Just try keeping up with Bryen Yunashko of Chicago. The 45-year-old is always on the move! Yunashko has significant hearing and vision loss, but thanks to communications equipment he received through the National Deaf-Blind Equipment Distribution Program, which is promoted as iCanConnect, Yunashko has what he calls “freedom.”
“I can receive or make phone calls anywhere I am at.” But he laughs and jokes when he says, “The drawback is that people know that they can text me at anytime, anywhere.”
Last year, Yunashko received a Braille notetaker, an iPad, and a wireless keyboard through the program administered by The Chicago Lighthouse for People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired, which administers iCanConnect in Illinois.
“With all of this new equipment that the program has provided to me, I no longer live with fear of what will I do when I’m completely blind,” says Yunashko who has Usher Syndrome, which causes hearing loss and a blinding disorder called retinitis pigmentosa. He believes he can now continue participating in the activities he enjoys without any barriers.
iCanConnect, now in its second year, offers a wide range of technology and training to people with significant, combined hearing and vision loss. Familiar equipment such as smartphones, laptops, and tablets as well as specialized adaptive software, phone amplifiers and braille displays, are available at no cost to people who meet income guidelines.
The program also provides one-on-one training on the equipment at no cost. Yunashko also trains consumers who receive equipment through the NDBEDP. He says consumers benefit when someone who is deaf-blind conducts the training because, “We share and have a similar related experience and identity. We are proof of how to live the life.”
Joann Rushing, manager of iCanConnect Illinois at The Chicago Lighthouse calls Yunashko, “a strong leader with patience and understanding.” iCanConnect, she says, is very rewarding.
Yunashko concurs, sharing the story of one young women with extremely low vision. He introduced her to the idea of using a braille display with her smartphone. That allowed her to read and send text messages away from home. Yunashko recalls how emotional the woman’s mother became when she realized she could now keep in touch with her daughter again at any time. The experience reinforced what he had experienced as a participant in the program.
iCanConnect is changing lives across the United States. The program is available in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. You can learn more at http://www.iCanConnect.org: click on “State Partners” to find each state’s contacts. 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.