Turning Disability Into Purpose

We were tickled to hear DuaneWyatt’s account of how much an unlooked-for encounter with Morse code rocked his life and know he wants us to share it. A seemingly chance event made a life-long difference. 

From the start of developing transceivers we saw how PreppComm’s products could serve customers dealing with disabilities. We understand how valuable that purpose is for users. Over time we have learned about initiatives such as the Courage Kenny Handiham Program that provides tools for people with disabilities to learn amateur radio and other technology skills and to earn their amateur radio licenses. You can easily find them at handiham.org.

Early on we recognized how the DMX-40 and the MMX could be useful to vision-impaired customers with the devices’ audio feedback, and to hearing-impaired folks because of the GUI visually providing the information they need to operate. Now we’re beginning to hear how these devices serve customers with other disabilities, and it’s just plain inspiring for us. We suspect your response will be similar to ours when you come across their own accounts of what communicating in Morse code means to them. We start by sharing Duane’s story with you because we believe it will impress you as well. 

Keying in Morse Code

Duane’s chronicle kicked off many years ago when he was an enthusiastic 13-year-old 4H-er, just enjoying the county fair in Palo Alto, Iowa. Strolling around, he heard unusual signals emanating from an exhibit under the grandstand and stopped to investigate. The sounds fell into patterns, long and short bursts. Dah-dit, dit-dah-dit, dit-dah-dit-dah-dit and so on. When he looked into the display, he saw equipment that he didn’t know existed, and he was intrigued. His brain engaged with the orderliness of the sequences and latched onto the novel language. Inexplicably, it brought him a peace he hadn’t experienced before. As the hours of the day passed, a kindly, patient mentor introduced Duane to the world of Morse code. 

A Different Way of Connecting

Clearly something new was happening. Previously Duane had avoided conversation when he could. No talking, if possible. Although he longed for social engagement, his efforts had only netted him a sense of threat and drained him. Trying to relate to people exhausted him. But this was different. Here was a man who took his time and didn’t challenge him. And it seemed to be a miracle that Duane actually enjoyed stopping at his booth. Completely unexpectedly, he was in the right place at the right time. Lights went on. He recognized God’s obvious provision of solace for him.  

It was a life-changing afternoon. He didn’t have to speak to connect with others. Great news! Friends were there, at the other end of a CW signal, waiting to talk in code. Learning Morse code came rather naturally to Duane with the fun of assembling letter and word patterns. To this day the paddle-user interface intrigues him. He has discovered that each key has a unique feel. The tones soothe him. Stress melts away. 

Finally, an Explanation

What in the world does this have to do with disability? Maybe you have already guessed it, but many long years tolled on until someone finally took notice of Duane’s social discomfort. Not until he turned 60 did someone pinpoint it. A young medical-school-faculty physician recognized his distress, his uneasiness in interacting, his lack of eye contact, straining to make small talk. And he knew what it was: Asperger’s syndrome, a form of autism. In Duane’s case it was complicated by symptoms of major depression. All his sufferings had names. 

If you have experienced anything like that combination of symptoms, you already know that living with those complications is treacherous. It can lead to suicidal thoughts, but, thankfully, Duane turned those over to his Heavenly Father. He regretted his dangerous impulses and vowed, “Lord, if you let me live, I will give my future life to you.” 

Duane Identifies His Purpose

Apparently God approved and even inspired Duane with a plan to help others: Morse Code Youth Outreach, which you can find on YouTube. It disturbs him to watch the effects of high societal stress levels, the hazards, violence and tragedy harrying today’s youngsters. He sees online networking and gaming contributing hassle and danger rather than challenge and fun. He worries about the alarming chaos trashing lives old and young.  

As an antidote to these societal blights, Duane wants to steer kids to learn Morse code, its orderliness and organization, its connection to people everywhere. He is passionate and focused on his mission. He states that missing the opportunity to learn CW is downright tragic. So while his journey has been difficult, he now lives with purpose: introducing kids to the unique and fascinating world of Morse code. 

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