A man who was left paralysed and brain damaged in a brutal attack today said it was "great" to be able to communicate for the first time in 20 years.

Kevin Beverley, 55, from Barnsley, South Yorkshire, could only make himself understood through grunts until he discovered an iPad application that "speaks" for him.

His first words were: "At last, someone can hear me."

Beverley's family said they are now looking forward to getting to know him properly.

Staff at the Carlton daycare centre in his home town introduced him to the Grid Player application, which allows him to string sentences together by pressing symbols and pictures on his iPad.

"I love it. I think it is good, great," said Mr Beverley. "I can talk. I can play games."

Beverley was left severely injured after an unprovoked attack in Barnsley two decades ago.

His life-changing injuries included severe brain damage, broken bones, right side paralysis and he also lost the ability to speak, meaning he could only communicate by making noises and gestures.

Beverley's cousin and carer, Elaine Sexton, said it was "absolutely fantastic" to converse with Mr Beverley again after so long and said the family cannot wait to find out more about him.

"It's brilliant. It brings him out of himself and we'll have the chance to get to know him better," she said.

"He's going to have a better life. It's definitely going to make his quality of life better knowing he can communicate with us."

She added: "We had an iPad but we weren't aware of this programme. Then the centre told us about it and said Kevin could use it to communicate. This is an ideal solution for him.

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ABOVE: Kevin Beverley using the breakthrough app


"He can't speak at all and it can get a bit frustrating for him - before he was injured he was active and outgoing.

"We've been with Kevin for years so we can tell a lot of things he wants. But now he's been asking for things himself."

Workers at the Carlton Centre, which is run by the Disabilities Trust and which Beverley has been visiting for seven months, said he took to the technology the instant they introduced him to it.

Ray Riley, the centre's service manager, said: "Kevin showed immediate interest.

"Since then we've found out more about Kevin than we have in the past seven months.

"We're able to communicate with him in a way he's never been able to communicate before.

"We know what he likes, what he wants, what his interests are. And Kevin summed it up when he said it was the first time he's been able to speak in public for 20 or so years.

"His first words were 'at last, someone can hear me'. Hearing that made us more determined.

"I think Kevin feels empowered. I think he feels useful, as though he can do things.

"The problem isn't his disability. It's his inability at times to be heard. And Kevin's now being heard.

"It makes us feel very proud. It makes us feel very humble as well."

The Disabilities Trust charity also plans to introduce eye scanners at each of its six Disability Lifestyle Services centres in England.

The technology allows disabled users to communicate through a computer which tracks movement in eyes.

The trust is currently trying to raise the £90,000 required to buy the life-changing equipment.