Saturday, September 23

Valley Life For All column: Everyday technology helps people with challenges

Alice Brouhard | Annie Uyehara

Editor’s note: the Post Independent, in conjunction with Valley Life For All, publishes a monthly series about fostering inclusion.

How many times have we seen an ad for Alexa: “Alexa, turn on the lights!” It’s such a convenient device.

But few of us have considered how this popular household product and other everyday technology can be a game-changer for those with physical and cognitive challenges, or for those who want to age independently.

Alice Brouhard has an adult daughter with cognitive disabilities after a ski accident at age 5 left her partially paralyzed and with significant vision loss and no sense of time. Brouhard is a self-professed technology geek, so when she heard about Amazon’s Alexa device, she was intrigued about how it could help her daughter, Kara, become more independent. Because of Alexa and computer applications, Kara has lived on her own for 15 years.

Brouhard, who gave a TEDX talk about how apps gave her daughter a voice, says technology has “changed by light years in the last few decades” to help those with disabilities and challenges.

With Alexa and Google Home, people with challenges can turn on lights, thermostats, and get answers to questions both verbally and visually, for those who cannot read, like Kara.  Kara also uses Apple’s “Pictello” app for cooking and household chores or to create a story that reinforces how independent she can be, Brouhard said. “Technology guides her life.”

Applications like Apple’s “Reminder with Voice” reminds Kara to take her medication. People with dementia can use “Reminder” for the same purpose. Another app called “Nest” by Google Play, is a remote camera system that connects homes. Brouhard uses it to check on Kara, who has seizures. Brouhard believes “Nest” can be useful for adult children checking on older parents with mobility issues. “It might allow older people to live on their own,” Brouhard said.

Technology brings relief to Brouhard. “A parent’s greatest fear for a child with a disability is what’s going to happen to them when we’re gone. But we were able to set Kara up with the technology that allows her independence,” Brouhard said.

Technology is critical as people age in place at their homes, she added. “It’s mind boggling how much is out there to age in place gracefully with technology. It can support, even enrich people’s lives.”

We just have to cross the digital divide, she says. “I taught a technology class at CMC where I had a student close to 90 years old; he took to it just fine. So anyone, at any age — don’t be afraid of technology.”

For more information about available technology and applications, contact Alice Brouhard at Brouhard speaks nationally about the benefits of technology.

Local nonprofit Valley Life For All is working to build inclusive communities where people of all abilities belong and contribute. Find us at or on Facebook.

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