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Thursday, 27 November 2014

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Mayor launches campaign to help Cumbrian woman 'speak'

A 24-year-old woman who hasn’t spoken in her life could be about to utter her first words, thanks to a new £12,000 fundraising drive.

Laura Oglanby photo
Laura Oglanby

Laura Oglanby, of Queen Street, Aspatria, suffers from cerebral palsy and has been unable to speak since birth.

She is now the centre of a new fund-raising campaign, 'Let Laura Speak', by Allerdale mayor Len Davies. He wants to raise the money to buy her computer equipment to help her talk, similar to that used by scientist Professor Stephen Hawking.

Mr Davies, 70, who is also a  town councillor for Cockermouth, said he was “astonished” when he found out she couldn’t talk.

“I couldn’t even begin to imagine not being able to speak,” he said. “It’s something you take for granted.

“We are going to work our socks off to get Laura talking and when I hear her speak for the first time I will be doing an Andy Murray-style celebration!”

Laura, 24, has been using a wheelchair since she was a year old, with virtually no limb movement.

The machine Mr Davies wants to buy is an Eye Gaze and would involve Laura using her eyes to produce a computerised voice similar to the device used by Professor Stephen Hawking.

It is estimated that the kit will cost around £12,000 and will be supplied by the Sequal Trust charity, which provides communication aids for disabled people.

Laura’s mother Berni, 51, said: “She does get frustrated not being able to speak. You can see that in her face.

“It was great when I heard that Len would be fundraising for Laura.

“I have always said that if someone gave me a wish for either Laura to walk or talk, it has always been to talk. It would be great to have a conversation.

“It will be nice to hear her speak for the first time.”

Andrew Lawson, Workington town and Allerdale councillor, plans to support the effort by doing a sponsored sky dive.

Laura’s brother Nathan, 21, is organising a football dinner, with an auction of football memorabilia and guest speaker. Laura is huge Carlisle United football fan and regularly attends matches.

Any money left over from Mr Davies’s year as mayor will go to the sea cadets, army cadet force and air training corps.

He took over the chains and robes of office from Bill Bacon.

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