Non-verbal Minnesota girl uses technology to order food for first time

A young girl in Foley, Minnesota ordered her own lunch for the first time Wednesday. It may have appeared to be a simple trip out for lunch, but it ended with a remarkable breakthrough that changed everything for her.

McDonald’s opened their indoor dining for 11-year-old Harley Walker for a moment that would alter her life forever.

"I just witnessed my daughter talk for the first time and order her own food," said Melissa Walker, Harley’s mother.

Harley has Cerebral Palsy and is non-verbal.

"I want to be able to communicate with her," said Walker. "And we’ve tried so many other avenues - Sign language - but because of her vision that doesn’t work."

A few weeks ago, her teachers at Foley Intermediate School got a device made by Tobii-Dynavox. It’s a technology called Eye Gaze.

"Yeah, these are her different buttons that she uses throughout the day," her teacher, Andrea Overman, said. "And we just created a McDonald’s one so that she can place her order."

When she locks her vision onto an icon for more than 0.4 seconds, she makes her choice.

Walker ordered a chicken sandwich Wednesday, which was an emotional breakthrough for her, but also for her mother, who always assumed she wanted cheeseburgers.

"And I don’t usually get her orange, we usually get her Sprite," her mom added. "Now I know that Harley likes chicken sandwiches and orange drinks. That’s amazing."

The technology allows her to do more than choose things. She can select emotions, or if she is sick, she can communicate what hurts.

"Harley has six siblings that are so excited for this," said Walker. "They just want to talk to their sister."

"I want all people with disabilities to be able to communicate," said Overman. "It saddens me that she didn’t have a voice, but now, with this technology, she’s able to have it."

It was a simple trip for lunch, but it changed so many lives forever.