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Date: May 08, 2008

$3m means UVic can assist more disabled

May 8, 2008

BC GOVERNMENT NEWS RELEASE

A $3-million provincial grant will allow the University of Victoria’s CanAssist to expand their leading-edge technology program and help more British Columbians with disabilities, announced Ministers Claude Richmond, Employment and Income Assistance, and Murray Coell, Advanced Education.

"CanAssist is a leader with developing innovative technology for British Columbians with disabilities, helping them with everyday activities from riding a bike to using a computer,” said Richmond. “We want to help CanAssist build on this success."

CanAssist, based at the University of Victoria, engages with programs in universities across the province. It helps disability groups and local community members, including teachers and social researchers, to network and collaborate on projects that affect children and adults with disabilities. Key research and development areas include communication and control, mobility and motion and human-computer interaction. Since 1999, more than 2,000 people, including over 1,700 students, have been involved with the program.

“The provincial government is committed to helping students with disabilities achieve success during their post-secondary education,” said Coell. “CanAssist supports this goal by providing the assistive devices they need and opportunities to work on new technology.”

Every year, CanAssist works on more than 50 projects for people who require assistive devices tailored to meet their needs. The grant will help CanAssist meet growing client demand for equipment such as improved hockey sticks for wheelchair players, remote-controlled bicycle brakes for children with autism and piano pedals controlled by head movements. The funding—building on last year’s $750,000 provincial grant—will also support long-term research projects, including a brainwave communication device for people with severe disabilities such as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

“CanAssist raises students’ awareness of disability issues in British Columbia by giving them hands-on experience,” said Nigel Livingston, director of CanAssist. “Along with volunteers and staff at UVic, they’re making a lasting difference in the quality of life for each person with a disability who comes through our doors.”

Over the long-term, CanAssist will become a self-sustaining centre of excellence through projects that include building the Dynamic Factory, a small-scale manufacturing unit for producing popular, small-market assistive technologies and devices, like umbrella clamps for walkers and wheelchairs.

“I’d love to study computer science after I graduate high school, but I can’t type with my fingers,” said Dan Spelt, CanAssist client. “CanAssist has already created an adjustable stand for my keyboard to make it easier to type with my mouth, and they’re helping me out further by creating an on-screen typing program.”

A winner of the Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Innovative Technology, the non-profit CanAssist began in 1999 by creating a finger switch to aid a young boy who was severely disabled. Since then, CanAssist has completed more than 140 projects in response to requests from across the province and world.
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Media contacts:
Richard Chambers
Communications Director
Ministry of Employment and Income Assistance
250-356-6489

Linda O'Connor
Communications Manager
Ministry of Advanced Education
250 952-6400
250-812-4418 (cell)

Valerie Shore
Research Communications Officer
University of Victoria
250-721-7641

Elsa Yan
Communications Officer
CanAssist
250-721-7300
Backgrounders:
CanAssist backgrounder

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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