Numerous articles have been written about Ivan Bakaidov, a young man afflicted with cerebral palsy (CP) who has been labeled a genius. At one year of age, Ivan was diagnosed with CP, a neurological motor disorder that affects both his upper and lower body. Ivan has very stiff muscles and uses a wheelchair for mobility. He also has a condition called dysarthria, which means that his speech is unclear or very difficult to understand due to his motor problems.
When Ivan was six years of age, he went in front of a medical commission near his hometown of St. Petersburg, Russia. Ivan was unable to write, speak or move, and the commission assigned him to a special needs class for children who have severe intellectual disabilities.
Ivan was not in the special needs class for very long. A math teacher was astonished by his math ability, and Ivan was moved to a progressive school that focuses on children with motor disorders. At this school, Ivan noticed a little girl who had a very limited ability to communicate. Her assistants and teachers would give her two options to choose from – often in the form of pictures. Ivan wanted to help his schoolmate and others who have difficulty communicating, so he decided to create a computer program to help with communication. Ivan created the program, called DisQwerty, in one night. The program is a computer app that allows a person’s assistant (or parent, teacher, friend, etc.) to scroll through a screen that shows many common words or phrases. The app remembers phrases and words that the “speaker” picks so that they can be easily recalled.
Ivan uploaded the program to his website and made it free for everyone. Many people wrote about how Ivan had revolutionized how people with motor-related speech disorders and other disabilities are able communicate. Some said that similar software had not existed in Russia, and others called Ivan a computer guru. Ivan claims his software is simple, and that Russians with cerebral palsy and other disorders do not have access to software and assistive devices / equipment as easily as people in the West do.
Ivan has made a follow up program to DisQwerty – a program that vocalizes what a person wants to say. He has been trying to raise the profile of those who are afflicted with cerebral palsy. Ivan has met Prince Charles, and he has given a speech at the World Humanitarian Summit. He remains busy, participating in the Paralympics, where he won a silver medal in Boccia a few years ago. Ivan is also an avid cyclist, using a modified tricycle to go on journeys that are sometimes fifty kilometers or more.
Today, Ivan is a university student and advocate for persons with developmental challenges. He has created numerous computer programs and is a member of the St. Petersburg Bocce team.
A Michigan native who graduated from both Michigan State University and Cooley Law School, Mr. Weidenfeller has limited his practice of law to representing individuals who have been permanently injured and families who have lost a loved one as the result of medical errors for more than 20 years. In that time, he has been featured on the cover of Michigan Lawyer’s Weekly and has spoken to many and varied professional groups about trial practice and effective communication.