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BC invests in technology for the disabled

CanAssistVICTORIA – New technology specifically geared to support independence for those with physical and cognitive disabilities is under development at CanAssist, thanks to $3 million in funding from the British Columbia Ministry of Health.

“We can all relate to the importance of personal independence, which is why government is committed to ensuring supports for people with disabilities and seniors,” said Health Minister Terry Lake. “Funding the development of technology to support independence, so people can stay safely and comfortably at home, puts patients’ needs first and contributes to a better quality of life.”

CanAssist is operated through the University of Victoria and is dedicated to helping people with disabilities improve their quality of life, with a focus on promoting independence and inclusion.

As part of this work, the team develops innovative technologies and programs to meet needs that are not currently addressed by existing services.

This latest funding for CanAssist is intended to develop an innovative technology that will begin benefiting thousands of people throughout the province by 2016. Funding will also be used to launch a new online service for individuals and organizations looking for information about existing and emerging technologies that help people with a range of disabilities.

“It’s wonderful to see how the partnership between CanAssist at the University of Victoria and the B.C. Ministry of Health has flourished over the years. With the ministry’s support, CanAssist has developed significant experience within the health sector and in working with each of the province’s five health authorities,” said Dr. Valerie Kuehne, vice-president, academic and provost, University of Victoria.

“We look forward to seeing the benefits of the funding announced today for people with disabilities across the province, as well as their families and health teams,” she added.

In March 2014, CanAssist received $2-million in funding for the CanStayHome program, which will result in a suite of innovative technologies that support vulnerable B.C. seniors and others to stay in their homes longer, enhancing their well-being and quality of life, while at the same time reducing pressure on the province’s health system. These needs in conjunction with a focus on building primary and community care support are part of the province’s strategic service priorities for health.

Examples of technologies CanAssist has developed include a wandering deterrent system and a phone in monitoring system, which support those living with early stages of dementia, as well as their family members and caregivers.

“In my work with clients with dementia and their families, I saw how the use of a technology system with individualized messages could proactively decrease the instances of night time wandering,” said Cheryl Beach, director of community initiatives with Island Health. “Bringing the idea to CanAssist and then overseeing its use to help keep those with dementia safer is very satisfying.”

Previous technologies developed were done on a smaller scale for a specific region of the province. CanStayHome increases accessibility and sees the development of technologies for seniors’ use throughout the province. This latest funding brings the total Ministry of Health support to the University of Victoria for CanAssist to $10.5 million since 2011.

Accessibility 2024 is a 10-year plan and a shared commitment between government, businesses and communities for making B.C. the most progressive place in Canada for people with disabilities. Funding for CanAssist supports inclusive communities, a key building block identified in Accessibility 2024.

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