As suddenly as he lost his ability to speak last fall, Stuart Sanderson’s connection to the world outside his Philadelphia nursing-home room was severed because of anxiety over a simple webcam.
A compact video camera on his computer monitor allowed him to speak to family even without a voice. Stu, as he prefers to be called, has cerebral palsy, but video calls put him in touch with his ailing father and his brother, who would take the time to read his lips.
But to Inglis House, the nursing home where he has lived for decades, the camera was a watchful eye, scrutinizing its staff’s every move and capturing images of people whose privacy they’re responsible to protect.
Stu’s computer equipment was abruptly removed in mid-December, and he was asked to write a note defending his access to it. Family members called it a “cruel hurdle” for a man with limited mobility who selects each letter by pushing the back of his head against a switch.
In another note pleading for his webcam to be returned, Stu, 59, wrote: “WE ARE NOT SPYING ON ANYBODY!”
The Sandersons unwittingly became part of a splintered national debate about the role of video cameras in long-term care facilities.