News and Events Product Spotlight Smart Home Tech

Holiday Shopping Just Got Smarter!

Written by Amy Norton, EASTCONN & Arlene Lugo, CTTAP

Snow falling on smart home devicesSmart home technology devices make awesome holiday gifts, especially for individuals with disabilities or aging adults who might be looking for ways to enhance access to their home, improve their functioning, and make a real difference in increasing their independence!

Here are some of the more common smart home devices that our Assistive Technology partners have been recommending this past year (in no particular order): 

Smartplugs like the Wemo or Kasa Wi-Fi Smart Plugs

These Wi-Fi outlets can be plugged into your regular wall outlet. Connect it to your home’s Wi-Fi and download the app. Such an easy way to upgrade and automate your regular (not smart) devices. Whatever you plug into the smart outlet can now be controlled by the app or via voice control through an Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant. These devices provide an excellent way to turn lights, devices and even holiday displays on and off, especially if the outlets are hard to reach, outdoors or when you are away from home. 

Philips Hue Motion sensor –

Turns your lights on and off with motion – it’s hands-free and voice-free. Simply walk or roll past the sensor to turn the lights on to increase safety and reduce trips, falls and bangs. These sensors are especially helpful when entering or leaving home, when a light switch is hard to reach, or for those late night trips to the kitchen or bathroom. The Philips Hue Motion sensor works great with the Philips Hue smart light bulbs. It is battery-operated, which means that someone will need to change them periodically, and it connects to an app for initial setup. 

Video doorbells –

Allow you to see who is at your door right from the app. Is it a delivery person dropping off a package, your personal care attendant, family, friends or neighbors stopping by to celebrate the season or someone you don’t know? Not only can you see the person, you can speak to them through the doorbell. Some alert you via motion before they even ring the doorbell. CNET offers a great article comparing some of the top video doorbells, including prices and features. 

Smart Assistants – 

Amazon Echo Show Series brings all the smarts of Amazon’s voice assistant, along with the ability to video chat and watch cooking or other videos and look up recipes to make your favorite holiday meal. Use “drop-in” to allow family, friends and caregivers to stop in virtually using both audio and video.

This feature of the Echo Show devices does not require you to answer and can provide added safety for those times when you are alone especially if you are at risk for falls, need reminders to take medications or are unable to visit with others in person. During set-up, you control who is able to drop-in. The devices in the series come in 5, 8, 10 and 15 inches. Read the CNET Echo Show 5 Review.

Google Nest Hub – according to CNET, the second-gen Google Nest Hub is “a super smart device that brings convenience to nearly every dimension of the Google Assistant-powered smart home. Whether you’re streaming music, checking who’s ringing your video doorbell or playing YouTube videos, the Nest Hub’s got you covered.”

The display on the device is 7 inches but if you are looking for a larger display, check out the Google Nest Hub Max which is 10 inches. Read the CNET Google Nest Hub Review.

Happy Holidays to All!


News and Events Product Spotlight Smart Home Tech

Combating Social Isolation Using Assistive Technology

written by Pam Fields, ATECH

ATECH logo - Social Isolation

The degree to which individuals are interconnected and embedded in a community has a powerful impact on their health and personal wellbeing. Social isolation is typically defined by a low frequency of social contact, and is often associated with lower quality of wellbeing. Recent research has been giving attention to whether loneliness is an indicator of low social connectedness or social isolation, and other studies are looking at the relationship between loneliness and social isolation.

It is our belief that assistive technology can be used by individuals experiencing barrier issues including those with intellectual developmental disorders or Autism, as well as seniors aging in place, helping them take steps towards establishing a greater level of independence and improving their wellbeing. There are also assistive technology devices that assist people in combating loneliness and social isolation.

Findings from a study conducted by Karina Alibhai of the Samuel Centre for Social Connectedness show that technology can be used to reduce social isolation among seniors aging in place and in group home settings. Alighai’s research on various tools found a positive correlation between technology use and levels of social and community connectedness.

Tools to Combat Social Isolation

There are several categories of technology that have been studied as tools to lessen social isolation, and many have been shown to successfully reduce the loneliness, depression and anxiety commonly experienced by many people. These technologies include mobile tech, videoconferencing, internet and communication technologies, games, social networks, and mobility tools.

Common Misperceptions

Before we get into the details of the assistive technologies, I wanted to take a moment to address a common misperception among some families and caregivers. Some people believe that using assistive technology (AT) for social engagement is akin to giving someone an iPad and letting them watch videos all day because it’s what they want to do. That is not true engagement, and that is not the goal of using AT as a social engagement tool.

For an individual in a direct care setting, leaving them alone to sit by themselves for hours on end with no interaction with anyone except a device or piece of technology, is not an engaged or informed choice. Instead, we see technology use as an opportunity for a staff member to get the individual engaged in a more productive way, to encourage them to take part in a conversation or in some other activity, using tech as a support. The technology is a tool, and used effectively can be a powerful solution in helping combat social isolation.

scrabble tiles spelling holistic

Assistive Technology As Part of A Holistic Approach

At ATECH, we believe that AT can be used as part of an overall holistic approach to helping the individual move towards independence. Other elements of this approach include

  • Natural/family supports and interaction
  • Community and friends
  • Paid and unpaid Staff support and communication

AT is just one tool among many in the holistic approach to care. Assistive technology is not a “plug and play,” or “set it and forget it” kind of a solution– it needs to be tailored to the individual to be truly successful and it frequently changes over time. Assistive technologies are tools for getting individuals more engaged with each other and with the community at large, combating loneliness and isolation, and boosting their personal wellbeing.

Mobile Technology for Communication

Technology that facilitates communication, like email, video calls including Skype, Facebook Portal, or Zoom can be especially appreciated in the case of people who have physical and cognitive disabilities. These individuals commonly experience feelings of isolation, frustration and depression. Using communication-based technologies via a mobile phone or tablet can give these individuals the ability to share their experiences with others, forging new connections, sometimes with those who have the same diseases or disabilities. This newfound sense of understanding and community can provide high levels of emotional support and greatly increase wellbeing.

Mobile technology’s ease of use is an additional factor in helping to keep individuals connected with family and friends. Many seniors can be technophic, and individuals with IDD or Autism may need some coaching at first, but once they become comfortable with the use of a mobile app, their experience deepens and their sense of control and independence increases.

Assistive technology can be used to help people overcome mobility challenges and help them to stay better connected. New mobile apps are being developed and launched to identify different transportation routes in cities and towns, making it easier to set up transportation and stay in touch with the community. These new mapping apps help mitigate social isolation by providing transportation options to get people to where they want to go and give them information about places where others are connecting in person. Drive sharing apps like Uber and Lyft are easy to use, and provide individuals with private transportation to and from community events, or meetups with friends.

Video Conferencing

Many people prefer face-to-face interaction, but with the COVID-19 pandemic’s social distancing policies, geographic and mobility barriers have frequently prevented in-person meetings. Video conferencing technologies like FaceTime, Skype, or Facebook Portal, have bridged the physical gap and allowed people to stay connected.

One Canadian study focusing on seniors aging in place found that even five minutes of weekly video conferencing interaction with family over a three month time span alleviated depression symptoms and loneliness. Similarly, for individuals with IDD or Autism, after the initial introduction to the technology, connecting with a staff or family member online via a video conference becomes a way to read stories together, play games, or just talk.

Additionally, research is now being done by long-term care and assisted living facilities in the use of companion robots to ease loneliness for their residents. Sophisticated robots, like the ElliQ, are specifically used for engagement and social companionship. Some robots tell jokes, some play music, while others offer mindfulness exercises or play exercise videos to keep seniors engaged, thinking, smiling and moving.

seniors playing video games

Online / Digital Games

The growth of online or digital gameplay in the past few years has been staggering. The range and scope of digital games continues to expand exponentially, and the immersive experiences of virtual reality offer many online players the ability to engage in a way never before possible. Many games allow players to interact with each other, simply connecting and talking or working together to solve problems. Avatars and role-playing games also allow people to interact with each other in a way that equalizes the playing field.

Additionally, research has found that digital gameplay has socio-emotional benefits and can help develop relationships that strengthen social ties, both on and offline. – not sure this is pertinent to our population as a whole…

Social Media

Social media provides a quick and simple way for many individuals to engage in meaningful social contact. For older adults aging in place, using social media can be extremely beneficial in finding needed support in dealing with a challenging life event. Finding like-minded individuals who are interested in the same hobbies or activities also helps connect individuals with a built-in network of others who share their likes and interests. All of these activities combat feelings of loneliness and isolation, providing emotional comfort and support, while improving overall wellbeing.

social media icons


Assistive technology can be used in many different ways for a wide variety of purposes. Helping to connect individuals to friends, family, and the community at large through the use of assistive technology not only helps fight against isolation and loneliness, but also provides a deeper sense of belonging. New research is showing this greater sense of wellbeing can positively impact overall health.

These tools are an integral part of looking at each individual from a personalized, holistic approach. In our role as caregivers, helping an individual move towards independence is an ongoing goal. Using assistive technology to positively impact socialization and community involvement while providing an easy to use and comfortable tool helps both the individual and the caregiver.

Reposted from:

News and Events Product Spotlight Smart Home Tech

8 Ways to Turn a Traditional Home Into A Smart Home

Written by Pam Fields, ATECH

smartphone showing smart items in room and ATECH logo

With advancement in technology improving every day, assistive technology keeps getting better and better, providing more seamless integration into our lives. As direct-care givers, what’s the best, and easiest way we can use the new and emerging smart-home devices to assist in providing better care? Even if the current living environment is a traditional home or apartment, there are 8 easy-to-install and easy-to-use assistive technology tools that can greatly improve any home.

We live in a connected world; many new technologies are controlled using an app on a smartphone or tablet, are wifi accessible, and many are voice enabled, allowing you to make changes by simply speaking a voice command. For example, using a voice-controlled Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, or Apple’s Homepod or Siri, you can lock doors and windows, adjust the lighting or air temperature, or turn appliances on or off.

Reposted from  

News and Events Product Spotlight

Movia Robotics Shares a Look into Robot-Assisted Instruction

Written by Muniba Masood​, Vice President, Movia Robotics

Kebbie RobotChildren with autism have always had to change for the world; but now the world is starting to change for them! Devoted to improving the lives of children with autism through Robot-Assisted Instruction, MOVIA Robotics is an innovative tech company that designs products for both the home and school environment. MOVIA’s Robot-Assisted Instruction (RAI) system integrates cutting-edge software and evidence-based curriculum delivered through captivating robotics platforms to engage children with autism in order to improve outcomes. The RAI system supports a pre-programmed curriculum with the ability to uniquely configure the experience based on each child’s educational and social-emotional learning goals. What’s more, MOVIA’s dedicated team of experts works with each family or classroom to tailor the experience to the individual, making sure each child is given all the tools he or she needs to succeed.

young boy with his parents using the Kebbi robot at home

MOVIA is also beginning to work with older students with autism, as they learn to transition from school to prevocational services and will eventually work with adults in vocational settings as well.

Teacher with young students using a MOVIA robot for instruction

Learn more on the Movia Robotics website.

MOVIA's 4 robots

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





News and Events Product Spotlight

Social Distancing Does Not Have to Mean Social Isolation – Generations on Line

Generations on Line (GoL) Helps Seniors Navigate Tech Options

By Katie Burke, Administrator, Generations on Line

Older woman holding a tablet with an the Easy Tablet Help app openedIf you, or someone you love, wants to learn how to use a tablet or smartphone to access the internet, Generations on Line (GoL) can help. GoL is a 20-year-old national non-profit, with a mission of narrowing the digital divide for seniors. And now, GoL is offering a FREE, interactive, tutorial for Android, Apple or Amazon tablets and smartphones, which can be found at

The tutorial was created with grant funding, and GoL shares it freely, to provide seniors with the information and skills necessary to use the internet. Although the training is specifically designed for seniors, anyone can use it. Another helpful feature of the GoL free tutorial is that it can stay on a learner’s device, allowing them to return to it, if a refresher is needed.

The GoL Free Tutorial Includes:
The Basics :
 Tapping a touch-screen, enlarging a page and shrinking, scrolling up and down, where buttons are located, how to get a keyboard to appear AND disappear

  • Web : How to search the internet and internet safety
  • Email+: Texting, video-calling (Skype, Zoom, FaceTime), setting up and accessing a Gmail account
  • More : Using the camera; accessing apps and YouTube; how to attach photos to email

screen shot of GOL websiteLoneliness and the Benefits of Technology: GoL Has Some Suggestions…

Did you know that loneliness has been associated with numerous health challenges, including increased risk of dementia? The pandemic’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” protocols have increased social isolation that often leads to loneliness, boredom and depression. GoL works to help older adults to feel a part of their family, neighborhood, extended community and world.

Those who have used technology before may need very little support, and will go through the tutorial at their own pace, choosing to repeat sections or move ahead as they wish. Many others will need a friend or relative to help coach them through the program.

  • If the coach and learner can be in the same room, the coach can support independent learning simply by troubleshooting, prompting and encouraging as needed.
  • If remote support is required, friends and/or family members can act as a remote coach by putting the same GoL tutorial on their own device. They can make the same selections on each page as the learner and be ready to encourage or answer any questions by phone.

Seniors may need inspiration to pursue new technology options…
For many seniors, it helps to discover the benefits of new learning, especially when it comes to technology. Do they like cooking—tell them about the treasure-trove of recipes available online. Do they miss the family? Video calling is a great incentive for many to start learning. The incentive varies from person to person. One senior loved to fix cars and learned he could view old car manuals online – then he was hooked on the internet!

Once they start learning, most find it rewarding. “I never realized so much was out there!” a coach shared recently. “My learner had only used her tablet for games. She did not use the camera, email, apps or other features for she was afraid she would wipe out something. After completing the tutorial, she is now much more confident and can use the device. Goal met!”

More support from GoL: Free Family Guides

Generations on Line has recently created free Family Guides to help families assist loved ones with tablet and/or Wi-Fi acquisition, setup and learning, even remotely if necessary. GoL provides these free materials and tutorials so friends, family and facilities such as senior centers, libraries, nursing homes, etc. can help a techno-timid elder find the on-ramp to the information highway. You can find the app and web-versions of the tutorial, along with the Family Guides at:

News and Events Product Spotlight

Instructional Robots have Moved into Oak Hill!

By Adam Kosakowski, NEAT, Assistive Technology Specialist

Image of Kebbi. A classroom robot with a very cute digital face.Meet Kebbi!

Kebbi is an educational robot that integrates artificial intelligence, software, and hardware technology to provide a variety of facial expressions, body movements and communicative interactions. Kebbi provides a unique set of capabilities that offer students with autism and other special needs a unique approach to learning and engagement in the home/school environment.

The robot-assisted instruction comes with fundamental skills-training, using evidence-based techniques. The software supports a pre-programmed curriculum with the ability to customize, based on the student’s educational deficits as well as achievements.


The NEAT Center at Oak Hill has received two of these beautiful devices: one, which was donated to Oak Hill from MOVIA Robotics, and the other purchased for NEAT by the CT Tech Act Project. The CT Tech Act Project provides a great deal of programmatic support to NEAT, especially for the Lending Library and Adaptive Equipment Services. Both devices have been entered into the Lending Library at NEAT and can be borrowed to help make informed decisions about purchasing. Borrowing a device allows individuals time to see if it will meet their needs, both socially and educationally. Want to learn more? Please reach out to Adam Kosakowski from the NEAT Center at

Want to see more right now? Check out the links below:

Two young boys happily interacting with Movia Kebbie Robot

Young boy using Movia Kebbie Robot

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 Product Spotlight

Featured Item: The GrandPad

Written by EASTCONN, Where Learning Comes to Life, Assistive Technology Library

During these uncertain times our reliance on technology to stay connected with family and friends is more important than ever.  Designed with seniors in mind,  the GrandPad simplifies the interface to the basic features offered in many other tablets.  With it’s large buttons and intuitive interface the GrandPad is a functional tablet for seniors.  The GrandPad can help seniors to stay connected by easily viewing family photos and videos, playing games, listening to music, checking emails, making phone calls, video chatting, and much more!

Interested Consortium Member districts can borrow this item by contacting any member of the AT Team or by emailing Carol Magliocco at

News and Events Product Spotlight

Smartwatches as Assistive Technology

Written by Nicole Natale, MS, CCC-SLP, ATP, CREC Resource Group

There is no denying the rise in popularity of wearable technologies, especially smartwatches. The market is saturated with many devices that have a multitude of features. Smartwatches provide many benefits to people with disabilities and can be used as part of anyone’s Assistive Technology toolkit.

Many smartwatches operate either from a connected cell phone or they stand alone with a separate data plan. The Best Reviews website has a comparison listing of the five most popular smartwatches on the market. Available across the most popular, most robust smartwatches, the features that can help anyone include:

  • Benefits for executive function issues, such as auditory and haptic reminders, some with video as well; calendar and appointment reminders; alarms; visual schedules and prompts; and curation and capturing of information for later (using voice commands or memos).
  • Health rewards, such as fall detection, heart monitoring and mindfulness.
  • Expressive communication rewards, such as speech-to-text messaging, text-to-speech content reading, and 3rd-party apps for communication, such as Proloquo2go and Proloquo4text for iOS.
    Location tracking with GPS and auditory/haptic maps information when walking.

There are many third-party apps to choose from for smartwatches, including Fantastical 2 for Apple Watch (combines Reminders and Calendars information), Just Press Record (voice memos), and Google Keep (a cross-platform with tools for reminders, lists and storage of information, including website curation). Check out Dr. Luis Perez’s webinar on wearables as assistive technology for an excellent overview of wearables and their uses.

While many of these options are geared more toward adults and older children, younger children and people with intellectual disabilities may also benefit from more simplified smartwatch technology, particularly if a cell phone is not an option. Some popular options include the Kidizoom Smartwatch from VTech and the Doki. T3 has a current article on wearable technology for children. Many of these smartwatches and fitness trackers can voice and/or video call; message; provide GPS locators and safe zones (caregivers can set up an acceptable range for individuals to roam and if they leave the area, the caretaker will be notified); calendars; reminders; photo-taking; fitness information; and emergency SOS alerting.

Smartwatches and wearable technologies have opened up a host of possibilities for many people. They can help any individual become more independent and achieve their potential. This article only touches on the capabilities of these devices. The possibilities of further feature improvements are endless!