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 –

News and Events

Home Safe Home

Written by Shannon Taber

Bin, pictured smiling while sitting in his power wheelchair As the Director of Inclusion and Accessibility at UCP of Eastern CT, I had the pleasure of working with Bin (pictured) and his wife, both of whom are wheelchairs users. They moved into an accessible home in the past year and with the support of staff from the Department of Developmental Services (DDS), they lived fairly independently. I had the chance to work with Bin to provide a comprehensive Assistive Technology evaluation to help identify Assistive Technology devices and Smart Home Technology to increase their independence in their home, particularly for when they didn’t have staff there.

For example, Bin mentioned that he didn’t like going to bed at 8pm when staff were leaving for the evening because staff would lock the door and turn off lights on them. He also mentioned that his wife struggled to open their front door which had a traditional doorknob on it.

Recommendations were made to provide and install smart plugs and smart lights like the Philips Hue, the Ring Doorbell and Ring solar lights, an Alexa enabled microwave, the Nest thermostats, and Smart Blinds. I also recommended a lever door handle with biometric and keypad lock that also works with an app.

After installing these items and providing training, Bin and his wife were able set the lighting in their home to turn off with scheduled events, such as having the lights turn on one hour before “sunset” and turning off at 10 pm allowing them to stay up when staff left for the evening. This way they didn’t have to leave the lights on all night or sit in the dark at 8 pm at night. We also set their lights to turn on under the bed with motion detection providing safety lighting in case Bin got up in the middle of the night. Lastly, we also connected the smart devices to Alexa so that they could be used with voice commands. Bin was super excited to be able to open and close his blinds with the power of his voice!

Smart level door handle with keypad

Little did we know that within a month of installing these devices, and specifically the door handle, Bin would need to call 911 in the middle of the night for help for his wife. Bin was able to tell his Alexa to unlock the door for the fire department and police, from his bed, so they could get inside and provide the help his wife needed.

Needless to say, the smart home devices provided to Bin and his  wife have not only increased their independence but allows them to stay safe in their home, sweet home!


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:

Announcement News and Events

New Program Alert: Bridging the Digital Divide

A collaboration between the Department of Aging & Disability Services (ADS) State Unit on Aging & the CT Tech Act Project (CTTAP). 

Bridging the Digital Divide Logo

This 2-year pilot program allows us to have a full-time Digital Divide Coordinator (DDC) at two of our community AT Partner agencies: the NEAT Center at Oak Hill & UCP of Eastern CT.

Our goal is to help bridge the digital divide by providing one-on-one or group services to adults with disabilities (18 and older) and aging adults (60 and older).

Services to individuals includes:

  • Increased access to technology & technology use
  • Providing tech support, troubleshooting, & teaching the use of built-in device accessibility features
  • Increasing access to the community, virtual programming & telehealth, reducing social isolation
  • Connecting Individuals to community resources for ongoing supports
  • Providing tablet technology (with or without hotspot) to individuals 60 & older, if eligible

Why connect with a DDC?

If you or an individual you work with has availability to technology, but struggles to use it and would benefit from some training & support, such as:

  • Connecting to their Wi-Fi
  • Learning to use social media to connect to family and friends
  • Learning to use virtual platforms like Zoom, Teams or virtual community services
  • Learning how to use built-in accessibility features in their devices – speech to text, magnification, text to speech, etc.
  • And more …

Services to Organizations includes:

  • Providing training to entities, such as staff at senior and community centers, libraries, and others who serve the same population, helping them provide access and tech support to their participants.

Why connect your agency to a DDC?

If your organization serves adults with disabilities or individuals 60 and older and you/your staff could benefit from training to be able to support your clients, such as:

  • Learning how to set up built-in accessibility features on your technology or your clients’ technology
  • Learning how to set your clients up with virtual platforms or your virtual services
  • Helping your clients use social media or other internet activities (i.e. online grocery shopping, accessing eBooks, connecting with friends & family etc.)


Contact the CT Tech Act Project for more information by sending an email via our website or by calling 860-803-0588. You can contact a DDC directly at the following:

NEAT Center – serving northwest, northeast and north central CT: call 860-286-3119 or email 

UCP of Eastern CT – serving southwest, southeast and south central CT: call 860-288-9520 or email

The Connecticut Bridging the Digital Divide program is funded by the federal Department of Health & Human Services, Administration for Community Living, Expanding the Public Health Workforce within the Disability Network.

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  

Access Through Technology News and Events

The Access Through Technology Program Makes a Difference!

By Muriel Aparo, CT Tech Act Project

In CT, the FCC’s National Deaf Blind Equipment Distribution Program is known as Access Through Technology. We provide equipment needed to make telecommunications, advanced communications, and the Internet accessible to individuals who have a combination of significant vision and hearing loss.

In June of 2019, we received applications for two young ladies, sisters, who live with Usher’s Syndrome Type 1, which causes profound hearing loss and progressive vision loss. One of the sisters was in middle school and the other in high school. Both had cochlear implants and wore glasses but still struggled with blurred vision, leaving them with eye fatigue and headaches from the eye strain by the end of their school days. This caused them to have difficulty utilizing computers and the internet to complete homework or to socialize online with family and friends.

Upon approval for services through the Access Through Technology program, the CT Tech Act Project connected them to our AT partner agency United Cerebral Palsy of Eastern CT who evaluated the girls and made recommendations for Microsoft Surface computers and mice to be purchased. The equipment was delivered and installed, and they each received training on how to use the equipment. The girls were excited to work with the technology and it helped improve their ability to do well in school, get online for research for school projects, video chat with friends and family and much more.

Sister's A & M sitting on the sofa with their new MacBook Pros and iPhones In 2022, the girls’ mother reached out again as their vision had declined and they had updates to their cochlear implants and now had Bluetooth capabilities. The CT Tech Act Project, with the help of United Cerebral Palsy of Eastern CT’s AT evaluator, was able to again give assistance by providing additional equipment including MacBook Pros and iPhone 13 Pro Maxs to help with the changes in both their eyesight and new implants. The larger screens and the built-in accessibility features of the devices help to reduce eye strain and headaches. To say that both girls are grateful for the technology is an understatement. One of the sisters stated, “It has changed our lives in a way I couldn’t imagine.”


Testimonial from Corinne

Corrinne using her iPad with keyboard, this image also refers to the Access Through Technology program

“I am so grateful for the Access Through Technology program, which got me an iPad, iMac, and Microsoft Office. These pieces of technology have enabled me to take virtual classes through the Helen Keller National Center and do a remote Social Media Marketing internship through Helen Keller Services. Having Microsoft Office has made it much easier for me to take notes during class, write to-do lists, write letters, make lists, and more. This is extremely helpful and keeps me organized, especially since I am able to use it wherever I am and have the ease of portability using the iPad. As a Deaf Blind individual who isn’t able to work full-time, and being on a fixed budget, having the ability to apply and be accepted for the Access Through Technology program has been wonderful. A technologist came out to assist me with learning the layout of the iMac and how to set up accessibility features on it. I’m truly thankful for everything that the Access Through Technology program has provided me with and all the support their staff have given me. I can’t say enough good things about my experience with their program and their awesome staff.”

Learn More

To learn more about the Access Through Technology Program and see if you or someone you know might qualify visit For the national website, visit

News and Events Smart Home Tech

How to Use Assistive Technology to Promote Independent Living

By Jillian Day,

Man using a tablet and smart pen while sitting on his bed.

Assistive technology (AT) can make life easier for people in many ways. For example, seniors with limited mobility can benefit from voice-activated smart assistants to handle basic tasks like turning on lights and seeing who is at the door. However, people of all ages can benefit from these cutting-edge tools. The Connecticut Tech Act Project helps people with disabilities and aging adults discover the many uses of assistive technology. Read on to learn how AT can help you and simplify your life.

Make working from home a breeze with the right tech

Whether you’re a small business owner or an employee, if you deal with telecommuting, you’re likely already familiar with some commonly used tech tools, like Zoom for video conferencing. However, there are many other useful apps and software available. Here are 10 essential tools and apps for work from home employees, like Trello, which can help you organize your projects and tasks.

Enjoy greater peace of mind if you live independently with smart security tools

Smart tech can also help make your home more secure. Modern security systems create interlinked networks that make it easy to monitor your home. For example, a comprehensive package might include security cameras and motion sensors that you can control from your phone. If the cameras or motion sensors detect unusual activity, they will send an alert to your phone. You can then control the camera to view the issue. If it’s not a threat, like a wild animal, you can ignore it. If it’s an issue, like an intruder, you can notify the police. Here are some tips to choose the best smart home security gadgets for you.

Improve your personal self-care with smart tools

Smart technology can also help you take care of your most important asset: your own physical health. For example, you can use apps to help track your diet and exercise. There are also apps available to support your mental health, such as guided meditation apps. If you take medications, you can use apps or smart pillboxes to help you remember to take them on time. Here is a roundup of the best mental health apps for 2022 written by a Licensed Clinical Social Worker.

Make the most of smart tech when you’re on the go

Assistive technology isn’t just for use in the home or workplace. It can also prove practical when you’re on the go, from using your phone’s hands-free voice assistant to set reminders or check directions – helping to ensure safety when you’re on the road – to using your smart phone to create grocery or shopping lists. Apps like GasBuddy that help you find the most affordable gas prices in your area helping you save valuable money can be essential right now.

Keep connected with loved ones with cutting-edge innovation

Assistive technology can help you enjoy a more independent lifestyle and can allow you to stay connected with family, friends and your community more easily. From having “face to face” interactions via video call tools or playing games together on the internet, here are apps that will help you social distance without feeling isolated.

Assistive technology is no longer the stuff of science fiction movies. It’s already helping people of all ages enjoy less stressful and more independent lives. The above guide provides some pointers on how to incorporate smart tech into your life.

AT Reuse News and Events

Supply Chain Challenges, AT3 Center publication

AT Reutilization Programs have never been more important

State and Territory Assistive Technology Act Programs face a number of challenges, and two years into the pandemic, supply chain issues have rippled well beyond the ER and personal protective equipment to include non-COVID-related medical supplies. The AT3 Center Issue Brief highlights the work of Assistive Technology Reutilization Programs to bridge the gap. We hope you find this publication helpful and encourage you to share this Issue Brief with others.

AT Success Stories News and Events

Nancy’s Story

Older woman with laptop
Seniors – even those with no computer experience – have gained valuable skills through the Stay Connected program.

During the height of the COVID pandemic, Nancy, an older adult living independently in her own home, was beginning to feel socially isolated as she was unable to get together with her friends for their regular games of bridge. Through Cares Act funding, and the Stay Connected program, she was provided with a brand-new laptop. One big challenge? Nancy had never used a computer before.

She had to learn the very basics of using a computer: connecting to Wi-Fi, plugging it in so the laptop would have a charge, even where to find the space bar. After initial training and an introduction to the laptop was provided by phone, Nancy and her AT Consultant moved onto video conferencing where she learned how to access websites and use bookmarks. Finally, Nancy was able to join her friends for online Bridge Club. Now, not only is Nancy playing bridge several times a day with her friends, enjoying her ability to stay connected to them virtually; she is also using her laptop to purchase and read books online and much more. #ATAwarenessDay