Announcement News and Events

Emergency Broadband Benefit becomes a Permanent Program!

Great news for households who need broadband access in their homes! In the new Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, signed into law on Nov. 15, 2021, the Emergency Broadband Benefit became a permanent program – now called the Affordable Connectivity Program. Households who meet the 200% of poverty level may receive a $30.00 per month subsidy towards the cost of their broadband.

For full details, the following link provides a great explanation: How the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will Make Broadband More Affordable | Benton Institute for Broadband & Society

And the following will take you the FCC’s page that explains eligibility and the two step process to enroll into the program: Emergency Broadband Benefit | Federal Communications Commission (

Please encourage anyone you know who may benefit from this program to apply.

General News and Events

Come Home to What You Need: Finding the Accessible Home That’s Right for You

Written by Jillian Day,

Your home should be your haven, designed, built, or modified to accommodate you – not the other way around. If you have a disability or decline in functioning, you may realize what a challenge it can be to find one that is a 100% match, unless you start from scratch with a custom build. If you know what to look for, however, you won’t have to go the custom route; instead, look for a home with some of the required features, or one with a design that can readily accommodate the necessary modifications specific to your needs.

The Connecticut Tech Act Project (CTTAP) is available for individuals who can benefit from programs and tools that foster, increase, and enhance accessibility. Keep them in mind as you embark on your home search, and let them show you how increased access to Assistive Technology may help with accessibility and usability of your home and making it a welcoming visitable home for others who will appreciate accessibility considerations.

The right home for Aging in Place

A common accessibility consideration is forWoman in her home reading a book seniors and individuals with disabilities – or folks who are looking for their forever home – who would like to safely age in place for as long as their health and capabilities allow. Being able to stay in their homes as long as possible allows individuals to keep a familiar routine, which fosters continued independence. Also – critically important, especially as we are living longer – aging in place can save money, increasing the odds that the finances are available if or when a senior needs to move to a more intensive care facility.

Look for a home that already has structural accessibility features, such as wide doorways and ramps. A one-story home eliminates concerns about navigating stairs later; any existing stairs, such as at the entrance, should have handrails and, ideally, non-slip tread. If you are contemplating a two-story home, be sure the first floor can accommodate everything you will need later to be independent, such as the laundry room.

Kitchen modifications can be expensive, so if you can find a kitchen that already has some of the features you need, that is a huge plus. One example is lower or roll-under countertops for individuals who use wheelchairs. And, if you will be updating kitchen appliances, look for ones that will accommodate your changing needs, such as a dishwasher with drawers for easy loading and unloading.

A bathroom with a walk-in shower is functional for all ages and stages and may only need a handrail installed later on. Shower benches are easy to place when needed.

When evaluating flooring, consider the pros and cons of various types. Low-pile carpeting can mitigate slipping, thus reducing the injury risks that often accompany falls. Non-carpeted surfaces, however, allow for easier navigation with walkers and wheelchairs but can increase your slipping risks, and throw rugs are usually not advisable for seniors as they can create a tripping hazard.

Naturally, as you’re factoring in all of these considerations – and adding them up financially – you are limited to what you can afford. For safety reasons, you should consider some of the features to be non-negotiable. Therefore, you may need to offset the accessibility requirements by selecting a neighborhood that offers you a home-buying market in your price range. Once you determine how much home you can afford, research the areas where you want to live, or would consider living in, to see what the average home is selling for.

Remember that markets can change, so it’s also worthwhile to look at trends and talk to your real estate agent about where they see the market going over the next several months (or even years if you can wait). They can also advise you on the best time of year that favors buyers versus sellers, and how to balance that if you are also selling a home to finance your new home purchase.

Other accessibility needs

Age isn’t the only accessibility consideration. If you or a member of your household has a visual impairment, you’ll want to consider how well your new home can accommodate the necessary modifications and safety measures. Fortunately, most of those can be relatively simple post-purchase modifications, such as bright lighting and grab bars, but purchasing a home that already has safe flooring and adequate handrails is a plus.

Autism-friendly homes are also gaining in popularity. If this is a consideration for you, you can fortunately make many of the necessary adaptations later, many of which are very affordable, like specific paint colors. Look for a home that allows for plenty of natural light. You will want to consider how sound travels throughout the home, both from outside noise sources as well as from room to room. The floorplan is also a consideration; narrow hallways are often problematic for individuals with Autism, as are rooms that are too small and enclosed. On the other hand, having a quiet room to go and sit against the wall, or even swing and bounce, may be needed.

For Deaf individuals or those who are Hard of Hearing, having a floorplan that allows for easy line of sight for American Sign Language (ASL) or other visual cues makes communication easier. Lower ceilings work better than higher ceilings, and outside noise can be very distracting for individuals who use an assisted hearing device, particularly if there is a great deal of traffic outside the home. Unless it is already installed, you may want to modify the home with acoustic flooring that helps insulate impact noise, like footsteps or from dropped objects.

Technology in your favor

We are fortunate to live in an era of increasingly advanced technology that has become more affordable, and that can increase a home’s accessibility for varying needs. Home security systems, for example, benefit all populations, but those with cameras are especially helpful for hearing impaired individuals or individuals with mobility disabilities. Video monitoring systems allow loved ones, both within the household and out, to monitor those living in the home who may need an extra watchful eye to ensure their safety and wellbeing.

Smart home” technology has also advanced. We’ve moved from helpful features such as programmable thermostats and auto shut-off on small appliances to voice-controlled AI (artificial intelligence) technology for appliances and electronics, temperature, home and car locks, and lighting. Some systems can even provide users with weather and traffic conditions to help make better decisions about when to leave the house.

Creating customized accessibility is easier than ever

You no longer have to build a custom home from the ground up in order to gain the accessibility you need to live longer, and better, in your home.

News and Events Smart Home Tech

Adventures in Assistive Technology: Creating our Smart Home

Written by Vicki Kowaleski

My husband and I recently purchased a ‘new to us’ home. In addition to remodeling the home to incorporate ramps, a bathroom with a roll-in shower, a handheld shower head and wider doorways into the bathroom and closet with barn doors for easier entry, I decided to explore a number of assistive technology devices. I was injured in a diving accident 35 years ago, resulting in paralysis from my chest to my toes, impacting my arm strength and hand dexterity. I use a power wheelchair for mobility, so I am all about finding assistive devices to help me manage everyday living.

The first thing we did was to enlist the help of ADT alarm services. They installed an alarm panel that is all touch screen. I downloaded the ADT app so I am able to operate the alarm from my phone. They also installed an interior as well as exterior cameras which are also accessed through the app. Finally, the package included door sensors and the new Ring doorbell camera. This way I can tell which door is opened and when, receiving alerts when the cameras pick up motion inside the home, as well as outside in the backyard where we have a pool. I can see who is at the door by looking at my cell phone or our Alexa devices. I feel safer now that I can operate the alarm system either from my phone or from the panel for now. We can purchase a key fob as well, which will help my husband since he isn’t fond of technology and still struggles with his phone.

Echo Show 8 on counter next to plantsRegarding Echo devices, we have an Echo Show 8 on our kitchen counter. From getting recipes, checking the calendar, asking for weather reports, watching movies, listening to music…the list is endless with this device! We have a smaller Echo dot in our bedroom that we use for our alarm, to play Sleep Sounds and listen to music and audiobooks. I am still learning all of the skills that Alexa enabled devices can learn.


We replaced two ceiling fans in the living room with Modern Forms fans that are Wi-Fi compatible and equipped with Bluetooth. I can operate them using their remotes, my cell phone and yes… Alexa! We liked them so much that we bought one for our master bedroom as well. No more searching for the remotes; we just use our phones or Alexa.

One surprise that came with the house was in the garage. The previous owner had installed a Chamberlain garage door opener with myQ technology. I was able to pair the garage door opener with my iPhone using the myQ app. This is extremely helpful paired with the Ring camera device for when we drive away from the house and wonder “did I remember to close the garage door?” I am able to open and close the garage door from anywhere using my phone. It can also be programmed to open or close at set times.MyQ app on smartphone showing Garage Closed

As an Amazon Prime member, I can get our Amazon packages delivered inside our garage with Key by Amazon. It was free! I have not used that device yet but with the winter coming, it will be very convenient. A keyless entry pad will be installed on the outside of the garage, allowing us to assign codes to allow family to get into the garage if we are not around.

For ease of entry into the house, we installed a keyless entry lock on the interior garage door. No fumbling with keys, just touch the keypad to enter a code.

Inside the house, all of the light switches are rocker switches that are easy to operate. We purchased Smart lightbulbs by TreatLife. These are compatible with Alexa and Google assistant. I like to use them in bedside lamps so all I have to do is say “Alexa, turn off my lamp.” These lightbulbs can be put on a schedule to turn on or off, and they are dimmable!

For our home thermostat, we had a Honeywell Wi-Fi smart color thermostat installed. It is programmable, has a nice touchscreen and is Alexa compatible. I downloaded the Honeywell app to be able to adjust the thermostat from anywhere using my iPhone. We can set schedules for when we are home and away. It’s very convenient on those cold mornings: just grab the phone off of the nightstand and turn up the heat.

We plan to purchase smart plugs for our bookcase lights and any other lights that are plugged in that can’t use smart bulbs, such as my makeup mirror, which has a knob that is impossible for me to turn. Another planned purchase is outdoor lighting that we can schedule to turn on and off. So far, our Internet provider seems able to keep up with our needs for strong wi-fi service.

As far as financing these kinds of purchases, look for deals through Amazon, Best Buy and similar stores. Our families give us gift cards for our birthdays and holidays. I am always looking for the best deals and prices.

And for now, if the power goes out we will use our portable generator as our back up plan. Eventually we hope to install a permanent, automatic generator to keep all of our smart devices connected and working.


General News and Events

Using AT for Everyday Tasks

Written by Stacey B. Fulton, OTR/L, ATP, CAPS & Carlie Clayton, OTR/L

EASTCONN’s Assistive Technology Department teamed up with EASTCONN’s EXCELS program for an all-inclusive Thanksgiving activity! Our team included students, related services (OT/Speech) and a paraprofessional working together with assistive technology to make it possible to create a yummy Thanksgiving treat. In order to make pumpkin pie in a cup, two students were given a guided recipe book on an iPad with auditory and visual support to increase independence. Another student utilized a switch to activate a blender to crush graham crackers to make the “crust.” These tools enabled the students to make a delicious treat for themselves and their classmates with greater independence. The use of assistive technology can make for a more inclusive holiday and provide increased independence for people of all abilities!

Students working on individual recipes using their Assistive Technology   Student follows the recipe sequence one page at a time by listening to the directions read and following the visual steps.  Student uses a switch and Powerlink to turn the blender on to crush the Graham crackers.


News and Events Resource

How Assistive Technology Can Support Those Experiencing “Long COVID”

Reposted from IL_NET TA, National Technical Assistance Center for Independent Living

What Are “Post-COVID Conditions (Long COVID)?”

According to the CDC, post-COVID conditions are “a wide range of new, returning, or ongoing health problems people can experience four or more weeks after first being infected with the virus that causes COVID-19.” Often referred to as “long COVID,” the scientific name is “Post-Acute Sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 infection (PASC),” and may also be referenced as “long-haul COVID,” “post-acute COVID,” “long-term effects of COVID,” and “chronic COVID.” People who experience long COVID may have had severe, mild, or asymptomatic COVID-19 in the days or weeks after their initial infection with the virus. New research (not yet peer-reviewed) suggests persons with breakthrough infections who were fully vaccinated and under age 60 may be protected from long COVID, but those over age 60 are not. Long COVID presents as different health problems and combinations of symptoms within a wide range of severity. Common symptoms are extreme fatigue, shortness of breath, problems with cognition, and a racing heartbeat. Neurological symptoms appear to be the most enduring; many long COVID patients report problems with memory and “brain fog.” Children, as well as adults, may experience long COVID. Some studies suggest more women than men may acquire long COVID. (Read some experiences of people living with long COVID.)

In February of 2021, the NIH announced a new initiative to study long COVID. Among the questions the initiative seeks to answer is, “Does SARS-CoV-2 infection trigger changes in the body that increase the risk of other conditions, such as chronic heart or brain disorders?” As of July 2021, long COVID can be considered a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Section 504, and Section 1557 if the condition substantially limits one or more major life activities.

The Unique Role of AT Act Programs Persons with long COVID may be experiencing disability for the first time in their lives. The national field of State and Territory Assistive Technology (AT) Act Programs has spent decades committed to serving individuals of all ages with all kinds of disabilities (and combinations of disabilities) wherever they live, learn, work, and play. AT Act Programs uniquely understand and respond to the needs of adults and children that arise from temporary and long-term disabilities. AT Act Programs provide a stigma-free environment for persons with disabilities (and those who serve or love them) to learn about, try out, and acquire the assistive technologies that maintain or improve independence. As we learn more about how to treat long COVID, those experiencing long-term effects from COVID-19 can benefit from the AT services millions of people have sought for staying in or getting back into their lives.

For example, AT Act Programs provide access to:

AT for Fatigue and Mobility:
• equipment for bathroom safety
• transport wheelchairs and rollators for reduced stamina and stability
• gadgets for completing daily living tasks with reduced dexterity (from joint and muscle pain) AT for Memory and Cognition:
• an understanding of built-in features of iOS and Android operating systems and apps common to smartphones
• loans of tablet computers with apps for accomplishing tasks and goals identified by the borrower
• smart pens for keeping up with meetings (or productivity apps that sync to audio recordings)
• low-tech solutions and strategies for remembering medications and other essentials
• smart speakers and how to use them to support cognition AT for Social Isolation and Telehealth:
• loans of tablet computers and laptops for video conferencing, social media, email, and recreation
• Echo Show and similar technologies
• simplified connected devices for memory impairment
• alternative computer access
• assistive listening devices

AT for Work:
• alternative workstations and workstation adaptations
• strategies and technologies for improving stamina at work
• information and referral for rehabilitation services and a deep knowledge of cross-disability services as a point of entry for those newly disabled

AT Act Programs provide free demonstrations of assistive technologies in an environment that is without pressure to choose any particular product. The programs additionally provide free or low-cost short-term loans of devices to fill a temporary need or to trial before deciding to purchase, as well as counseling on funding options. AT Act Programs are staffed by professionals who may be AT users themselves and who can link visitors to additional services as necessary or help problem-solve the needs of others in their lives (clients, family members, students). AT Act Programs are the only service network that provides this kind of solutions-driven, cross-disability, multi-age, assistive technology support for maintaining the independence of persons living with long COVID in the pandemic and post-pandemic world.

Find Your State or Territory AT Act Program




ICT Accessibility News and Events

Digital Accessibility Tip! Hashtags, Email Addresses and Usernames

Written by Adam Kosakowski, M.Ed., ATP

A hashtag is a metadata tool used to easily compile and cross reference digital content on the web. Hashtags also make it possible for posters to share a love of cats on social media with bigger audiences. Email addresses and usernames are, well, mostly used to receive junk mail and messages from people in high school you don’t want to reconnect with. Still, what do they all have in common, and what does that have to do with digital accessibility?

They all use words with no spaces between them! Today’s tip will focus on how you can type hashtags, email addresses, and usernames in the most accessible way possible.

Hashtags: Print Disabilities and Screen Reader Users

Whether you have useable vision or use a screen reader, try reading the following hashtag:


It isn’t easy! Where does one word end and the other begin? Does it say, “Cats are the best animal sever” or “Cats are the best animals ever?” Depending on the person reading or the screen reader and its settings, either way is possible. When I tested it with NVDA (a popular free screen reader) it said, “animal sever”; if I am trying to post a cat picture, why would I try to convey that message? It’s nonsense!

To help everyone more easily read this, try using camel case. Camel case is the practice of writing with no punctuation or spaces, but using capital letters for the first letter in each word within. With camel case, the hashtag above becomes:


I bet most people would agree, even those without print disabilities, that this is much easier to read. Also, it ensures the hashtag says “animals ever” and not “animal sever.” The same goes for screen readers; this helps screen readers correctly identify the intended words.

Email Addresses and Usernames

The above case is becoming slightly more well known in the circles that focus on accessibility, but what about email addresses and usernames? I have noticed next to no one use camel case with these and yet it is just as important!

For example, my email address is obnoxiously long. I have a ten-letter last name and the text after the “at” symbol is “Oak Hill CT.” Without camel case it looks like this:

Unless someone is familiar with Oak Hill or is employed in the same organization, the address is confusing when all lowercase. And when read with NVDA it says, “Adam dot Kosakowski @ Oak Hill dot org.” NVDA says something after “Oak Hill”, but it is not discernible. It sounds like it straight up skips the “CT”! This could make the difference between people knowing my email address and not. And while I’d like less spam, I want to help people with accessibility!

The solution is simple: use camel case. And when it comes to acronyms, make all the letters capital.

Here is my email without camel case vs with: vs

And here is my Twitter handle without camel case vs with:

@neatwithadam vs @NEATWithAdam

The capital “W” after the all-caps NEAT acronym may look weird, but this follows the two rules that ensure screen readers will read it perfectly:

  1. Capitalize the first letter of each word.
  2. Capitalize each letter in an acronym.

I hope you find this helpful!

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 at @NEATWithAdam

Announcement News and Events

Center for Educational and Assistive Technology Partnering to Expand

The Center for Educational and Assistive Technology (CEAT) at Southern Connecticut State University (SCSU) is excited to partner with the Special Education Department and the Assistive Technology Program to increase community partnerships. Bogdan Zamfir, the Director of CEAT, is working with Dr. Lauren Tucker, assistant professor in the Special Education Department and Director of the Assistive Technology Program, to offer assistive technology services and trainings across the state. Through a partnership with the Connecticut Tech Act Project, the CEAT already offers a technology loan program for teachers in Connecticut, loaning out iPads and computers with assistive technology. Now, they are excited to also provide individual and group assistive technology trainings, consultations, and more.

In addition to building capacity around assistive technology in schools, the CEAT is interested in supporting the use of widely accessible built-in features for employment and higher education access.

At SCSU, the CEAT also has a lab with a wide variety of assistive technology available for interactive demonstrations and many of the assistive technology courses at SCSU provide hands-on experience for practicing teachers. To support SCSU undergraduate and graduate students, the CEAT loans computers, iPads and LiveScribe pens, trains students on note-taking strategies with the tool, and offers computers with a variety of assistive technology, such as speech-to-text, text-to-speech, graphic organizers, screen readers, and screen magnification.

Last school year, the Special Education Department at SCSU offered two free, mini-professional development sessions. The first focused on Assistive Technology Tips for Virtual Learning and the second provided examples of using Google Keep for Reading and Writing. These recordings can be accessed on the Assistive Technology Program website: . The CEAT is excited to customize trainings for individuals or organizations to build the assistive technology capacity across the state.

If you are interested in learning more about collaborating with the CEAT at SCSU, please contact Bogdan Zamfir,

General News and Events

Bushnell Sensory-Friendly Performances with Communication Supports

Written by Dr. Lauren Tucker

The Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts in Hartford continued its sensory-friendly series with a production of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Musical” at the end of November. The Bushnell has established a series of sensory-friendly or relaxed events that increase access to the theater for all patrons. During the sensory-friendly performances, the lights remain on, the show has lower audio levels, the seating is flexible, and there are designated quiet spaces throughout the theater. In collaboration with Dr. Lauren Tucker from the Special Education Department at Southern Connecticut State University, they also offered a low-tech communication board for patrons attending the performance. The communication board, pictured below, was developed to increase access to the theater experience for patrons with complex communication needs.

During the event, language was modeled by Dr. TuckCore communication board from the Bushnell Sensory Friendly Rudolph Show. The first seven columns have core vocabulary words (you, drink, eat, like, see, up, down) and the last two columns have “show specific” words (Seat, Bushnell, Santa, Rudolph, etc.).er when she interacted with patrons using the board. Parents of individuals with communication needs also modeled language while using the communication board. Beyond communication use, many children and other attendees were interested in its purpose. Its prominence sparked discussions around inclusion and access. Many younger patrons engaged with the pictures and were curious about the board. The Bushnell’s dedication to access and to providing multiple layers of support to establish a welcoming experience is apparent through their continued inclusion of these resources.

Autism expert and professor, Dr. Kim Bean, from the Center of Excellence in Autism Spectrum Disorders at Southern Connecticut State University, was also available on-site to support Bushnell volunteers and patrons. Dr. Bean utilized finger puppets with characters from the show to engage patrons while waiting to see Santa and Mrs. Claus. She cycled through the event, quiet spaces, and activities providing support and engaging with families.

Continually providing accessible events with universal supports for all attendees, as the Bushnell has dedicated itself to, promotes inclusivity and diversity throughout Connecticut for all ages. The Bushnell staff will be organizing an advisory committee to develop more sensory-friendly events and to continue to provide supports to increase access. If you are interested in participating in the committee or providing feedback, please contact Catt Gruszka at  If you would like to learn more about the Assistive Technology Program, additional community projects, or other programs at SCSU, please contact Lauren Tucker at

Busnell Performing Arts logoVisit their website to learn more about the sensory-friendly series: