Announcement News and Events

ATIA 2024 – A Fantastic Learning Experience!

Written by Nicole Deary, AT Specialist, EASTCONN

My colleague and I recently attended the Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA) conference in Florida, and we are thrilled to share our experience. The event was a treasure trove of information, providing valuable insights into the latest advancements in technology designed to support individuals with communication disorders and other disabilities. The conference showcased a diverse range of products and solutions that left us impressed and excited about the possibilities in our field.

One of the highlights was attending the comprehensive sessions that delved into the practical applications of various assistive technologies. These sessions covered everything from augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) devices to innovative apps and software designed to enhance communication skills. The presenters were experts in their respective fields, offering in-depth knowledge and practical tips that we can now integrate into our practice.

The exhibit hall was a bustling hub of activity, with numerous vendors showcasing their latest products. It was a delight to explore the myriad of options available, each catering to different needs and preferences. From cutting-edge AAC devices with customizable features to user-friendly apps that promote language development, the diversity of assistive technology was truly impressive.

Engaging with the vendors provided us with a hands-on experience, allowing us to better understand each product’s functionality and potential benefits. Additionally, networking with professionals from various disciplines, as well as from our own home state of Connecticut, opened up opportunities for collaboration and knowledge exchange. The vendor exhibit was not only a feast for our mind but also for the taste buds, as attendees were treated to delicious hot pretzels and refreshing ice cream, creating a delightful atmosphere for networking and informal conversations.

Overall, the conference was a fantastic learning experience, and we left feeling invigorated and inspired by the vast potential of assistive technology. The event not only deepened our understanding of the available tools but also reinforced the importance of staying abreast of technological advancements to better serve individuals with communication disorders. We are eager to incorporate our newfound knowledge into our practice and contribute to the continued advancement of assistive technology in our field.

Events News and Events

SCSU Creating Switch-Adapted Toys for Local School

Toys and switches on table from SCSU's Adaptive Toys Workshopby Lauren Tucker, Ed.D.

The graduate students in Southern Connecticut State University’s Assistive Technology Program participated in an adapted toy workshop this spring to learn how to increase the accessibility for many toys. Unfortunately, many switch-adapted toys are very expensive and have limited options. To learn the process of adapting and to give back to the community, the SCSU Special Education department purchased toys and the materials for graduate students to adapt several toys.

SCSU graduate students learned a solder-free method of toy adaptation using lever nuts.  They explored the essential components of toy adapting, wiring, and circuitry. After the toys were adapted by the SCSU students, they were donated to ACES Village School in North Haven.  As stated on their website, Village School provides collaborative educational, emotional, and physical services to children ages 3 to 14 years with a range of cognitive, physical, behavioral, language, and medical challenges.

Village School celebrates the diversity of their student population through innovative and individualized instruction. The teachers and speech pathologists were able to utilize the switch adapted toys in their classrooms for cause and effect activities, teaching motor skills, and recreation! The adapted toys included a spin art activity, a dancing pig, a dancing cactus and more! The SCSU Assistive Technology program is excited to continue their toy adapting workshop in the future semesters. Click here to view a video summary of the workshop class.

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.