WATERVILLE, N.S. - Using eye-gaze detection software, a severely disabled Nova Scotia woman is communicating with her family for the first time in 21 years.

Joellan Huntley and her family met with the media today to talk about their heartwarming breakthrough at a rehabilitation centre in Waterville, N.S.

Huntley was 15 when she suffered a catastrophic brain injury in a 1996 car accident.

Since then, she has been unable to walk or talk, but her family says the 37-year-old started communicating on Christmas Day, using a special device that tracks her eye movements on a computer screen.

Huntley's mother, Louise Misner, says she had commented on her daughter's new outfit, and Huntley responded by using the technology to find an icon on an iPad for a long-sleeve shirt.

Misner says it was the first time she had communicated one-on-one with her daughter since 1996, and she's looking forward to more conversations.