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Date: April 02, 2008

UVic Disabilities Assistance Program Receives $1 Million "Jackpot"

A University of Victoria program that develops customized devices, technologies and services for people with disabilities can expand its work, thanks to a $1 million donation from the Great Canadian Gaming Corporation (GCGC).

CanAssist, which responds to community requests for assistive technologies from across Greater Victoria and around the world, will receive $200,000 in each of the next five years from GCGC. The donation allows CanAssist to respond to more requests for devices, continue its ongoing research program, and expand its operations to provide training opportunities for people with special needs.

“I am pleased to help ensure the continued progress and expansion of this vital work,” says Ross McLeod, chief executive officer of GCGC. “On behalf of Great Canadian Casinos, we know that our commitment, together with the energy and imagination of UVic students, will continue to enhance the lives of citizens challenged by disabilities.”

Created in 1999, CanAssist (formerly known as UVATT) involves faculty, students and staff from more than 20 departments and programs at UVic, as well as community volunteers. A significant portion of its funding comes from donations, which are used to develop and deliver assistive technologies that aren’t available from any other source.

Projects include tricycles for children with physical and visual impairments, high-tech wheelchair modifications and eye-tracking communication systems. Clients range from visually impaired children to adults with advanced neuromuscular degenerative diseases such as multiple sclerosis and ALS.

To date, CanAssist has completed more than 140 projects. It receives three to five new requests for new devices, technologies or services every week.

“This support will make an incredible difference to us,” says Dr. Nigel Livingston, founding director of CanAssist. “Not only will we be able to increase our overall capacity to serve the community, but we can now make a much longer-term commitment to our clients, to our staff and to the students who work with us.”

This is not the first time that GCGC has supported CanAssist. A total of $300,000 since 2003 has fueled the program’s development and enabled it to fund up to four full-time positions. “That funding was absolutely critical to our early success,” says Livingston.

“The university should be proud of the benefits that participating students and faculty have delivered to the disabled community,” says McLeod, who is considered a pioneer of community charity gaming in BC. “The practical applications of science and technology offer students a unique opportunity to witness how their scholarly endeavours will pay dividends to themselves and society.”

GCGC is a multi-jurisdictional gaming and entertainment operator with facilities in British Columbia, Ontario, Nova Scotia and Washington State. For more information on CanAssist, visit www.canassist.org.
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Media contacts:
Dr. Nigel Livingston, (CanAssist) at 250-721-7121 or njl@uvic.ca
Howard Blank (V-P, Media and Entertainment, GCGC) at 604-512-6066 or hblank@gcgaming.com
Valerie Shore (UVic Communications) at 250-721-7641 or vshore@uvic.ca

UVic media releases and other resources for journalists are available on the World Wide Web at http://communications.uvic.ca/media

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