is forming the questions to guess what the patient may want to communicate and thus it is not an efficient and efi'e ctive method of communicating.

At the present time people travel freely from one country to another and this creates problems in communicating due to language barriers. Foreign language translation dictionaries and translators have been used to overcome these language barriers. However, the use of a dictionary takes considerable time and translators may be difficult to obtain and they can be expensive. These translation problems are particularly acute in cases where a foreign patient is hospitalized in a country in which he is unable to speak the native language.

The present invention overcomes these difficulties and permits an individual to readily communicate with others even though he is unable to readily converse with others.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION This invention relates to communication apparatus and more particularly to a visual communication apparatus that have a display panel that can be illuminated and a control unit that is adapted to be easily operated by a handicapped or infirm individual.

It is accordingly an object of the present invention to provide a communication apparatus that permits an individual to visually communicate with others.

It is also an object of the present invention to provide a communication apparatus that can be readily used by an individual who is unable to speak.

Another object of the present invention is to provide a communication apparatus that can be easily utilized by individuals who are sick or weak.

Another object of the present invention is to provide a communication apparatus that can be used by an individual who is unable to use his hands.

A further object of the present invention is to provide a communication apparatus that permits an individual to easily select the message or information that he wishes to convey.

A further object of the present invention is to provide a communication apparatus that is adaptable to visually convey a wide range of information.

The present invention provides a visual display communication apparatus for enabling a handicapped or infirm individual to communicate information that includes a display unit having a display panel including a horizontal and vertical series of compartments, translucent windows having a message or similar information that the handicapped or infirm individual may wish to convey located over the front of at least some of the compartments, and individual illuminating means individually located within at least some of the compartments for illuminating said windows. An illuminating circuit is also provided that is connected in circuit relationship with the illuminating means, and the illuminating circuit has sequential circuit means for controlling the sequential illumination of only one individual illuminating means at one time both up and down in a vertical direction or back and forth in a horizontal direction to illuminate the window having the message the handicapped or infirm individual may wish to convey. A control unit is also provided that is adapted to be operable by the handicapped or infirm individual and has control circuit means that is adapted to communicate with the sequential circuit means. The control circuit means has at least one vertical input switch means for permitting the bandicapped or infirm individual to provide an input signal to the sequential circuit means for causing sequential illumination of the individual illuminating means in a vertical direction upon activation by the handicapped or infirm individual and has at least one horizontal input switch means for permitting the handicapped or infirm individual to provide an input signal to the sequential circuit means for causing sequential illumination of the individual illuminating means in a horizontal direction upon activation by the handicapped or infirm individual. Means are also provided for providing electrical energy to energize the illuminating circuit and the control circuit.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS The invention will be hereinafter more fully described with reference to the accompanying drawings in which:

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of the communication apparatus of this invention with certain parts broken away;

FIG. 2 is an enlarged perspective view of a control unit that forms a part of the communication apparatus illustrated in FIG. 1;

FIG. 3 is an enlarged perspective view of a portion of the communication apparatus illustrated in FIG. 1 with certain parts broken away;

FIG. 4 is an electrical schematic showing an illuminating circuit and control circuit forming a part of the present invention;

FIG. 5 is a perspective view with certain parts broken away of an alternative embodiment of the control unit of this invention; and

FIG. 6 is a perspective view of an additional embodiment of the control unit of the invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS Referring first to FIGS 1 through 3 there is shown the communication apparatus 10 of this invention that comprises a display unit 11 that has a display panel 12 located on its front face and a control unit that comprises a hand piece 13 that is operably connected to the display unit by means of an electrical cable 14. The display panel 12 comprises a lattice 15 formed of crossbars of slightly translucent material in a frame 16 that form a horizontal and vertical series of compartments 17. The rear of each compartment 17 is closed by a panel 18. Translucent windows 19 having a message or similar information are located over and are connected to the front of the compartments l7. Illuminating means comprising lamps 20 through 27 are located within the compartments l7 and are mounted on the panels 18 for illuminating the windows 19.

The control unit that comprises the hand piece 13 is cylindrical in shape and is adapted to be grasped by the hand of an individual who is operating the control unit. Four input switches are located on the upper end of the cylindrical member or hand piece 13 that are adapted to be operated by the thumb or finger of the hand that is grasping the unit. Input 'electrically connected switch 28 comprises a projection 28A that is located on the upper end of the hand piece 13 that is adapted to be operated to close the switch when the thumb or finger is moved upward to push against the right angle extension 29 on the projection. Input switch 30 comprises a projection 30A on the upper end of the hand piece 13 is adapted to be operated to close the switch when the thumb or finger is pressed against the projection in a downward direction. Input switch 31 comprises a projection 31A on the upper end of the hand piece 13 that is adapted to be operated to close the switch when the thumb or finger is pressed against the projection in an outward direction by moving the finger or thumb to the left and input switch 32 comprises a projection 32A on the upper end of the control unit is adapted to be operated to close the switch when the thumb or finger is pressed against the projection in an outward direction by moving the finger or thumb to the right. As indicated in FIG. 2 the switch projections 28A, 31A, and 32A are located in a triangular pattern on the upper end of the hand piece 13. A space is provided between the switch projections that permits a finger or thumb to be positioned between the switch projections 31A and 32A with the thumb or finger pointing at the switch projection 28A. The switch projection 30A projects slightly above the upper and of the hand piece 13 into the area to be occupied by the finger or thumb at a location between the switch projections 31A and 32A. In view of this arrangement of the switch projections 28A, 30A, 31A and 32A they are adapted to be operated by the simple upward or downward or left and right movement by the one finger or thumb of the hand that is grasping the hand piece 13 and thus the control unit is operable with a minimal amount of effort.

As best illustrated in FIG. 3, the crossbars of the lattice form the walls of the compartments 17 in which the various lamps such as the lamp 24 are located. In the preferred embodiment of the invention the lattice comprises a translucent material such as an acrylic plastic that is adapted to transmit between about percent and about 50 percent of the light that is incident on its surface from the illuminating means located in one compartment, to the compartment immediately adjacent to that compartment so that the messages or other similar information on the windows 19 of the adjacent compartments are partially illuminated. This permits the individual who is using the communicator 10 to read the messages on the windows 19 of the adjacent compartments in a dark room and thus makes it easier to select the message that the individual wishes to illuminate and convey.

The communication apparatus 10 also comprises an illuminating circuit 33 and an associated control circuit 34 that are illustrated in FIG. 4. The illuminating circuit 33 is located within the display unit 11 and is adapted to selectively energize or illuminate the lamps 20 through 27 located on the display panel 12. The illuminating circuit 33 has means for sequentially causing the illumination of the lamps in a vertical or up and down direction comprising a bidirectional stepping relay 35 that is electrically connected to the lamps and has means for sequentially causing the illumination of the lamps to the right and left in a horizontal direction comprising a bidirectional stepping relay 36 that is electrically connected to the lamps. The stepping relay 35 comprises suitable relay coils 37 and 38 that are adapted to actuate the associated armature 39 upon proper energization thereof and the stepping relay 36 comprises suitable relay coils 40 and 41 that are adapted to actuate the associated armature 42 upon proper energization thereof as will be described. The illuminating circuit 33 also comprises diodes 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, and 50 that are respectively to the lamps 20, 21,22,23,24,25, and 27 that in a conventional manner prevent electric current from flowing in a reverse direction through the diodes and thus from flowing through the lamps that are not selected to be illuminated.

Electrical power is supplied to the illuminating circuit 33 from a suitable source of electrical power such as a battery 51, that may be located within the display unit 11, through suitable conductors 52 and 53 that are connected respectively to the positive and negative terminals of the battery. The conductor 52 is connected to the bidirectional stepping relays 35 and 36 through a conductor 54 which is in turn connected to conductors 55, 56, 57, and 58 which are communicable respectively with relay coils 37, 38, 40, and 41. The conductor 54 is also connected to the conductor 59 which is communicable with the armature 39 of the stepping relay 35. The conductor 53is connected to the armature 42 of the bidirectional stepping relay 36 through a conductor 60 which is commu' nicable with the armature. The armature 39 of the stepping relay 35 is adapted to contact either terminal 61, 62, or 63 upon proper energization and deenergization of the relay coils 37 and 38 and similarly the armature 42 of the stepping relay 36 is adapted to contact either terminal 64, 65, or 66 upon proper energization and deenergization of the relay coils and 41.

The terminal 61 is connected to a conductor 67 which is I connected to conductors 68, 69, and 70 which are respectively connected to lamps 20, 23, and 26. The lamps 20, 23, and 26 are respectively connected to diodes 43, 46, and 49 which in turn are respectively connected to common conductors 71, 72, and 73 that are respectively connected to the terminals 66,

'65, and 64 of the stepping relay 36. The terminal 62 of the stepping relay 35 is connected to a conductor 74 which is connected to conductors 75, 76, and 77 that are respectively con nected to the lamps 21, 24, and 27. The lamps 21, 24, and 27 are respectively connected to diodes 44, 47, and which are in turn respectively connected to conductors 78, 79, and 80.

' tors 71 and 72. The lamp 21 is also connected to a bell 86 through a conductor 87 and the bell 86 is in turn connected through a conductor 88 to the conductor 81. The relay coils 37 and 38 of the stepping relay 35 are respectively connected through conductors 89 and 90 to electrical connectors 91 and 92 and in a similar manner the relay coils 40 and 41 of the stepping relay 36 arerespectively connected through the conductors 93 and 94 to electrical connectors 95 and 96. The conductor 53 that is connected to the negative terminal of the battery 51 and the conductor 60 that is connected to the armature 42 are also connected through a conductor 97 to an electrical connector 98.

The control circuit 34 is illustrated in FIG. 4 that represents the electrical circuit of the hand piece 13 and the cable 14 that is illustrated in FIGS. 1 and 2. The control circuit 34 comprises electrical connectors 101, 102, 103, 104, and that are adapted to be electrically connected respectively to the connectors 91, 92, 98, 95, and 96 of the illuminating circuit 33. The connectors 101, 102, 104, and 105 are connected respectively through conductors 106, 107, 108, and 109 to switches 28, 30, 32 and 31 that are normally in an open position and the conductor 103 is connected through conductor 110 to a common conductor 111 which is connected to terminal 112 associated with the switch 28 and terminal 113 associated with switch 31. The common conductor 111 is also connected to terminals 114 and 115 associated respectively with switches 30 and 32 through the respective conductors 116 and 117.

In order to facilitate a clear understanding of the operation of the circuit 33 and the control circuit 34 illustrated in FIG. 4 in connection with the display unit 11 and control unit illustrated in FIGS. 1 and 2, a description of a typical operational cycle will be given. Assuming that the electrical connections 101, 102, 103, 104, and 105 of the control circuit 34 have been connected respectively to the electrical connectors 91, 92, 98, 95, and 96 of the illuminating circuit 33, the momentary closing of the input switch 28 by upward movement of the thumb or finger of the hand grasping the hand piece 13 causes electric current to be communicated from the battery 51 through the conductor 52, through the common conductor 54, through the conductor 55 to the relay coil 37 thereby causing the armature 39 to move from its initial position as shown in contact with terminal 62 to a position where it is in contact with terminal 61. From the relay coil 37 electric current flows through conductor 89 and the connectors 91 and 101, through the conductor 106, and through the switch 28 and the terminal 112 to the common conductor 1 11. From the common conductor 111, electric current flows through conductor 110 and the connectors 103 and 98, through the conductors 97 and 53 to the negative terminal of the battery 51. When the armature 39 is in contact with terminal 61, electric current will flow from the battery 51 through the conductors 52, 54, and 59 through the armature 39 and the terminal 61 to the conductor 67. Since the armature 42 of the stepping relay 36 is in contact with the terminal 65 a circuit is completed through the common conductor 72 and thus from the conductor 67 current will flow through the conductor 69, through the lamp 23 and thus causing its illumination and the corresponding illumination of the translucent window 19 located over the compartment 17 that contains the lamp 23 as illustrated in FIG. 1. From the lamp 23, current will flow through the diode 46, through the common conductor 72, through the terminal 65, the armature 42, through the conductors 60 and 53, to the negative terminal of the battery 51. It will be appreciated that with the armatures 39 and 42 in their present positions current can only flow through the lamp 23 since the appropriate diodes prevent current from flowing through the other lamps. It also will be appreciated that switch 28 need be closed only momentarily for switching purposes. When it is released by the operator, the lamp 23 will remain illuminated.

If the individual also is grasping the hand piece 13 then momentarily closes the input switch 30 with his thumb or finger this causes electric current to be communicated from the battery 51 through the conductor 52, through the common conductor 54, through the conductor 56 to the relay coil 38, thereby causing the armature 39 to move from its present position in contact with terminal 61 to a position where it is in contact with terminal 62 and thus electric current is no longer supplied through the terminal 61 to illuminate the lamp 23. From the relay coil 38 current flows through the conductor 90, through the connectors 92 and 102, through the conductor 107 and through the switch 30, through the terminal 114 and the conductor 116 to the common conductor 111. From the common conductor 1 11 current then flows to the negative terminal of the battery 51 in the manner previously described. When the armature 39 is in contact with the terminal 62, electric current will flow from the battery 51, through the conductors 52, 54, and 59 through the armature 39 and the terminal 62 to the conductor 74. Since the armature 42 of the stepping relay 36 is still in contact with the terminal 65 a circuit is completed through the common conductor 72 and thus electric current will flow from the conductor 74 through the conductor 76 through the lamp 24 and thus cause its illumination and the corresponding illumination of the translucent window 19 that is located over the compartment 17 that contains the lamp 24. From the lamp 24 current will then flow through the diode 47, through the conductors 79 and 72, through the terminal 65, the armature 42, through the conductors 60 and 53 to the negative terminal of the battery 51.

Should the individual operating the control unit 13 again momentarily close the input switch 30 this results in the relay coil 38 again being energized in the manner previously described and causes the armature 39 to be moved from the position in contact with terminal 62 to a position in contact with terminal 63 so that the lamp 24 will be extinguished and current will then flow to the armature 39 as previously described and through the terminal 63 and the conductor 81, through the conductor 83 and the lamp 25, through the diode 48 and the conductor 85, through the conductor 72 to the battery 51 as previously described and thus the lamp 25 will be illuminated and cause corresponding illumination of the translucent window 19 covering this lamp.

If the individual who is grasping the hand piece 13 then momentarily closes the input switch 31 with the appropriate movement of his thumb or finger this causes current to be communicated from the battery 51 through the conductor 52, through the conductor 54, through the conductor 58 to the relay coil 41 thereby causing the armature 42 to move from its present position as shown in contact with the terminal 65 to a position where it is in contact with the terminal 66. From the relay coil 41 current then flows through the conductor 94, through the connectors 96 and 105, through conductor 109, through the switch 31 and the terminal 113 to the conductor 111 and then to the negative terminal of the battery 51 in the manner previously described. When the armature 42 is in contact with the terminal 66, electric current will flow from the battery 51 through the conductors 52, 54 and 59 through the armature 39, the terminal 63 to the conductor 81. Since the armature 42 of the stepping relay 36 is in contact with the terminal 66 a circuit is completed through the conductors 81 and 71 and thus electric current will flow from the conductor 81 through the conductor 82, through the lamp 22 and cause its illumination and the corresponding illumination of the translucent window 19 that is located over the compartment 17 that contains the lamp 22. Current will also flow from the conductor 81 through the conductor 88 to the bell 86 to cause the bell to ring. From the bell 86, electric current will flow through the conductor 87 to the outlet of the lamp 22 that is connected to the diode 45. From the lamp 22 electric current will then flow through the diode 45 through the conductors 84 and 71 through the terminal 66, the armature 42, through the conductors 60 and 53 to the negative terminal of the battery 51.

If the individual operating the control unit 13 then momentarily closes the input switch 32 this results in electric current flowing from the battery 51 through the conductor 52, the conductors 54 and 57 to the relay coil 40 thereby causing the armature 42 to move from its present position where it is in contact with the terminal 66 to a position where it is in contact with terminal 65 and thus electric current is no longer supplied to illuminate the lamp 22 and to ring the bell. From the relay coil 40 current flows through the conductor 93, through the connectors and 104, through the conductor 108, the switch 32 and the conductor 117 to the conductor 111 and then to the negative terminal of the battery 51 in the manner previously described. When the armature 42 is in contact with the terminal 65, electric current will flow from the battery 51 through the conductors 52, 54, and 59 through the armature 39 and the terminal 63 to the conductor 81. Since the armature 42 of the stepping relay 36 is in contact with the terminal 65 a circuit is completed through the common conductor 72 and thus electric current will flow from the conductor 81 through the conductor 83, through the lamp 24 and thus cause its illumination and the corresponding illumination of the translucent window 19 that is located on the compartment 17 that contains the lamp 25. From the lamp 25 electric current then flows through the diode 48, through the conductor 85, through the common conductor 72 to the terminal 65 and then to the negative terminal of the battery 51 in the manner previously described.

Should the individual operating the control unit then again momentarily close the input switch 32 this results in the relay coil 40 again being energized in the manner previously described and this causes the armature 42 to be moved from the position in contact with the terminal 65 to a position in contact with the terminal 64 so that the lamp 25 will be extinguished. Since the armature 42 of the stepping relay 36 is in contact with the terminal 64 and the armature of the stepping relay 35 is in contact with the terminal 63, no electric current will flow between the terminals 63 and 64 since there is no complete electric circuit between the terminals and thus the illuminating circuit has been turned off.

It will be appreciated from the foregoing description of the operation of the circuit illustrated in FIG. 4 that the individual who is operating the control unit 13 can cause sequential illumination of the various lamps both up and down in a vertical direction and back and forth or right and left in a horizontal direction by momentarily closing the appropriate input switches 28, 30, 32, and 31 located in the control unit the appropriate number of times. Consequently the individual can cause the illumination of the window 19 that has the message or other information located on it that he wishes to convey.

-An alternative control unit 118 that can be used with the display unit 11 is illustrated in FIG. 5. The control unit 118 comprises input pressure switches 119, 120, 121, and 122 that are located on top of a substantially flat circular plastic base member or plate 123. The upper surface of the base plate 123 is completely covered, except for the switches, by a layer 124 of resilient material such as sponge rubber. The input switches 119, 120, and 122 comprise a flat electrically conductive washer 124 and a flat electrically conductive disk 125 that is located above the-washer and normally held out of contact with the washer by a spring 126 that is connected to the disk and the base plate. Each switch is covered by a thin flexible cover 127 that is made out of rubber or some similar nonconductive flexible material. The switches 119, 120, 121, and 122 are normally open and are adapted to be closed when downward pressure is exerted against the cover 127 by a body member of the individual who is operating the control unit 1 18 so that the disk 125 is pressed against the washer 124. The disks 125 of the switches 119, 120, 121, and 122 are capable of being respectively connected to the electrical connectors 91, 92, 95, and 96 of the illuminating circuit 33 through the respective electric conductors 128, 129, 130, 131. The flat washers 124 of the switches l 19, 120, 121, 122 are respectively connected to a common conductor 132 through conductors 133, 134, 135, and 136. The common conductor is in turn capable of being connected to the electrical connector 98 of the illuminating circuit 33.

In order to utilize the control unit 118, the conductors 128, 129, 130, 131, and 132 are connected respectively to the connectors 91, 92, 95, 96, and 98 of the logic circuit 33 and the control unit is placed in the vicinity of the individual who will utilize the communicator 10. The individual can then press down on the appropriate input switch to illuminate the lamps in the display panel 12. For example, if the individual wishes to cause sequential illumination of the lamps in the display panel 12 in an upward direction he merely puts momentary pressure upon the switch 119 with his arm, leg or some other body member and this causes the flat disc 125 to make contact with the washer 124 and results in electric current from the battery 51 flowing through the connector 91 of the illuminating circuit 33, through the conductor 128, through the disc 125 and the washer 124 of the switch, through the common conductor 132, and through the connector 98 to the illuminating circuit. This results in activation of the relay coil 37 and the illumination of the appropriate lamp in the manner previously described. In a similar manner the individual can activate switch 120 to cause current to flow from the connector 92 through the conductor 129, through the disk 125 and washer 124 of the switch, and through the conductors 134 and 132 to the connector 98 to sequentially illuminate the lamps in a downward direction or he can activate switch 121 to cause current to flow from the connector 95, through the conductor 130, through the disk 125 and washer 124 of the switch, and through the conductors 135 and 132 to connector 98 to sequentially illuminate the lamps to the right horizontally. In a similar manner the individual can activate switch 122 to cause current to flow from the connector 96, through the conductor 131, through the disk 125 and washer 124 of the switch, and through the conductors 136 and 132 to the connector 98 to sequentially illuminate the lamps to the left horizontally. The purpose of the resilient layer 124 is to prevent injury to the individual operating the control unit 118 in the event that excessive force is used in attempting to operate the control unit.

An additional control unit 137 that can be used with the display unit 11 is illustrated in FIG. 6. The control unit 137 comprises four paddle-shaped input switch activating members 138, 139, 140, and 141 that are respectively rotatably mounted to extensions 142, 143, 144, and of a crossshaped mounting member 147 by means of pins 146. Input switches 148, 149, 150, and 151 are respectively mounted on the back of the extensions 142, 143, 144 and 145 and they are connected respectively to the activating members 138, 139, 140, and 141 so that rearward movement of the activating member results in activation or closing of the switch. One terminal of each switch is connected to a common conductor 152 that is adapted to be connected to connector 98 of the logic circuit 33 and the other terminals of the switches 148, 149, 150, and 151 are connected respectively to conductors 153, 154, 155, and 156 that are adapted to be connected respectively to the connectors 91, 92, 95, and 96 of the logic circuit.

In order to use the control unit 137 after it has been connected to the illuminating circuit 33 the unit is placed near the face of a patient or other such individual through the use of a gooseneck connector 157 that is connected to the back of the mounting member 147 or through some other similar means. The individual need only then blow his breath against the appropriate switch activating member to cause sequential illumination of the lamps on the display panel 12 in the desired direction. For example, if the individual blows his breath against the activating member 138 the force of the breath will cause the activating member to rotate backwards thus closing the input switch 148 which will result in current flowing from the illuminating circuit 33 through the connector 91, through the conductor 153, the switch 148 and the conductor 152, to the connector 98 of the illuminating circuit to activate the relay coil 37 to cause sequential illumination of the next lamp in an upward direction on the display panel in the manner previously described in relation to the other control units. In a similar manner the patient can blow his breath against the activating member 139 to close the switch 149 which will result in current flowing from the illuminating circuit 33 through the connector 92, through conductor 154, the switch 143 and the conductor 152 to the illuminating circuit to activate the relay coil 38 to cause sequential illumination of the next lamp in a downward direction on the display panel 12 in the manner previously described. The patient can also blow his breath against the activating member 140 to close the switch 150 which will result in current flowing from the illuminating circuit 33 through the connector 95, through the conductor through the switch 150 and the conductor 152 to the connector 98 of the illuminating circuit to activate the relay coil 40 to cause sequential illumination of the next lamp to the right in a horizontal direction on the display panel 12 as previously described. The individual can also blow his breath against the activating member 141 to close the switch 151 which will result in current flowing from the illuminating circuit 33 through the connector 96, through the conductor 156, through the switch 151 and the conductor 152 to the connector 98 of the illuminating circuit to cause sequential illumination of the next lamp to the left in a horizontal direction on the display panel 12 as previously described. Since the patient or individual using the control unit 137 does not have the physically touch the activating members this embodiment of the control unit is particularly adapted to be used by a person who is weak or paralyzed.

It will be appreciated that the number of lamps on the display panel 12 can be readily increased or reduced by adding or reducing the appropriate circuit elements in a manner that will be apparent to those skilled in the art. Various types of bidirectional stepping relays or the like can be substituted for the bidirectional stepping relays 35 and 36 illustrated in FIG. 4. Six step, 6 volt DC bidirectional plate type stepping relays, part No. SP-2-O6-6VDC available from Dale Electronics, Inc., Sioux Division of Yorkton, South Dakota 57078 have been found to be satisfactory when used in a communicator having a larger number of lamps.

Although the invention has been described with reference to certain preferred embodiments, it will be understood that variations and modifications may be made within the spirit and scope of the invention as defined in the appended claims.

I claim:

1. A visual display communication apparatus for enabling a handicapped or infirm individual to communicate information comprising:

a display unit having a display panel comprising:

a horizontal and vertical series of compartments,

translucent windows having a message or similar information that the handicapped or infirm individual may wish to convey located over the front of at least some of said compartments, and

individual illuminating means individually located within at least some of said compartments for illuminating said windows,

said compartments having walls comprising a translucent material that is adapted to permit transmission of light from the individual illuminating means located within one compartment to the adjacent compartments so that messages or similar information on the windows of the adjacent compartments are at least partially illuminated to permit the handicapped or infirm individual to read the messages or similar information and select the message or similar information the individual wishes to convey; I

an illuminating circuit connected in circuit relationship with said illuminating means, said illuminating circuit having sequential circuit means for controlling the sequential illumination of only one individual illuminating means at one time both up and down in a vertical direction or back and forth in a horizontal direction to illuminate the window having the message the handicapped or infirm individual may wish to convey;

a control unit adapted to be operable by the handicapped or infirm individual having control circuit means that is adapted to communicate with said sequential circuit means, said control circuit means having at least one vertical input switch means for permitting the handicapped or infirm individual to provide an input signal to said sequential circuit means for causing sequential illumination of said individual illuminating means in a vertical direction upon activation by the handicapped or infirm individual and having at least one horizontal input switch means for permitting the handicapped or infirm individual to provide an input signal to said sequential circuit means for causing sequential illumination of said individual illuminating means in a horizontal direction upon activation by the handicapped or infirm individual; and

means for providing electrical energy to energize said illuminating circuit and said control circuit.

2. The visual display communication apparatus of claim 1 wherein said vertical and horizontal input switch means are adapted to be operated by the pressure of a portion of the body of the handicapped or infirm individual.

3. The visual display communication apparatus of claim 2 wherein said control unit includes a substantially flat base member and wherein said vertical and horizontal input switch means are located on said substantially flat base member.

4. The visual display communication apparatus of claim 2 wherein said control unit comprises a hand piece adapted to be grasped by the handicapped or infirm individual.

5. The visual display communication apparatus of claim 4 wherein said hand piece comprises a cylindrical member.

6. The visual display communication device of claim 5 wherein said vertical and horizontal input switch means comprise switches having projections located on one end of said cylindrical member for activating said switches.

7. The visual communication apparatus of claim 6 wherein said projections are located in a triangular pattern.

8. The visual display communication apparatus of claim 6 wherein said vertical and horizontal input switch means are adapted to be operated by the breath of the handicapped or infirm individual.

9. The visual display communication apparatus of claim 8 wherein said vertical and horizontal input switch means include addle-shaped activating members.

10. he visual display communication apparatus of claim 1 wherein said walls are adapted to transmit between about 20 percent and about 50 percent of the light that is incident on the surface of a wall from the individual illuminating means located in one compartment to the adjacent compartment.

11. The visual display communication apparatus of claim I wherein said control unit is connectable to and disconnectable from said illuminating circuit.

12. The visual display communication apparatus of claim 1 further comprising at least one additional alternative control unit adapted to be connectable to and disconnectable from said illuminating circuit.

13. The visual display communication apparatus of claim 1 further comprising audible means connected in circuit relationship with said illuminating circuit, said audible means being operable by said control unit.

14. The visual display communication apparatus of claim 1 wherein said sequential circuit means includes bidirectional stepping relays.

15. The visual display communication apparatus of claim 1 wherein said vertical and horizontal input switch means comprise two vertical input switches and two horizontal input switches.

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Classifications
U.S. Classification340/4.13, 40/573, 340/286.7, 434/112, 340/286.1
International ClassificationG08B5/36
Cooperative ClassificationG08B5/36
European ClassificationG08B5/36