Announcement News and Events

The Connect to Tech Project Kicks Off!

By Nicole Natale, MS, CCC-SLP, ATP, Senior Education Specialist, CREC Resource Group

The CT Tech Act Project was awarded a grant as part of the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation National Paralysis Resource Center 2020 High Impact Innovative Assistive Technology (HIIAT) grants program. As a result, the CT Tech Act and three assistive technology (AT) partner agencies, Capitol Region Education Council (CREC), EASTCONN, the New England Assistive Technology (NEAT) Center at Oak Hill, as well as two local hospitals – Gaylord Hospital and Hartford Healthcare – are providing access to AT services and devices for patients with spinal cord injuries or other conditions that cause paralysis. These services are provided through virtual AT demonstrations, as well as AT device-lending so that individuals and their families can experience how AT can enhance independence and quality of life.

So far, the AT partners have received 15 referrals. CREC has completed two of them and the experience has been very positive! Both individuals wanted to increase their independence when arriving home by connecting with loved ones and doctors and by accessing environmental controls independently. Both patients are interested in borrowing an Amazon Echo Show from the CREC lending library in order to call emergency contacts, spouses and family members/friends and to connect with healthcare professionals. Patients will also use Alexa for appointment reminders, and things like taking medicines on time. These individuals will be accessing the Echo Show with voice recognition, due to their limitations with both fine- and gross-motor skills. One of our patients will also be trialing Philips Hue Smart Light Bulbs, which allows users to employ voice commands to turn on lights and operate an August Smart Lock. The August Smart Lock is Alexa-enabled, enabling our patient to lock and unlock his door, using either voice commands or the Alexa mobile app, all of which supports increased independence.

Once patients have participated in a demonstration, they have the option to purchase the AT tools or access an AT lending library to trial the device to ensure its effectiveness and confirm that it’s an appropriate match for their needs. The goal of this project is to reach at least 100 patients by the end of the year and we are well on our way!

Announcement News and Events

Emergency Broadband Benefit – The FCC Helps Households Connect During The Pandemic

During the pandemic, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is offering a temporary program to help households struggling to afford internet service. The benefit provides monthly discounts, and a one-time discount on the purchase of a laptop, desktop or tablet. Are you, or a friend or loved one, eligible? See the FCC’s Infographic below (Infographic – EBB or visit

Emergency Broadband Benefit – Helping Households Connect During The Pandemic, Offered by the FCC

FCC Emergency Broadband Benefit Infographic

News and Events Resource

Generations On Line (GoL) Offers New Free Tutorials

GoL wants to simplify tools and technology for older adults, helping foster and promote their internet literacy, access and skills, while also helping them overcome any fears associated with electronic media.

GoL is offering free tutorials that may be useful to many older adults who are online users. Visit the links below to learn more:

  1. Using Telemedicine GoL Tele-Medicine Tutorial BlueJeans Welcome (
  2. Reading Newspapers Online Digital Newspapers for Seniors (
  3. Helping Older Adults with Smartphone and Tablet Technology Generations on Line Mobile Edition (, in addition to their Easy Tablet Help for Seniors

Generations On Line Flyer



News and Events Product Spotlight

Getting Creative with AT Smart Technology for Virtual Demonstrations

By Joanne Lambert, M.S. CCC/SLP, EASTCONN

There is so much technology available today to support users who have physical disabilities. For some, either being able to see the numbers on a thermostat or having the motor dexterity to manipulate the controls on a thermostat can be quite a challenge. As part of the Connect to Tech Program, a grant funded by the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation National Paralysis Resource Center 2020 High Impact Innovative Assistive Technology (HIIAT), EASTCONN has teamed up with the CT Tech Act Project along with two AT partners and two local hospitals to provide patients with spinal cord injury or other paralysis-causing conditions access to assistive technology (AT) services and devices through AT demonstrations and AT lending. These individualized demonstrations will allow them to experience how AT can enhance their quality of life and help them to maintain and/or increase their independence as they return home after their discharge from the hospital. The Google Nest Thermostat is one item within the Smart Technology toolkit that can help.

Best practice recommends that products are demonstrated and selected based on feature matching between a tool and its user. The NEST, which is an item that would be installed in an individual’s home, sure is tricky to demonstrate as it would not be practical to install the unit in a potential user’s home to “try it out.” That’s when we had to get creative. Knowing that the features of the NEST could allow environmental control to its users, we had to find a work around to demo this product that we felt could help so many individuals to be more independent in their homes.

Installing the Nest on a board was the easy part, but how could we get the device to demonstrate its features? We could certainly show how to adjust and program the temperature settings using the app without attaching the “heating” and “cooling” wires, but we wanted to be able to demonstrate the full functionality of what this Smart technology can offer. The unit, out of the box, had two 1.5v AAA batteries, but those weren’t enough to fully power the device. We needed a separate power source that would mimic the unit being installed (hard-wired) in the home. We purchased an AC24V C-Wire Power Adapter from to act as the power supply. This two-wire unit with a power adapter was just what was needed in order to power the device and be able to demonstrate the features without actually installing it in an individual’s home. We could set up the device, customize settings for heating and cooling preferences and pair it with the Google Nest Hub Max in order to demonstrate how to operate the unit using the  voice and the wake command, “Hey Google.” These simple steps made it possible for us to provide virtual demonstrations for potential users to determine if the Google Nest Thermostat was a good fit for their needs.

Getting creative: Photos below illustrate the process of setting up Google Nest, in order to demonstrate its capabilities during a virtual demonstration to a potential user.

Step 1 of setting up Google Nest for AT Demo Step 2 of setting up Google Nest for AT Demo  Step 3 of setting up Google Nest for AT Demo Step 4 of setting up Google Nest for AT DemoStep 5 of setting up Google Nest for AT Demo





AT Success Stories News and Events

Stay Connected Program: Reducing Social Isolation for Seniors and Individuals with Disabilities During COVID-19

By Stacey Fulton, OTR/ATP, EASTCONN

As the CT Tech Act Project embraces new grant initiatives, the Stay Connected program has also been in full swing. Stay Connected is a statewide program operated out of the Connecticut Department of Aging and Disability Services in collaboration with the State Unit on Aging and the CT Tech Act Project. The mission of this project is to match AT resources and devices to individuals who are isolated or at risk of being isolated from family, friends, activities or healthcare during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Persons are determined to be eligible for this program based on a social isolation scale completed by the Area Agencies on Aging or The Centers for Independent Living. Qualified individuals are referred to one of the project’s AT partners (EASTCONN, NEAT Center and UCP of Eastern CT), who reach out to discern each individual’s needs and match them to potential device solutions. Services that are provided include consultation, training and follow-up. As a result of this program, many individuals have received devices and training, and are once again able to connect to family, friends and healthcare providers.

An individual who benefited from this project was a woman in her late 70s, who received services from EASTCONN’s AT team. She lived alone and since the start of the pandemic, had been unable to see her family and friends, or participate in activities she used to enjoy at her local senior center. She also had no access to Wi-Fi at home. Funding was provided by both the Stay Connected program and the town where she lives to secure a device and a “hotspot” for Wi-Fi access. A laptop computer was determined to be the best option and training was provided to assist her in setting up her email and utilizing Zoom. She shared her appreciation by sending a follow-up e-mail to the EASTCONN provider: “Finally saw my nephew’s daughter in action … I’ve never seen her except in still pictures. At first, she was shy and kept turning her head … but then after a short while, she actually threw me a kiss and waved … Zoom is really great. So grateful to have this computer.”

This is just one of the many positive outcomes that have been shared by individuals who have participated in the Stay Connected program. Working together, this interagency collaboration has made a significant difference in the lives of seniors and persons with disabilities across Connecticut.

AT Devices News and Events

Most Requested Devices for Staying Connected in 2020

By Kristopher Thompson, BAS, CAPS, Smart Technology Specialist, New England Assistive Technology (NEAT)

Graph of Most Requested AT Devices for Staying Connected 2020

Social isolation is a serious public health problem, and something I have been focused on  during most of my time at NEAT. I have conducted many presentations that showcase how today’s smart technology can combat this problem, but 2020 opened my eyes to what it really takes to address it. One year ago, the lockdowns began, and the digital divide deepened for those who were most vulnerable. Various programs were formed to help those who were not able to connect with their loved ones during the pandemic. I have been heavily involved in a few of these programs and my expertise has served many who were socially isolated. But this experience has given me a few surprises as well.

The people I have worked with over the past year were a mixture of aging adults and young people of varying abilities, all of whom were eager to connect with family, friends, doctors, places of worship, or establish new connections. While most Americans were speeding into the digital age of texting, teleconferencing, email, telehealth, social media, etc., there were many who didn’t have access

to the devices that make it possible to access digital platforms and options.

The demand for computers is what surprised me most, as did their affordability. In cases where an iPad wasn’t the best fit, I could often find a brand-new Dell computer for around the same price. Computers also offered many of the same features, such as messaging, video chat, email, web surfing, social media and accessibility – all in a familiar and comfortable interface.

Overall, iPads were still the most requested devices during the pandemic, but laptop computers were a close second and desktop computers rounded out the top three. Other recommended devices were Android tablets, specialized tablets, Android phones and iPhones. Virtual speakers, such as the Amazon Echo, had tremendous potential, but a long way to go before they became a primary way to stay connected from home.

A person’s comfort level with technology is the number one consideration when I make a recommendation. Sure, an iPad is packed full of features, capabilities and accessibility features. And Amazon Echo smart speakers offer convenient and accessible ways to connect. But what if someone isn’t comfortable using one? If I recommend a technology solely on its potential, there’s a good chance it’s going to become a “smart paperweight.” If a person is willing to embrace new technology, that’s fantastic! The bottom line is, matching technology to an individual’s needs, which minimizes the learning curve, is the key to success.