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An Open Letter to Tim Cook, Apple's CEO, From a Parent of a Child With a Disability

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Jan. 30, 2018

Tim Cook
Chief Executive Officer
Apple Inc.
1 Infinite Loop
Cupertino, CA 95014


My name is Robert James Ashe. We’ve never had the pleasure of meeting but I’ve been a huge admirer of both, you and Apple, for a very long time. I’ve worked in film and television for the past 20 years using Mac products to plan, design, edit and create works to entertain the viewing public. In my household, you will find Macbook Pros, iPads, iPad Pros, iPhones and a really old mac pro used by myself and my wife. My oldest daughter uses her iPad as her voice. One of the biggest things I’ve always admired about Apple was their commitment to giving people with disabilities access to your equipment. It is because of this fact that I am writing you today to make one small humble request. I am requesting that you add medical terms to the Mac’s spelling dictionary. The word I personally am after is “arthrogryposis.”

I learned about this word just about seven years ago, when my daughter was born. It was one of the happiest and yet most challenging days of my life. My wife and I were given no indication that anything would be different about her pregnancy. It wasn’t until we were in the delivery room, and we heard the words “there’s something wrong” come from the nurses that we knew our lives were about to take a profound change. No one that night in the delivery room knew what was wrong. They just knew she was different. This was the scariest part about the whole experience — the “not knowing.” It was over the next week after dozens of tests and tireless searching by the doctors, nurses and even my mother, that we would learn about the word arthrogryposis.

Here are a few facts for you about the condition:

• Arthrogryposis means my daughter had multiple join contractures at birth in all four of her limbs.
• This means her joints are stiff and “stuck.”
• It affects about 1 in 3,000 live births.
• There’s about 400 different kinds of Arthrogryposis
• The most common is amyoplasia, which is what my daughter has.
• There is no known cure, but through grueling therapy and surgery, we can greatly improve her mobility.

After we brought my daughter home, my family got involved with Arthrogryposis Multiplex Congenita Support Inc.(AMCSI) run by families just like us who are going through the same experiences. I personally decided to try to become a better provider for my new family. I work as a television editor, and I worked as hard as I could using your equipment to show my higher-ups that I could do more for them. In turn, I was given more responsibility, and I get the privilege of coming home from work a happy man. As time goes on, I have been able to lend my talents to make logos for their yearly conference. Last year I created a logo using your equipment for “Arthrogryposis Awareness Day.” Every June 30, they ask all friends and family to wear blue to help support awareness for the condition. My whole family was wearing blue on the 30th, and my Mac-made logo was all over Facebook.

I’m not an activist or a philanthropist, but I’m trying to figure out ways I can help to make a difference. Because of my work schedule, I probably spend way more time with Apple products than my actual family, so when I sit down to feebly attempt to write about the condition, you could imagine my frustration when the spell checker finds words like “arthrogryposis,” “amyoplasia” and “contracture” to be misspelled. I don’t like my computer telling me these words aren’t real. With the multitude of medical bills and thousands of hours of physical and occupational therapy, you could imagine there are no more real words for me in the English language. I’ve tried adding medical dictionaries to the dictionary app and adding a series of about 40 thousand medical terms to the spelling database, but I just can’t seem to get rid of that red underline.

I know I can tell the computer to learn the word, but I’d love to know that from now on, anybody with this condition would never have to have a computer tell them that this diagnosis that affects their lives so greatly is not a real word. This is my way of spreading awareness. Being the smart man you are, I know you’ve also realized that by me writing an “open letter to Tim Cook from Apple” in such a public manner is another way of spreading awareness. I look forward to seeing what you guys come up with in the future as I know the iPad in particular is going to be a great therapeutic device for my daughter in the years to come.

If you’ve made it this far through this letter, I applaud you for your patience and I look forward to the dictionary being updated. Having autocorrect being aware of the word would be amazing as well. It’s hard to type.

Sincerely yours,

Rob Ashe
sent from my iPad.

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Originally published: January 30, 2018
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