General News and Events

What is Assistive Technology?


(Reprinted from AT3 Toolkit,

An Assistive Technology is any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities (P.L. 10-34).

This broad definition means that assistive technology is anything that helps someone do something they couldn’t do because of a disability or functional limitation.

Assistive Technology can be:

  • Homemade or store bought
  • Used “as is” or modified
  • Range from no cost to expensive
  • Require no training or months of instruction

Examples of Assistive Technology include:

  • Tennis balls placed on walker legs to make it easier to glide over carpet
  • Paint used for wayfinding or as a memory aide – “Follow the blue line to the cafeteria”
  • Text-to-Speech software that reads text to an individual with a print disability
  • Assistive Listening devices that improve hearing. Devices include personal amplified, FM, Infrared, and Bluetooth systems as well as audio induction or hearing loop
  • Speech Generating Device used to facilitate communication using a device to generate words and messages

AT Toolkit, a container with a variety of lower tech items, such as high contract keyboard stickers, communication board, ergonomic grips, and more


Assistive technology services assist in the selection, acquisition, or use of assistive technology.

Assistive Technology services include:

  • Evaluation of the assistive technology needs of an individual with a disability or older adult experiencing functional limitations due to aging and evaluating the impact of providing AT and AT services in the appropriate environment
  • Purchasing, leasing, or otherwise providing for the acquisition of AT
  • Selecting, designing, fitting, customizing, adapting, applying, maintaining, repairing, replacing, or donating AT devices
  • Coordination and use of necessary therapies, interventions, or services with assistive technology devices. For example, services associated with education or rehabilitation plans and programs
  • Training or technical assistance for an individual with a disability, a family member, guardian, advocate, or authorized representative
  • Training or technical assistance for professionals who serve individuals with disabilities, employers, or others providing services to employ or assist with major life functions
  • Expanding the availability of access to technology, including electronic and information technology Act.

To read the full AT Toolkit, visit the AT3 Center Publications page

General News and Events

Guidelines for Article Submissions

Want to share your articles, information and/or upcoming event?

We would love to hear from you & include your contributions in the next CTTAP News e-newsletter and on our blog! Article Submission Guidelines are:

  • One feature article of 1,200-2,000 words
  • Several general articles of 600 words max
  • Digital Accessibility Tip Column
  • Preference is given to articles that include pictures with alt tags provided by the author
  • Upcoming events must include information regarding target audience, location and cost of the event

Want to discuss your ideas? Feel free to use this link Contact Us to send us an email.

General News and Events

Don’t Ditch the Smartphone: A Care Giver’s Guide to their Loved One’s Phone

Written by By Jerilyn Fleck M.S Ed, Special Education

As your loved one is aging, they can still use their smartphone for multiple things besides phone calls and text messaging. In this article, I’m going to focus on two essential tasks to enhance cognitive engagement and mental sharpness: staying connected and playing thinking games. I’ve used some of these tools in my experiences as a caregiver and I’ve learned of others in my graduate work in assistive technology at Southern Connecticut State University. 

Staying Connected

  1. Stay connected to loved ones through Skype, Facetime, Google Meets, or Zoom.Older adult using the Birdsong touch screen tablet This is a great way to visually connect with loved ones near and far. Setting up weekly family meetings helps maintain a sense of normalcy and belonging. Should your loved one has memory difficulties, it also helps reinforce and identify family members. For those that have difficulty hearing or understanding what is being spoken, closed captions can be enabled on most platforms. 
  2. Virtual visits – With the use of technology your loved ones can go anywhere in the world, explore museums, and national parks just to name a few. For example, Google Arts & Culture, lets you explore different art collections from a variety of artists, time periods, and mediums. The Taste of Home website gives a short list of museums around the world and zoos in the United States that can be visited virtually. While visiting the virtual museums, you can take the opportunity to demonstrate how to navigate the site’s features (zoom, left-right keys, and maps). If they are an animal lover, many zoos have real-time cameras where you can watch particular animals. Air Pano allows the viewer to have a 360͒ view of different destinations and locations all around the world. From Maui, Hawaii to the Taj Mahal, their virtual vacations are endless. Google Earth will allow your loved one to visit their childhood home, honeymoon, or other memory spots, simply by entering the specific location’s address. Introducing these possibilities in the virtual world can foster new shared experiences and trigger past memories. 
  3. Digital Picture Frames –  There are many manufacturers that offer digital picture frames. These frames can sometimes hold up to 400 pictures (depending on the manufacturer). For example, Frameo gives each family member a unique passcode to add pictures. Once the app is downloaded and the passcode is entered, you are able to send pictures instantaneously to the recipient’s frame. Personally, I am able to send pictures of my children’s important moments instantaneously to my 82-year-old mom who has moved to Texas. Additionally, we are able to send other special moments like weddings, baby pictures, and long-distance family members. This picture-sharing avenue is another way to help your loved one stay connected.

Thinking Games

My final tip is to use technology to keep a loved one’s mind sharp. Motivating cognitive engagement is essential for mental sharpness through all stages of life. There are so many different options for them to explore, given their interest and abilities. Most can be easily downloaded to a tablet, laptop, or smartphone.

  1. GeoGuessr  takes you to different places around the world. It also requires the user to navigate and use their knowledge to guess the location displayed on the screen. This tool can reinforce descriptive questioning and language. This site does require you to set up a free account for them. 
  2. Lumosity Brain Training The app is a free subscription (however, it contains ads) or $11.99 (without ads) per month. This app targets memory, reasoning, flexibility, problem-solving, and attention. After you enter basic information, the user takes a “brain fit test”. Once complete, the user is ready to play. For example, one game requires the user to quickly remember the previous shape presented. Other games enhance math and language skills.
  3. When selecting apps for your loved one, options should revolve around their particular interest. There are apps for crossword puzzles, word searches, solitaire, bingo, hidden objects, or just fun matching games like Candy Crush. You name it, I am sure that there is an app.

Final Thoughts

Harnessing the opportunities within technology can enable your loved one to stay connected to family, travel the world, and/or exercise the brain. All of these things continue to support cognitive engagement and mental sharpness. As always, be sure to practice safe technology use when downloading and using some of these free tools. 

Additional links and resources: 

Bridging the Digital Divide for CT –

Joan Green

AARP Technology Resources –

Aging and Health Technology Watch –

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.

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.


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:

General News and Events

Connecticut Team Shares Highlights from State’s “Stay Connected” Program

Technology Can Help Ease Isolation During COVID-19

This fall, two Connecticut Department of Aging and Disability Services colleagues were joined by a Quinnipiac University professor to co-present highlights from “Stay Connected,” a statewide program that uses technology to help isolated individuals connect with family, friends and medical providers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Connecticut’s “Stay Connected” program was highlighted during national presentations to the Association of Assistive Technology Act Programs (ATAP) and Aging and Disability Resource Centers (ADRCs). The presenting team included the Department of Aging and Disability Services’ CT Tech Act Project Program Director Arlene Lugo and the State Unit on Aging’s Patricia Richardson, as well as Professor Nicholas Nicholson of Quinnipiac University’s School of Nursing.

As a result of the presentation, several states expressed interest in replicating the “Stay Connected” program, according to Lugo.

The “Stay Connected” program was implemented with funding from the March 2020 federal CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act), which provides economic supports and other critical resources to Americans who are negatively affected by the pandemic. “Stay Connected” is a statewide program operated out of the Connecticut Department of Aging and Disability Services in collaboration by the State Unit on Aging and the CT Tech Act Project.

Find an article about the program here:

To read about how the Stay Connected program is helping Connecticut seniors  and people with disabilities stay in touch read these posts:

General News and Events

Free CRISKids Resources During COVID-19

CRISKids Audio Library

CRIS is offering free, temporary log-in credentials to educators, parents and students to access the CRISKids Audio Library during the pandemic. The CRISKids Audio Library is quite extensive, with more than 1,000 recordings, nearly all requested by teachers in Connecticut. Access to the recordings will be free and available on any Wi-Fi connected device or smartphone, as well as through our CRIS Radio mobile app.  Contact Laura Boogaert at to receive free login credentials and instructions on how to access the service.  

General News and Events

Independent Living Centers Use Virtual Strategies to Offer Critical Support

Republished  from Connecticut Association of Centers for Independent Living (CACIL)

As an Independent Living Advocate, Katie Smolinsky supports and guides people with disabilities through finding ways to live life in the community, such as learning how to use transportation, applying for benefits and finding affordable housing. She also helps with day-to-day living skills, like budgeting.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic closed Connecticut’s five Independent Living Center (ILC) offices, Katie met with consumers in-person to establish their goals and plan to help them reach maximum independence.

Today, Katie can’t meet in person, which is especially challenging when working with deaf consumers and more important than ever for every consumer during this crisis. But through video phone and other conferencing technology, where she utilizes her fluency in American Sign Language, Katie is able to maintain a connection.

Katie Smolinsky “I’m the person who stands behind them, cheering them on with encouragement and accountability,” Katie says. “Working as an advocate is an incredible way to empower individuals to live independently.”

Connecticut’s ILCs are one of the state’s most cost-effective programs, making it possible for thousands of people to live in their communities. Katie is just one of dozens of ILC staffers across the state who continue to work every day to provide essential services.

Thank you for your continued support of Connecticut’s Independent Living Centers!


You can reach out to the Centers Independent Living in your area

  • Independence Unlimited, Hartford, 860-523-5021
  • Independence Northwest, Naugatuck, 203-729-3299
  • Disabilities Network of Eastern CT, Norwich, 860-823-1898
  • Access Independence, Stratford, 203-378-6977
  • Center for Disability Rights, West Haven, 203-934-7077

For more staff spotlights and information on CACIL visit their page on Facebook:

General News and Events

Guidelines for Article Submissions

Want to share your articles, information and/or upcoming event?

We would love to hear from you & include your contributions in the next CTTAP News e-newsletter and on our blog! Article Submission Guidelines are:

  • One feature article of 1,200-2,000 words
  • Several general articles of 600 words max
  • Digital Accessibility Tip Column
  • Preference is given to articles that include pictures with alt tags provided by the author
  • Upcoming events must include information regarding target audience, location and cost of the event

Want to discuss your ideas? Feel free to use this link Contact Us to send us an email.