Backgrounder: $3m means UVic can assist more disabled

CanAssist is a community-based disabilities assistance program at the University of Victoria that is dedicated to developing and delivering technology, devices and services that improve the quality of life for those with special needs. It is unique in North America.

CanAssist, formerly known as UVATT, was founded at UVic in 1999. It has grown from a single, mostly volunteer-based technology project, to a successful program that blends research and technology development, skill-building and job training, education and awareness, knowledge transfer, and community engagement and service.

CanAssist harnesses the ingenuity of faculty, students and staff from virtually every discipline at UVic, as well as volunteers in the community. More than 2,000 people, including 1,700 UVic students, have participated in CanAssist projects. Community volunteers include retired physicians, machinists, engineers and seamstresses.

CanAssist responds to community requests for assistive technologies from across Greater Victoria, BC and around the world. In many cases, devices are tailored to individual needs and are highly complex in nature. CanAssist only develops devices that are not available commercially or through other avenues.

To date, CanAssist has completed more than 140 projects and provided direct assistance to over 600 clients. Every week, it receives five to six requests for new devices, technologies or services. Requests come from individuals with disabilities, family members or caregivers, physicians and other health care professionals.

CanAssist clients range from visually impaired children to adults with advanced neuromuscular degenerative diseases such as multiple sclerosis and ALS. Projects include tricycles for children with physical and visual impairments, wheelchair and walker accessories, and eye-tracking communication systems for people with especially challenging disabilities.

CanAssist also has a long-term research program that complements its project-based activities. Key research and development areas are: movement and mobility; communication and control; mobility and motion; human-computer interaction; and online learning and community-building.

CanAssist’s long-term goal is to grow into a province-wide resource for the disability community by expanding its capacity for developing assistive technology devices and services, creating training and skill-building opportunities for people with disabilities, and promoting education and awareness of disability issues.

For more information on CanAssist, visit
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Keywords: 3m, means, uvic, assist, disabled

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