iCanConnect Helps Individuals who are Deaf-Blind Stay in Touch during COVID-19 Pandemic

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iCanConnect is a national program that promotes independence and connection, and reduces isolation for people with significant hearing and vision loss. The COVID-19 pandemic has been challenging for everyone, but for those who have significant hearing and vision loss, it has been especially difficult. Being unable to connect with others - from friends and family to trusted medical professionals - can lead to missed vital appointments, depression, and isolation.
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iCanConnect, also known as the National Deaf-Blind Equipment Distribution Program, is helping qualified individuals stay connected. From meeting new family members, to spending the holidays with beloved grandparents via video chat, to coordinating medical appointments, and attending school remotely, iCanConnect program participants agree the free equipment and training they’ve received through the program has been life-changing.  

Ernest Gallman, 69, South Carolina

Like most granddads, Ernest Gallman couldn’t wait to meet his youngest grandson, Carson, when he was born early last year. Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing guidelines, Gallman was not able to meet him in person. Thanks to the equipment and training Ernest received through iCanConnect, including a smartphone, Bluetooth headset, and desktop computer, the 69-year-old Columbia, South Carolina man was able to meet his grandson virtually via video chat. 

“Of course I was sad I couldn’t meet my grandson in person,” said Gallman, “but with everything that’s going on in the world, it was safest to meet him virtually. I did a video call with my daughter while she was feeding him and I could listen to him coo, cry, and burp using my Bluetooth headset. It was nice!”

Now, not only does Gallman use the equipment he received through iCanConnect to keep in touch with his family, it’s also a lifeline to the essential goods and services he needs to remain independent. “My laptop is invaluable,” he said. “I use it to order groceries online and have them delivered to my house. And if I can’t get a delivery, I email the list to my daughter and she shops for me and leaves the necessities on my porch.” 

Read Ernest’s story here

Jonathan Ferguson, 16, New Jersey

Jonathan Ferguson misses his grandparents. The 16-year-old Flanders, New Jersey teen hasn’t spent time with his grandparents in-person since very early in the COVID 19 pandemic. Not only has Jonathan stopped seeing his grandparents in person, he’s also not been able to attend school or his therapy appointments in-person. However, thanks to the equipment and training Jonathan received through iCanConnect - including a large screen desktop computer and an iPad Pro - he has been able to stay in touch with those closest to him, including his grandparents, friends, teachers and therapists. 

Before receiving his new equipment, Jonathan was having difficulty seeing people and things on his small iPad screen. He’d have to sit up close to the screen and within a few minutes, his eyes would get tired and he’d need to take a break. As a result of the constant eye strain, Jonathan was experiencing fatigue and headaches almost daily. 

Now that he received a computer with a large screen through iCanConnect, he can sit farther away. His eyes are less strained and he is experiencing a big reduction in the number and severity of headaches. In addition, Jonathan uses his new computer for speech, occupational and physical therapy sessions while he can’t attend them in person. 

Jonathan’s favorite reason for using his new computer with the big screen monitor is to video chat with his grandparents. Jonathan and his grandparents have a standing weekly date to video chat.

“Jonathan really loves chatting with Grandma, Grandpa and his Aunt Penny, especially right now,” says his mom, Julie Ferguson. “Seeing them on the big screen makes them feel closer somehow, and gives him a comforting sense of connection. Since it will be several months before we can visit in person again, these video chats really help bolster everyone’s spirits in the meantime.”  


“It makes me happy,” says Jonathan. “I miss my family and friends, but I love video chatting with them on my computer. I can see them so much better. We play games, and I don’t get tired as fast now. And my eyes and head don't hurt as much thanks to my new equipment from iCanConnect. Thank you iCanConnect!”

Read Jonathan’s story here

It's always meaningful to learn about the difference iCanConnect makes in the lives of participants in the program,” said Marcia Brooks, Director, Perkins National Deaf-Blind Equipment Distribution Program. “They're using their equipment to stay updated with important information, and to keep in touch, especially during this period of social distancing, Our mission is to help them stay connected with friends, family, community, and the world, especially during these challenging times.”

About iCanConnect

iCanConnect is a national program with local contacts in all 50 states, District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa and the Northern Mariana Islands. Established by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in 2012, iCanConnect provides qualified individuals who have both significant vision and hearing loss with free distance communication equipment and training. The program helps reduce isolation, increase independence, and maintain access to important information for these individuals. To learn more about iCanConnect, visit www.iCanConnect.org.

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iCanConnect provides qualified individuals who have both significant vision and hearing loss with free distance communication equipment and training. The program helps reduce isolation, increase independence, and maintain access to important information for these individuals.

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