“Excuse me for just a minute. My grandkid’s school is calling,” says 47-year-old Rondae Hill. A minute later, Rondae comes back on the line ready to continue the conversation about how she uses the equipment she received through iCanConnect, the National Deaf-Blind Equipment Distribution Program, to stay connected with the world. “Well, that’s one example right there!” she says laughing.
iCanConnect is a national program with local contacts that provides free distance communication equipment and training for qualified people who have significant hearing and vision loss. The types of equipment iCanConnect provides includes smartphones, tablets, desktop computers and laptops, large screen monitors, braille devices, signalers, screen reader software like JAWS, and more.
Rondae has Usher syndrome and learned about iCanConnect while attending a vision conference in Omaha where a representative with the Nebraska Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired gave her information about the program. Once she applied and was accepted into the program, her local iCanConnect representative met with her to discuss her distance communication needs and goals. Through iCanConnect, Rondae received a laptop with JAWS software and an iPhone.
“I use my equipment for many things every day – like messaging and video calls with my family and friends, attending virtual doctor appointments, emailing the government services and programs I deal with regularly, and communicating with my grandkids’ schools,” says Rondae.
“I use it for social media too,” she continues. “A lot of people with disabilities don’t know about the services available to them. I love to engage with people, and social media is a great way to spread the word about the program. In fact, I belong to a large Usher syndrome support group on Facebook and recently posted about iCanConnect to help spread awareness.”
Rondae reflects on how the equipment she received opened a professional door for her too. “The equipment and training I received through iCanConnect opened the door to a part-time job that allows me to work from home and still be available for my family. I have four kids and adopted my three grandkids, so it’s very important I’m available to them. As part of my job, I pull up lists, email and make phone calls. I couldn’t do that without the equipment and training I received through iCanConnect.”
For Rondae, iCanConnect has been a lifeline. “I was technically challenged before iCanConnect. I had an old computer but it wasn’t working. I attended secretarial classes previously but without a computer, I was unable to put my skills to use. When you miss years of technology, you fall behind. iCanConnect filled in that huge gap for me. They provided me with the technology and training to get me back up to date and feel confident using technology again. It’s been a godsend. I feel connected!”