Independence Through Innovation
A pilot program providing assistive technology to youth
Thanks to rapidly evolving technology, particularly in the world of gaming, home automation and environmental aids, assistive devices are more accessible and more useful than ever. They help improve quality of life exponentially for young people with neuromuscular disorders.
Removing barriers to simple tasks with assistive technologies
Tasks such as opening doors, switching on lights, accessing phone calls and answering emails aren’t ‘simple’ for those with a neuromuscular disorder. Assistive Technology can remove the barriers from these small chores. Lise Bleau, an Occupational Therapist at the Stan Cassidy Centre for Rehabilitation has seen the results firsthand. “This program is so exciting: it will allow children and teens to be successful at doing things, using something perceived by themselves and their peers as being very cool.”
Devices that are voice or motion activated return independence and dignity to the user, as well as provide caregivers with a bit of respite.
The technology fascinates kids and their peers, but it “also boosts self-esteem from being able to do something without asking parents for help such as using technology to open and close window blinds, open the door to go outside or make a phone call using their power wheelchair,” according to Bleau.
Assistive technology encompasses a wide range of non-medical, adaptive, and assistive devices as well as health-related technology and communication. Youth who use assistive technology feel more included and engaged in their environment, and assistive technology can provide an element of safety while fostering independence.
“Assistive technology gives kids with muscular dystrophy an opportunity to play and connect with their peers. TELUS is proud to participate in this pilot project that will help build stronger, healthier communities.”
– Michelle Madley, TELUS
Many of the devices have become mainstream and more affordable, though the cost remains out of reach for some families.
There is limited funding through out the Atlantic Provinces for the technology platforms that assistive technology incorporates. When government and community programs do provide financial aid, it is more commonly for devices to assist with communication, employment or post secondary education. Very few programs or insurance companies fund assistive technology for independence, communication, and recreation. Until now, Muscular Dystrophy Canada (MDC) has been limited as well and has restricted its funds to medically prescribed equipment.
In recognition of the invaluable facets of these technologies, the TELUS Atlantic Canada Community Board and Scotiabank have stepped forward as sponsors for a pilot program for children and youth in Atlantic Canada.
“We are excited to be partnering with Muscular Dystrophy Canada and the TELUS Atlantic Canada Community Board to give young people the opportunity to take advantage of this technology that will help make the world become more accessible.”
– Craig Thompson, Senior Vice President, Atlantic Region, Scotiabank
Tracy Ryan, the Director of Mission for MDC, is tremendously thankful for the support. “This important technology is becoming main stream in many households however is often out of reach for many of the families and individuals that we serve.” Though, she notes, it’s not just cost but our own recognition that makes the project important. “We wouldn’t be able to offer this pilot project without Scotiabank or TELUS. It’s wonderful they’ve recognized – and are meeting – the need for assistive technology.”
If you know a youth with a neuromuscular disorder in the maritime provinces, they may be eligible to participate in the Assistive Technology Pilot Project. Please feel free to share this article forward.