Tania Finlayson teamed up with Google’s Gboard team to make morse code a usable language on Android. Photo courtesy of Tania Finlayson.

Tania Finlayson teamed up with Google’s Gboard team to make morse code a usable language on Android. Photo courtesy of Tania Finlayson.

Kirkland developer with cerebral palsy creates Morse code Gboard

Tania Finlayson teamed up with Google’s Gboard team to make Morse code a usable language on Android.

A Kirkland developer, who lives with cerebral palsy, teamed up with Google’s Gboard team to implement Morse code as a usable language on compatible smartphones.

Tania Finlayson, the Kirkland native who co-developed the Gboard feature, has been using Morse code to communicate since her early childhood and teamed up with the Gboard developers in January. The Morse code keyboard they created is currently available for Android device

“I have been communicating with Morse code devices for 40 years,” Finlayson said. “Through those 40 years, Morse code has never really been fully accepted by the assistive technology community.”

Finlayson communicates through device that interprets head movements as either a dot or dash to spell words in Morse code. With the new Morse code keyboard, she can communicate through any device that supports Gboard. The feature also lets users to customize the keyboard to their needs and connect Gboard to external devices such as Finlayson’s.

“Access is important for people like Tania. Anyone who wants to communicate with Morse should be able to use it,” said Angana Ghosh, product manager for Gboard.

Tania’s story

Finlayson was born with cerebral palsy and all throughout her life, she said she had trouble communicating. Initially, she could only answer yes or no questions, but once she learned how to read, she learned how to use a word board that consisted of about 200 words.

She had good control of her neck and used a stick to point to the words. Eventually, her father suggested she try using a typewriter, which opened up numerous possibilities for her.

“Amazingly, my vocabulary grew. I could tell on my brother, and I finally had the chance to annoy my dad with question, after question about the world. I am quite sure, my dad did not, in any way, regret letting me try a typewriter,” Finlayson wrote with a laugh.

She used this method for years until her mother enrolled her in a University of Washington study run by Ross.

“Ross’ device was revolutionary,” Finlayson said. “It had text to speech, a small printer installed in it. I could turn it off and on using Morse codes. I could activate a light to ‘raise my hand in class.’”

Despite the benefits, Finlayson said she was skeptical of learning Morse code at first. She thought it would be a waste of time and that she’d never use it.

“Plus, the Morse code looked hard to learn; there were some days when I rebelled from participating from practicing the drills and everything,” Finlayson said.

Finlayson’s mother pushed her to drill through flashcards on the weekends, despite her protest.

Her attitude immediately changed when she first used Ross’ device.

“It was then, that I, truly, realized that I could say anything and everything that I wanted,” Finlayson said. “I had total freedom with my words, for the first time, and I could talk with ease, without breaking my neck. School became fun, instead of exhausting. I could focus on my studies, and have real conversations with my friends for the first time. Also, I did not need an adult figure with me every moment at school, and that was awesome.”

In consideration of how we voice our opinions in the modern world, we’ve closed comments on our websites. We value the opinions of our readers and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.

Please feel free to share your story tips by emailing editor@kirklandreporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.kirklandreporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 300 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it.

More in Life

Forbes Creek Park. Courtesy photo/City of Kirkland
Kirkland reopening playgrounds

The city states there’s been an increase in compliance in masking and social distancing in the city, leading to the reopening

Diya Garg, left, distributes Mighty Crayon recycles crayons and coloring books for Seattle students. Courtesy photo/Diya Garg.
Getting crayons to kids runs in the family

Eastside nonprofit Mighty Crayon is relaunched by younger sister of founder, repurposing used restaurant crayons

Terry Lentz, pictured, has won the I am AGELESS Community Builder Award. Courtesy photo/Woodlands at Forbes Lake
Kirkland volunteer to receive award for spirit and service during COVID-19 pandemic

Presented by SHAG Community Life Foundation, the award recognizes those whose service, skills and spirit defy aging’s stereotypes.

2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid. Courtesy photo
2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid | Car review

There’s a reason Honda’s CR-V has been America’s top-selling crossover vehicle over… Continue reading

2020 Ford Ranger SuperCrew Lariat. Courtesy photo
2020 Ford Ranger SuperCrew Lariat | Car review

Ford’s venerable compact Ranger pickup went away for a while. But it… Continue reading

Courtesy photo
Sign up for 2020 ‘Run to Rwanda’ Fun Run slated for September

Clyde Hill resident Sophie Sharp, an 11th grade student at The Overlake… Continue reading

Screenshot of the stray kitten and the Rev. Aaron Burt from the July 12 liturgy video.
Stray kitten surprises local priest during virtual Sunday service

“It was one of the most difficult sermons I’ve ever had to offer, because I was trying not to step on her.”

Washington State Fair cancelled

COVID-19 outbreak claims another event

Listen and Talk students playing on playground. Courtesy photo.
Specialty school coming to Kirkland

Listen and Talk is a specialized program for young children who are deaf or hard of hearing

Decorated statue at Marina Park in support of Black Lives Matter efforts. Reader submitted photo.
Ribbons for Black Lives Matter

The display at Marina Park coincides with statewide efforts of the local King County Black Lives Matter chapter.

Kirkland Wednesday Farmers Market will run every Wednesday from June 5 through September 25.
Kirkland farmers markets are ready for shoppers

Both Kirkland Wednesday Market and Juanita Friday Market are practicing social distancing during their reopenings.

TLG Motion Pictures CEO Erik Bernard and TLG founder Courtney LeMarco on a set. Photo courtesy TLG Motion Pictures.
Local production company seeking film, TV pitches from young minority creatives

The Big Pitch competition, put on by TLG Motion Pictures (“Hoarders”), started about six months ago.