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.

News and Events Resource

How Assistive Technology Can Support Those Experiencing “Long COVID”

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

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

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 New research (not yet peer-reviewed) suggests persons with breakthrough infections who were fully vaccinated and under age 60 may be protected from long COVID, but those over age 60 are not.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

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

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

For example, AT Act Programs provide access to:

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

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

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

Find Your State or Territory AT Act Program




AT Success Stories News and Events

Stay Connected Program: Reducing Social Isolation for Seniors and Individuals with Disabilities During COVID-19

By Stacey Fulton, OTR/ATP, EASTCONN

As the CT Tech Act Project embraces new grant initiatives, the Stay Connected program has also been in full swing. Stay Connected is a statewide program operated out of the Connecticut Department of Aging and Disability Services in collaboration with the State Unit on Aging and the CT Tech Act Project. The mission of this project is to match AT resources and devices to individuals who are isolated or at risk of being isolated from family, friends, activities or healthcare during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Persons are determined to be eligible for this program based on a social isolation scale completed by the Area Agencies on Aging or The Centers for Independent Living. Qualified individuals are referred to one of the project’s AT partners (EASTCONN, NEAT Center and UCP of Eastern CT), who reach out to discern each individual’s needs and match them to potential device solutions. Services that are provided include consultation, training and follow-up. As a result of this program, many individuals have received devices and training, and are once again able to connect to family, friends and healthcare providers.

An individual who benefited from this project was a woman in her late 70s, who received services from EASTCONN’s AT team. She lived alone and since the start of the pandemic, had been unable to see her family and friends, or participate in activities she used to enjoy at her local senior center. She also had no access to Wi-Fi at home. Funding was provided by both the Stay Connected program and the town where she lives to secure a device and a “hotspot” for Wi-Fi access. A laptop computer was determined to be the best option and training was provided to assist her in setting up her email and utilizing Zoom. She shared her appreciation by sending a follow-up e-mail to the EASTCONN provider: “Finally saw my nephew’s daughter in action … I’ve never seen her except in still pictures. At first, she was shy and kept turning her head … but then after a short while, she actually threw me a kiss and waved … Zoom is really great. So grateful to have this computer.”

This is just one of the many positive outcomes that have been shared by individuals who have participated in the Stay Connected program. Working together, this interagency collaboration has made a significant difference in the lives of seniors and persons with disabilities across Connecticut.

AT Devices News and Events

Most Requested Devices for Staying Connected in 2020

By Kristopher Thompson, BAS, CAPS, Smart Technology Specialist, New England Assistive Technology (NEAT)

Graph of Most Requested AT Devices for Staying Connected 2020

Social isolation is a serious public health problem, and something I have been focused on  during most of my time at NEAT. I have conducted many presentations that showcase how today’s smart technology can combat this problem, but 2020 opened my eyes to what it really takes to address it. One year ago, the lockdowns began, and the digital divide deepened for those who were most vulnerable. Various programs were formed to help those who were not able to connect with their loved ones during the pandemic. I have been heavily involved in a few of these programs and my expertise has served many who were socially isolated. But this experience has given me a few surprises as well.

The people I have worked with over the past year were a mixture of aging adults and young people of varying abilities, all of whom were eager to connect with family, friends, doctors, places of worship, or establish new connections. While most Americans were speeding into the digital age of texting, teleconferencing, email, telehealth, social media, etc., there were many who didn’t have access

to the devices that make it possible to access digital platforms and options.

The demand for computers is what surprised me most, as did their affordability. In cases where an iPad wasn’t the best fit, I could often find a brand-new Dell computer for around the same price. Computers also offered many of the same features, such as messaging, video chat, email, web surfing, social media and accessibility – all in a familiar and comfortable interface.

Overall, iPads were still the most requested devices during the pandemic, but laptop computers were a close second and desktop computers rounded out the top three. Other recommended devices were Android tablets, specialized tablets, Android phones and iPhones. Virtual speakers, such as the Amazon Echo, had tremendous potential, but a long way to go before they became a primary way to stay connected from home.

A person’s comfort level with technology is the number one consideration when I make a recommendation. Sure, an iPad is packed full of features, capabilities and accessibility features. And Amazon Echo smart speakers offer convenient and accessible ways to connect. But what if someone isn’t comfortable using one? If I recommend a technology solely on its potential, there’s a good chance it’s going to become a “smart paperweight.” If a person is willing to embrace new technology, that’s fantastic! The bottom line is, matching technology to an individual’s needs, which minimizes the learning curve, is the key to success.



Announcement News and Events

STAY CONNECTED: Helping Older Adults and Persons with Disabilities engage with medical providers, community, family and friends during COVID-19

The Stay Connected Program is funded by the Administration for Community Living, Federal CARES Act in response to COVID-19. This a new program is operated out of the Dept of Aging and Disability Services in collaboration by the State Unit on Aging and the CT Tech Act Project.


To connect adults aged 18 years of age or older with a disability or adults sixty years of age or older to the most appropriate Assistive Technology (AT) to foster improved communication and connection with medical professionals, family/friends and the community during this pandemic when many of us are staying home to stay safe.


All five Area Agencies on Aging (AAA) and Centers for Independent Living (CIL) in CT conduct Information & Referral with individuals who call their centers.  The AAAs & CILs will use a validated screening tool during calls to identify individuals who would gain the most from technology assistance. Eligible individuals will be referred to one of three CT Tech Act Project AT partner agencies for a remote technology consultation. The participating AT partner agencies are EASTCONN, the NEAT Center and UCP of Eastern CT. During this consultation, the AT Partner will recommend the best selection of AT device based on the person’s needs and preference. Various funding sources have been identified to assist with the purchase of the technology device and internet (when needed). Once the technology arrives, training will be provided to the individual and any support person in the home to assist in learning how to use the device to stay connected with loved ones, family, friends and medical providers. Connections to community supports will also be made to help the individual in continuing to utilize the device and engage with others.


Refer individuals who would benefit to the “Stay Connected” program to their Area Agency on Aging (1-800-994-9422) or Center for Independent Living Program. For More Information contact: or


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 Resource

UR Community Cares

Written by Donna Powell

If you’re looking for ways to help older adults age in place and persons with physical disabilities live more independently, you can now refer people to UR Community Cares.  This nonprofit organization, based in Manchester and covering all of Conn., is making great strides in matching up homebound residents and others who need safe-distanced assistance from volunteers living nearby. Needs can range from temporary (recovery from surgery) to permanent (no longer able to use stairs for laundry).  Service includes household tasks, yard work and companionship visits such as pick-up/delivery of groceries and other essential errands.  Participants are background-checked and follow COVID-19 safety protocols. There is no charge for services or for the secure online enrollment at Visits can be scheduled weekly, monthly or as needed, and pre-scheduling allows for caregiver respite opportunities.

Co-founder and president Michelle Puzzo is available to schedule an online informational meeting and website demonstration with your organization. Please email or call 860-430-4557.   UR Community Cares is also seeking new board members, advisors, volunteers and sponsors.

AT Success Stories News and Events

“Alexa, Can You Help Me Access My Environment”

Written by JoAnne Lambert, M.S. CCC/SLP, EASTCONN

Accessibility. Independence.  Important for all, but especially important for individuals with disabilities who use Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC).  Through a grant obtained by the Eastford School District, two Amazon Alexa Smart Speakers were purchased for use by a student who uses an AAC device to aid in communication.  Through the use of voice-command technology, an AAC user is able to create a message or a question and “ask” the smart speaker using the command word “Alexa.”  For individuals who have difficulty accessing information by traditional means or accessing their environment due to a variety of disabilities, this type of technology can provide the opportunity to be more independent!

Student using her AAC device to access Alexa In order to determine how we were going to implement the device at different opportunities throughout the student’s day, the educational team looked at what the student’s typical day looked like as well as her individualized educational programming.  It was decided that we would start with the following commands; “Alexa, what’s the weather in (town).”  This would allow the student to report the weather to the class during morning meeting.  “Alexa, set a timer for (time)” and “Alexa stop the timer”—this would allow the student to set a timer while completing cooking tasks as well as while performing various other life skills activities where a time limit or a simple reminder is needed.  “Alexa, play music by (preferred music artist)” would allow the student to engage with her peers socially and enjoy the leisure activity of listening to music.  Finally, “Alexa, play calming sounds” to allow the student access to self-calming techniques rather than relying on an adult to anticipate and initiate the calming strategy.  The student’s AAC tool (iPad mini with TouchChat HD-AAC app running MultiChat 15 Student vocabulary), which already contained a folder to access voice command, was customized to meet the communication needs.

AAC screen shot of Amazon Alexa voice command options.

Through use of the Amazon Alexa paired with the student’s AAC Device, the student is able to participate in a variety of activities including engaging with her peers during social opportunities to play preferred music.  She provides an up-to-the-minute weather report so the students can plan on their outerwear or umbrella needs, and can independently set the time when the class engages in baking goodies! As we move forward, we will continue to expand the use of Alexa skills across the student’s day. The possibilities for access to information and environmental control and increasing independence are certainly exciting!

AT Success Stories News and Events

Despite School Closures, Switch User Doesn’t Miss a Beat!

Written by Stacy Fulton, EASTCONN Assistive Technology Specialist, ATP, OTR/L, CAPS

When school buildings closed in mid-March due to COVID-19, I joined the ranks of Connecticut’s educators, therapists and AT providers who were forced to find creative, alternative ways to provide direct services. One of my biggest challenges was how to provide appropriate services for a student with significant physical and visual impairments who required assistive technology in order to participate in his educational programming. Because this young man would need to work from home, EASTCONN’s AT team decided to offer a crash course in technology to the student’s mother. She was excited and eager to learn how to use his extensive array of equipment; once it was delivered, we established a training schedule that suited her needs.

Every Monday, we presented one new “device” with our student’s mom. We shared videos to reinforce the technology set-ups and functions and taught her how to connect and use them. With this training she was able to support her son’s progress in communication, cognition, participation in virtual class meetings and leisure activities.

EASTCONN Training VideoThe devices that were presented include an access switch, iPad/talker with GoTalk Now for making choices through auditory scanning, Powerlink to participate in functional home activities, All-Turn-Spinner to increase his participation in virtual class meetings, Step-by-Step Communicator to share novel information during virtual class meetings, a laptop computer with switch access for accessing auditory books and switch websites, and a switch-adapted Uno Attack game for social interaction and leisure. The student’s mom quickly mastered each device and was able to utilize them at home with her son on a daily basis. Mom successfully

adapted to holding the switch for the student, since he was awaiting the arrival of a new switch mount. Mom happily shared his success with the devices at home by sending videos to our team. If you’d like to see how well this student used his assistive technology, click on the following link to view one of the videos (and see his priceless smile) while using the Powerlink to participate in a food-prep activity with his mom.

Click here to see Video on Facebook

Student helping mom using switch/Powerlink to activate the blenders


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.