WATERTOWN, Mass.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--This Labor Day an innovative program that offers people with combined vision and hearing loss life-changing access to long distance communications is also providing another benefit: jobs.
“The goal of the National Deaf Blind Equipment Distribution Program (NDBEDP) is to enable people who are deaf-blind to access the Internet and communicate by phone, email and texts,” explains Steven Rothstein, President of Perkins in Watertown, MA. “What we are also discovering is that the program itself benefits from the skills of people with disabilities.”
Case in point, Jackie Broussard of Lafayette, Louisiana. Broussard, who is both deaf and blind, received an iPhone and a braille display through NDBEDP – which is also known as iCanConnect. Broussard had never before used touch screen technology and initially found it overwhelming. Yet, just three months after she began working with a trainer, she became so accomplished at using the technology she was offered a job training other iCanConnect clients.
“I said I would definitely be interested in that,” recalls Broussard. “This technology gets deaf-blind people excited to be in touch with other people and in touch with the world.”
Jerry Berrier, who manages the iCanConnect database and trains consumers to use technology equipment in both Massachusetts and Rhode Island, has hired several people with disabilities including a driver who has cerebral palsy and is hard of hearing.
“On the second day she drove for me we were in rain, stuck in traffic in Boston and she handled it all in stride,” recalls Berrier, who is blind. “Seventy percent of people with disabilities don’t work. I’m grateful to work and love any opportunity I have to enable somebody else to work.”
Heather Guy, a 34-year-old mother of four in Salisbury, Maryland, has limited hearing and hasn’t worked since she lost her vision five years ago. iCanConnect provided her with braille displays and one-on-one training so that she now can access both her iPhone and laptop computer. She is hopeful that her newfound ability to access technology will eventually enable her to find a job.
“It levels the playing field,” explains Guy. “I can do the same thing as the next person.”
The Federal Communications Commission launched iCanConnect one year ago. In that time, hundreds of low-income individuals have received a wide array of communications equipment and expert one-on-one training at no charge, The program is available in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Learn more and download an application at www.iCanConnect.org. The website accommodates users with low vision, people who use screen readers and features video that is both audio-described and closed captioned. Information about iCanConnect is also available by calling 1-800-825-4595 | TTY 1-888-320-2656.