A few weeks after I got JACO, I was granted the huge privilege of getting to meet its creator, Charles Deguire. He had flown down from Canada, JACO’s birthplace, to meet with the powers that be (aka the Kinova USA guys), and ended up accompanying them to a meeting with me. There was plenty of meeting going on.
He and I were thrown into an impromptu interview which I enjoyed immensely. We talked about people with JACO in other countries and both of our experiences with it, then took a walk around the park and kept on talking, he in his French Canadian accent and I in my disappointingly American one. I got to give my design input on JACO, which was pretty flattering. I also heard firsthand how it all got started, and this is the story I was told…
When Charles was younger, he would summer in a small fishing town whose name I frankly cannot remember. He grew up there around his three uncles, all of whom had Muscular Dystrophy but in spite of it were incredibly active, involved, go-and-do sort of men. They didn’t let anything get in their way, least of all physical impairment. One of those uncles, Jaques Forest- who, incidentally, was nicknamed Jaco- cobbled together a robotic arm for himself with some spare parts and a bit of help. He controlled it with a button that had saran wrap stretched over it (how’s that for ingenuity?). Charles told me of one day when his uncle had picked up a razor blade with that arm, slightly unnerving the family, and then had taken it outside to cut a flower and present it to his sister. This whole town grew up around the uncles- it was and is an extremely handicap accessible place. They affected Charles as well, instilling in him the idea that disabled people have just as much right to mobility as anyone else. So when he studied engineering after Jaques Forest’s death, it was a logical step.
He built Jaco’s arm so that people like me could have it, and I and countless others will be forever grateful to him for that. If you want to help us give this gift to others, please donate to our fundraising efforts!