Announcement News and Events

The Connect to Tech Project Kicks Off!

By Nicole Natale, MS, CCC-SLP, ATP, Senior Education Specialist, CREC Resource Group

The CT Tech Act Project was awarded a grant as part of the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation National Paralysis Resource Center 2020 High Impact Innovative Assistive Technology (HIIAT) grants program. As a result, the CT Tech Act and three assistive technology (AT) partner agencies, Capitol Region Education Council (CREC), EASTCONN, the New England Assistive Technology (NEAT) Center at Oak Hill, as well as two local hospitals – Gaylord Hospital and Hartford Healthcare – are providing access to AT services and devices for patients with spinal cord injuries or other conditions that cause paralysis. These services are provided through virtual AT demonstrations, as well as AT device-lending so that individuals and their families can experience how AT can enhance independence and quality of life.

So far, the AT partners have received 15 referrals. CREC has completed two of them and the experience has been very positive! Both individuals wanted to increase their independence when arriving home by connecting with loved ones and doctors and by accessing environmental controls independently. Both patients are interested in borrowing an Amazon Echo Show from the CREC lending library in order to call emergency contacts, spouses and family members/friends and to connect with healthcare professionals. Patients will also use Alexa for appointment reminders, and things like taking medicines on time. These individuals will be accessing the Echo Show with voice recognition, due to their limitations with both fine- and gross-motor skills. One of our patients will also be trialing Philips Hue Smart Light Bulbs, which allows users to employ voice commands to turn on lights and operate an August Smart Lock. The August Smart Lock is Alexa-enabled, enabling our patient to lock and unlock his door, using either voice commands or the Alexa mobile app, all of which supports increased independence.

Once patients have participated in a demonstration, they have the option to purchase the AT tools or access an AT lending library to trial the device to ensure its effectiveness and confirm that it’s an appropriate match for their needs. The goal of this project is to reach at least 100 patients by the end of the year and we are well on our way!

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