Quadriplegic Man Robbed of iPhone He Used to Communicate

William Washington says he could only watch helplessly as a teen stole his special iPhone from the tray of his wheelchair

A quadriplegic man with cerebral palsy who uses an iPhone to communicate was robbed of the device last month from the tray of his wheelchair, he says.

William Washington, 38, is unable to walk, use his hands or talk, and he could only watch as the phone was taken right off the tray of his wheelchair in the lobby of his Staten Island apartment building Nov. 8.

Washington was on the iPhone at the time using a special pointer to type a message that would be spoken with voice technology. According to police, a teenager grabbed it and ran.

Washington described feeling helpless and "scarred." Without his iPhone, Washington now uses a clunky computer, which he used to communicate during an interview with NBC 4 New York.

"You shouldn't steal from a disabled person who relies on a special device to reach out to the world," he typed into his computer Friday, which was then read with the help of a computerized voice.

His assistant at Staten Island's Hungerford School, where Washington works with children facing similar hurdles, calls the theft infuriating.

"How could someone prey on a person in a wheelchair? It's really disheartening," said Robert Smith.

After looking at surveillance video, police made an arrest.

The 18-year-old alleged thief no longer had Washington's phone, but Washington said it's OK. While his phone was stolen, he says he realized he never lost his voice. And his friends have arranged for a new iPhone to replace the stolen device.

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