Announcement News and Events

STAY CONNECTED: Helping Older Adults and Persons with Disabilities engage with medical providers, community, family and friends during COVID-19

The Stay Connected Program is funded by the Administration for Community Living, Federal CARES Act in response to COVID-19. This a new program is operated out of the Dept of Aging and Disability Services in collaboration by the State Unit on Aging and the CT Tech Act Project.


To connect adults aged 18 years of age or older with a disability or adults sixty years of age or older to the most appropriate Assistive Technology (AT) to foster improved communication and connection with medical professionals, family/friends and the community during this pandemic when many of us are staying home to stay safe.


All five Area Agencies on Aging (AAA) and Centers for Independent Living (CIL) in CT conduct Information & Referral with individuals who call their centers.  The AAAs & CILs will use a validated screening tool during calls to identify individuals who would gain the most from technology assistance. Eligible individuals will be referred to one of three CT Tech Act Project AT partner agencies for a remote technology consultation. The participating AT partner agencies are EASTCONN, the NEAT Center and UCP of Eastern CT. During this consultation, the AT Partner will recommend the best selection of AT device based on the person’s needs and preference. Various funding sources have been identified to assist with the purchase of the technology device and internet (when needed). Once the technology arrives, training will be provided to the individual and any support person in the home to assist in learning how to use the device to stay connected with loved ones, family, friends and medical providers. Connections to community supports will also be made to help the individual in continuing to utilize the device and engage with others.


Refer individuals who would benefit to the “Stay Connected” program to their Area Agency on Aging (1-800-994-9422) or Center for Independent Living Program. For More Information contact: or


News and Events Product Spotlight

Why Birdsong?

Written by Aisha Azher, Chief of Staff

Birdsong Tablet 10 inch model








Technology is always advancing. The Birdsong Tablet, introduces aging seniors to technology in a confidence-building, easy-to-use way. Its big red Home button is ever-present on every screen. Just press it and you can return to the home page at any time. Never get lost, stuck or frustrated. Just tap one of the six large icons on the home screen and you are connected to the wide world around you! The Birdsong Tablet comes pre-loaded with 8000 pieces of engaging content. At your fingertips, you will find an extensive library of brain games, music, travel, lifelong learning lectures, classic TV/movies, news, and more. You are also just a click away from connecting with your loved ones through video chat, email, shareable photo albums, and more. One of the best things is that you don’t need to worry about cellular data limitation because the Birdsong Tablet runs off of your existing WiFi. So, you can use it to your heart’s content.

Older adult using the Birdsong touch screen tablet


To support the Stay Connected Program (Click this link to read the Stay Connected article), Birdsong has provided Tablets for use by the CT Tech Project AT Partners (EASTCONN, the NEAT Center at Oak Hill and UCP of Eastern CT) who are working on this initiative and able to provide remote and contactless demonstrations.

News and Events Resource

UR Community Cares

Written by Donna Powell

If you’re looking for ways to help older adults age in place and persons with physical disabilities live more independently, you can now refer people to UR Community Cares.  This nonprofit organization, based in Manchester and covering all of Conn., is making great strides in matching up homebound residents and others who need safe-distanced assistance from volunteers living nearby. Needs can range from temporary (recovery from surgery) to permanent (no longer able to use stairs for laundry).  Service includes household tasks, yard work and companionship visits such as pick-up/delivery of groceries and other essential errands.  Participants are background-checked and follow COVID-19 safety protocols. There is no charge for services or for the secure online enrollment at Visits can be scheduled weekly, monthly or as needed, and pre-scheduling allows for caregiver respite opportunities.

Co-founder and president Michelle Puzzo is available to schedule an online informational meeting and website demonstration with your organization. Please email or call 860-430-4557.   UR Community Cares is also seeking new board members, advisors, volunteers and sponsors.

ICT Accessibility News and Events

Digital Accessibility Tip! Headings

Written by Adam Kosakowski, M.Ed., ATP, Assistive Technology Specialist at New England Assistive Technology (NEAT), an Oak Hill Center

Headings are an incredibly important accessibility element on websites as well as digital documents such as Microsoft Word, Google Docs, and Microsoft Outlook emails. Visually, headings are those big bold words on screen at the top of every section of text. Think of them like chapter or section titles. They draw in the eyes of sighted users and give them a sneak peek of what they’re about to read below. But, if you’re blind or otherwise use a screen reader, unless headings are created correctly, they’ll just be read like normal text. This column will help you do Headers right!

Screen readers don’t announce to the user the size of text, so if a heading is only a heading due to its visual size, that’s considered an accessibility fail. Accessible headings need to be tagged as a heading, behind the scenes, in the coding of the document or website. If tagged appropriately, a screen reader user will know it is a heading and will be given access to a plethora of screen reader shortcuts empowering the user to navigate the document by those headings similar to how sighted readers do so with their eyes.

Creating Headings

Luckily, you do not need coding knowledge to create tagged headings in documents and websites. You just need to know where to look:

Styles Ribbon from Microsoft Word screen shot with Normal text style highlighted.
Does this screen shot look familiar? If not, open up Microsoft Word, go to the Home tab and look for the “Styles” ribbon. Normal, Heading 1, Heading, 2, and Heading 3, etc. are all selectable options that change your visual text upon selection. Not only that, if you choose one of the Heading options and start typing, behind the scenes and in the coding your typed text will then have that associated heading tagged! It’s that easy! Many word processing applications have the ability to apply heading tags, you just need to find it! If you’d like to learn how to do headings in your favorite word processor or website builder, you can Google something like “labeling headings in <insert application name here>”

Heading Order

Creating headings is half the battle. Next, headings must have appropriate hierarchical ordering. Heading level 1 is usually reserved for the title of a document or webpage. If there is a section title on that same document or webpage, that would then be a heading level 2. Heading level 3 could be a subsection title that logically belongs under its associated heading level 2, and so on. The idea is to use headings as you logically need them, but do not skip levels, i.e., don’t have a level 3 without having a level 2 associated with it.

Here’s an example to help you think through this and get hungry (for headings)! Think of your favorite restaurant menu and think of how they order their heading text. I love breakfast, so we’ll write a breakfast example:

  • Adam’s Breakfast Nook (This is the title of the restaurant, so this should be a Heading level 1, it would be at the top of the page, big and bold AND tagged as a heading 1)
    • Egg Dishes (This is a type of breakfast dish served at the restaurant, it’s a Heading level 2)
    • Pancake Dishes (This is another type of breakfast dish, it’s also a Heading level 2)
      • Savory Pancakes (This is a “subtype” of pancake dishes, so it’s a Heading level 3)
      • “Healthy Pancakes” (This is also a subtype of pancake dishes, so it’s also a heading level 3)
        • Banana Pancakes (This is a specific dish; it could be Normal text or a Heading level 4)
        • Strawberry Pancakes (Another specific dish, same as above)

This column is written by Adam Kosakowski, M.Ed., ATP. Adam works as an Assistive Technology Specialist at New England Assistive Technology (NEAT), an Oak Hill Center. He can be contacted at and followed on Twitter: @NEATWithAdam.

AT Success Stories News and Events

“Alexa, Can You Help Me Access My Environment”

Written by JoAnne Lambert, M.S. CCC/SLP, EASTCONN

Accessibility. Independence.  Important for all, but especially important for individuals with disabilities who use Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC).  Through a grant obtained by the Eastford School District, two Amazon Alexa Smart Speakers were purchased for use by a student who uses an AAC device to aid in communication.  Through the use of voice-command technology, an AAC user is able to create a message or a question and “ask” the smart speaker using the command word “Alexa.”  For individuals who have difficulty accessing information by traditional means or accessing their environment due to a variety of disabilities, this type of technology can provide the opportunity to be more independent!

Student using her AAC device to access Alexa In order to determine how we were going to implement the device at different opportunities throughout the student’s day, the educational team looked at what the student’s typical day looked like as well as her individualized educational programming.  It was decided that we would start with the following commands; “Alexa, what’s the weather in (town).”  This would allow the student to report the weather to the class during morning meeting.  “Alexa, set a timer for (time)” and “Alexa stop the timer”—this would allow the student to set a timer while completing cooking tasks as well as while performing various other life skills activities where a time limit or a simple reminder is needed.  “Alexa, play music by (preferred music artist)” would allow the student to engage with her peers socially and enjoy the leisure activity of listening to music.  Finally, “Alexa, play calming sounds” to allow the student access to self-calming techniques rather than relying on an adult to anticipate and initiate the calming strategy.  The student’s AAC tool (iPad mini with TouchChat HD-AAC app running MultiChat 15 Student vocabulary), which already contained a folder to access voice command, was customized to meet the communication needs.

AAC screen shot of Amazon Alexa voice command options.

Through use of the Amazon Alexa paired with the student’s AAC Device, the student is able to participate in a variety of activities including engaging with her peers during social opportunities to play preferred music.  She provides an up-to-the-minute weather report so the students can plan on their outerwear or umbrella needs, and can independently set the time when the class engages in baking goodies! As we move forward, we will continue to expand the use of Alexa skills across the student’s day. The possibilities for access to information and environmental control and increasing independence are certainly exciting!