Kids with special needs across B.C. to benefit from technology created by Vancouver Island company


WATCH: Kids with disabilities across B.C. will soon find it easier to play. Five hundred new custom technologies, developed right here on the island, will arrive in Child Development Centres throughout the province by the end of this month. As Kori Sidaway tells us, for the kids here in Victoria, it’s already opened a world of opportunity.

For Ethan May, Christmas came a little early this year.

“He’s a fiercely independent child with some physical limitations, so having that as something be less of a barrier for him has really improved how he interacts with everybody,” said Ethan’s mother May Shannon.

Spending his life in a wheelchair, Ethan relies on his parents for a lot. This extra custom arm allows him a glimmer of self-reliance, that otherwise would have been impossible.

“It’s a great opportunity to give Ethan some tools and technology that give him independence,” said Ethan’s father Scott Shannon.

“On top of that, it’s just fun for him!”

It’s one of the many ways local organization CanAssist, which operates out of UVic, is opening doors for those with disabilities.

From rejigging already popular toys to creating their own music, kids with disabilities are now able to play and participate in the many things others take for granted.

“You know we go to Long and McQuade and hangout she tries all the instruments, she can’t lift her arm up,” said Brad Fisher, talking about his physically disabled daughter Shira.

But with this motion-controlled music device, Shira can be the musician she always wanted to be.

“She’s just my astronaut on earth,” said Fisher, about his daughter.

“An astronaut goes to space, they need a special way to go to the bathroom, a special way to sleep, a special way to breathe. Every single facet of their physicality has to be supported medically for them to stay alive in space, and for people on earth, it’s the same for people with disabilities.”

And Shira won’t be the only one with a new tool to let her fly. The province gave $1.5 million towards this project in 2017, and now 500 similar technologies are set to be delivered across B.C.

“I think these technologies provide a window of hope for the families as well as people who provide these services,” said Katrine Conroy, Minister of Children and Family Development.

“We know that these devices will help kids reach their full potential.”

And for those who make the technologies, the reward is bigger than you’d expect.

“Just getting to work through the design and seeing the clients’ face in the end, now he can pick stuff off the ground that we take for granted, right?” said CanAssist engineer Miles Long-Alexander.

Kori SidawayKori Sidaway

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