Tag Archives: BridgingApps

Technology Bears No Age

Audra Success Story | Older Adult & Stroke Survivor Using Mobile Technology

Ms. Audra Evert is an amazing artist, and her home is covered with her colorful abstract paintings. She suffered a stroke some years ago, and she needed help using a desktop windows computer and a flip phone for her technology needs. Her interests include internet searches, emails, saving and sharing photos, creating word documents, and excel spreadsheets. A nephew of hers recently asked for her knowledge about the family. She developed a goal to create a family tree.

 ESGH BridgingApps digital trainer, Jana Rodriguez helped Audra research a few options to create a family tree and offered the free website service FamilyEcho.com. Together Jana helped Ms. Evert create her family tree, as seen in her printed copy. A copy was also sent via PDF to her nephew. She hopes to expand the details with more research on other family members. At the beginning of this journey she dreaded the thought of how difficult this task would be. She was so pleased with the ease and design which she described as “perfect”!

Audra owns a flip phone and has been frustrated with not knowing how to take photos and then share them with others. Jana of ESGH BridgingAPPS  program has been working on basic phone skills with Audra, who has been practicing manipulating photos on her phone.  She is learning how to take photos, rotate and crop them, and send them to friends and family via email.  She has been thrilled with her progress!

By: The BridgingApps Team, Easter Seals Greater Houston

Leave a comment

Filed under Latest News, Uncategorized

Transition and Technology

Chris is a young man in his 20’s who came to Easter Seals Greater Houston‘s BridgingApps program because of his interest in technology. He and his mother wanted to understand how he could use his mobile device to help him be more productive and organized as he began to search for a job.  He owned a smart phone, but his phone was quite old and he didn’t use it for more than the basics, mostly entertainment. Part of the barrier to using his smart phone effectively was that he experienced anxiety about draining the battery, so he preferred to have it plugged into the wall, limiting his mobility.Transition1

Through a generous grant from the Hogg Foundation, BridgingApps provided Chris with a new smart phone and “one on one” trainings with Digital Learning Specialist, Tara Rocha.  During one of these sessions, Tara introduced the concept of a using portable rechargeable battery pack to Chris. Because it is small and rechargeable, Chris learned to plug his smart phone into this device that eased his anxiety about draining his battery, allowing him to be more mobile immediately.  He learned how to create calendar appointments, add items to task lists, back up his data, use contacts, and much more. Following each session, Chris has practiced the tasks at home with an at-home assignment.

Transition2When Tara demonstrated several app options for filling out forms using his smart phone, Chris became so excited that he could complete this task digitally! He found it difficult and laborious to fill out forms required for job searches and other kinds of forms as he moves into adulthood. Writing has been a challenge for him, but he is much more eager to use his phone for this task. We wish Chris the best of luck as he continues his job search, and we will continue to keep in touch as he makes progress towards his goals.

Cristen Reat, BridgingApps
Easter Seals Greater Houston


Leave a comment

Filed under Latest News

The SMART Road To Assistive Tech for ALL

In 2010, I was working at an educational non-profit when I helped to start a support group of parents and therapists where we shared information on how smartphones and touch tablets could help children with disabilities improve developmental skills. I was interested in how technology could help my youngest son Vincent, who at the age of 6 had the fine motor skills of an 18 month old. I knew that he would never write with a pen and paper, but I also knew that technology could play a big role in his early education and throughout his life.

Vincent had tried joysticks and other technology prior to the tablet to write and communicate, but he needed hand over hand assistance to operate them. However, with the iPad he was able to navigate independently. What a boost to his confidence and an ease to his frustration!

Other parents and therapists had similar thoughts but, because this mobile technology was so new, we spent hours exploring possibilities of which apps were the most helpful for our kids. We were overwhelmed by the sheer number of apps available, so we set out to find a way to make searching easier for parents and professionals. That support group and quest for solutions turned into BridgingApps, a website and program of Easter Seals Greater Houston.

Becoming part of Easter Seals Greater Houston has been a blessing in the most profound way for this program and for our family. With the help of Easter Seals’ leadership and vision to help the program grow as quickly as possible, we have been able to make great strides in its’ development and reach. In 2014, BridgingApps won the Verizon Powerful Answers Award for Education that came with a $700,000 prize.  Our website is filled with resources for people of all ages and abilities – parents, caregivers, therapists, doctors and people with disabilities – looking for the right apps to fit their needs.

We now have three assistive technology labs (Thanks to The George Foundation and ATT&T) in the Houston area and satellite support groups in Austin, the Rio Grande Valley and Fort Worth, Texas.  In 2016, we gave more than 55 presentations and trainings in Houston and around the country. Our website enjoys 9,000 registered users from 187 countries, 7,000 monthly visitors, a podcast segment, an online course, a regular column in a digital magazine, and 3,500 apps in our database. We are excited to explore new ways in which mobile technology can assist young adults with special health care needs, older adults, and seniors through collaborative projects with Texas Children’s Hospital, TIRR Memorial Hermann, Amerigroup/Anthem, UnitedHealthcare, and others.

As a veteran of the US Army, I am thrilled and honored this year to be working on a project that provides services and mental health supports to veterans and their families by using technology. Through a generous grant from TV+FA, we are able to provide technology training in different formats to veterans and their family members.  This spring we have already provided 10 Veterans Access Cafes in locations around Houston to demonstrate how smartphones can be used as a mental health support with apps like Calm, Swirlicity, and Stay Quit Coach. We continue to add content each week to www.bridgingapps.org/veteransresource  to share information on apps and other technologies that benefit veterans and their families.

Cristen Reat, Easter Seals Greater Houston, BridgingApps Founder


Leave a comment

Filed under Latest News

Miraculous Megan: Longtime Client and Friend

Megan Fry is an amazing 17 year old girl. She has been part of the Easter Seals Greater Houston family for over 10 years. She has the mind and the personality of a typical developing teenage girl. She loves art and has her own website, Just My Eye, that meg-w-dvox-300x225showcases her creations. One of Megan’s many unique qualities is that she was born with cerebral palsy, with an end result of being nonverbal and using a wheelchair to maneuver around. You need to be careful because she drives her chair around very fast! She communicates and shows off her big personality by using a Tobii. The Tobii is a device that allows Megan to use her eyes to pick out her words which are then shared through the speaker.

Over the years, Megan has attended our summer camps, participated in Family Day Out, received In-Home Respite, and participated in our BridgingApps program. Her family has participated in our Lil’ Rustler Rodeo night with the Houston Livestocgroupk Show and Rodeo, used a Respitality weekend, participated in our Walk With Me at the Houston Zoo event and our Hats Off to Mother’s Luncheon. We were fortunate to have Megan as our summer intern this past year. She created and distributed our Easter Seals Montgomery County newsletter. Megan is currently participating in our Family Day Out program as a Junior Director. She is amazing with our clients and our families.


Megan is a true success story and ambassador for Easter Seals Greater Houston. Megan and her mom even went on speaking engagements last year to represent Easter Seals during the United Way campaign. She has received services and continues to give back to our community. We can’t wait to see what the future holds for Megan because we know there is nothing she can’t accomplish!

Kristie Carlisle, Respite Program, Easter Seals Greater Houston

Check out Megan’s dad’s post about how assistive technology helped him connect with his daughter here!

Leave a comment

Filed under Latest News

From Fear to Confidence: Rudy’s Unexpected Journey with Technology

I met Rudy and his wife Andrea in April 2015, when BridgingApps, a program of Easter Seals Greater Houston, presented at the St. Luke’s Stroke Support Group on using apps and mobile devices. Like many who were recovering from a stroke, Rudy was interested in how technology could help him, but also overwhelmed by the idea.

“I was resistant because I thought it was too hard,” Rudy confides. “After my stroke, I thought learning was over. I really did.”  When asked what was difficult for him, he gave the example of reading. Rudy loves to read, but post-stroke the task of reading was not pleasurable as it had been before, just extremely difficult.  He would read something, lose his place often and not understand what he just read. It was frustrating and demoralizing.

Wanting to learn more and despite feeling overwhelmed, Rudy and Andrea attended a BridgingApps open house event in the spring, took a tour of the AT&T Assistive Technology lab and asked many questions about how mobile devices stroke_support_st._lukes-300x225might be used. “It would take me a hundred years to learn everything,” Rudy declared. I offered to lend Rudy an iPad to try it out for a month at home to see what he thought of it. Rudy was appreciative, but noncommittal and politely declined. I then suggested another option that might less stressful and invited Rudy and his wife to attend BridgingApps monthly collaborative training at the Apple Store Highland Village. These meetings take place in a distraction-free, low stress accessible room with compassionate, knowledgeable staff.

Rudy and Andrea attended the monthly classes facilitated by BridgingApps at the Apple Store. Though neither of them owned a mobile device, they came eager to learn each month and borrowed different sized devices for the hands-on trainings, including an iPhone, iPod Touch and full sized iPad. We covered everything from the accessibility features of iBooks, to speak screen, using Siri for shortcuts, calendar and notes apps and how to navigate the basics of the device. Rudy diligently took notes at each class, and Andrea was excited about his interest. Andrea said that she enjoyed the slow pace of the class and the fact that the instructor repeats instructions and simplifies them for participants.

One month in the fall, Rudy’s daughter Teresa and her husband attended the BridgingApps training together with Rudy and Andrea to see what her parents were up to. They shared a device, asked questions and practiced the various tasks. Throughout this process, Rudy began to relax and said “the whole experience has made me more aware of what my capabilities are. When I experienced the features of iBooks that allows the words to be read aloud to me, sped up or slowed down and highlighted as I go along, that was amazing to me! It really helped a lot, and if I don’t understand something or lose my place, with the touch of the screen I can hear it again and again.  I feel more confident.”

Fast forward to our monthly training in January 2016, where Rudy proudly whips out an iPhone 6 Plus and places it on the table next to his notebook ready to learn. Andrea giggles and puts her brand new device on the table. After class when I asked when they bought their devices, they answered “In December, Teresa said ‘enough’ and bought them for us!”  I asked how Rudy felt about having a smartphone and what he has been doing with it, he positively glows. “I love it. I read the news, I check the weather, I look at maps, and I FaceTime with my grandson who lives in Brownsville.”

Feb 2016 BA blog picAndrea chimes in “The other day I heard piano music, and there he was playing the piano using Garage Band.” Rudy laughs and adds “I love music and majored in it in school, so I discovered this app. It is fantastic.”

Next steps for Rudy and Andrea? “We love the classes and will continue to come. We are grateful for all that we have learned.”

Having watched this journey unfold and observing Rudy’s initial excitement, fear, hesitation, followed by determination and courage, it has been a privilege to get to know Rudy and his family. Andrea mentions that BridgingApps and this technology has opened up new horizons for Rudy that have surprised and delighted her.

“I really can learn again,” says Rudy with tears in his eyes.

Cristen Reat, BridgingApps Founder, Easter Seals Greater Houston

For more information on our BridgingApps program, click here.
To hear more about Rudy’s amazing story, click here.

Leave a comment

Filed under Latest News

Richard’s Success Story

richardMeet Richard, an energetic and determined little seven-year-old boy whose favorite person in the world is his eleven-year-old sister Camille. Every morning, without fail, Richard bolts across the upstairs landing at our home to crawl into Camille’s bed and wake her up with slobbery kisses and tight, tight hugs. As his parents, we would say that any day spent with “the Big Boy” is one filled with affection, enthusiasm, and discovery. He has changed the lives and the character of every member of our family and continues to shape the ways they interact with the world each and every day.

Richard deals with significant cognitive delays related to Down syndrome, autism spectrum disorder, and epilepsy. In addition, he battles physical limitations related to celiac disease, asthma, and a thyroid deficiency. Through it all, though, Richard maintains an incredibly enthusiastic approach to life and transfers that enthusiasm to everyone with whom he comes into contact.

Richard has been using an iPad to communicate wants and needs for about three years thanks to Easter Seals Greater Houston‘s BridgingApps. He started with a full-sized iPad and now uses an iPad Mini. Richard’s ability to communicate using his iPad has changed his life immeasurably. No longer are his day-to-day needs trapped inside his own head. He can actively tell family members or caregivers what he would like to do, what he wants to eat, and even with whom he would like to do these activities. Most of the time, the person he asks for is his Mommy. The sense of autonomy that the iPad affords Richard is dramatic. His frustration level when it comes to articulating his thoughts has diminished significantly, and the resulting joy that is at the core of his personality takes center stage with more regularity.

We could not be the parents we want to be for Richard without his iPad and without the autonomy and independence it affords him. We no longer have to wonder what our little boy wants or needs. He is able to tell us, and he does so emphatically. As he has become more adept at using the iPad, Richard’s sense of humor (which was hidden for his first five years) has also begun to emerge. Turns out, he is a mischievous little rascal, which only endears him to us more.

Once Richard showed an inclination toward using the iPad, we decided to change speech therapists and began to see Betsy Furler at BridgingApps exclusively. She has been an invaluable resource to us and to Richard as she continually challenges him (and us) to lean into the device and its possibilities. Over the course of the time that we have worked with Betsy and BridgingApps, Richard’s acuity with the iPad has increased tenfold, and his abilities to express himself in more and more complex ways have allowed his personality to emerge and his quality of life to improve.

Cristen Reat, Easter Seals Greater Houston, BridgingApps Founder

Leave a comment

Filed under Latest News

Bridging the Gap between Technology and People with Disabilities

As a parent of a son with Asperger’s and a son with Down syndrome, Cristen Reat is always looking for ways to use technology and apps to help her children in their daily lives. Cristen co-founded BridgingApps, a program of Easter Seals Greater Houston, to help create a community of parents, therapists, doctors, teachers, and people with disabilities who share information about using mobile devices (smartphones and tablets) to improve the lives of people with special needs.

Caring for someone who has a disability, chronic illness, disease or injury can be demanding and overwhelming, but an extra pair of hands can be as close as the smart phone in your pocket. Whether you are a doctor, nurse, therapist, parent of a child with a disability or even a spouse of someone who had a stroke, there are many types of apps that can be used to manage information, assist with communication and improve health outcomes.

BridgingApps helps people of all ages and abilities learn how the devices they use every day can be leveraged to improve their physical, cognitive, and social outcomes. By providing app reviews based on skills, rather than age or diagnoses, caregivers and professionals can focus first on identifying the skills they are looking to address (such as writing or communication), and then on ways to use mobile devices and apps to develop and improve them.

Focus on Skills: Meet MiaMia

Mia is a 7-year-old with an undiagnosed disability, and she is non-verbal. Mia has been working with BridgingApps and a speech therapist for the past year learning to use an iPad mini paired with a communication app to enable her to “talk” with her family, friends and classmates.  Below she tells her mom what she will do at school.


Mia7Prolqouo2Go, the app shown above, is just one of a number of apps that can be used to help improve communication skills for a range of situations. For example, adults who have suffered a stroke or children who are temporarily or permanently non-verbal (such as a child on a ventilator) may also need to address the same skill of communication to help direct and understand their care, reduce frustration and stay connected.

Using Apps to Track and Manage Health Conditions 

In addition to helping Mia find her voice, BridgingApps empowers caregivers and professionals by assessing apps to track and manage chronic health conditions.

Many people with disabilities have medical issues that can be complicated and overwhelming to manage.  Below are a few examples of health-related apps that BridgingApps has trialed and found successful with people who have disabilities:

Seizure Log – logs data on seizures and keeps records to manage epilepsyseizure_log3

Blood Pressure Companion – tracks blood pressure, heart rate, and weightbp_companion_screenshot


For many caregivers and healthcare professionals, mobile devices can be a powerful tool in integrating a care team and engaging the patient in their own care. With thousands of apps coming onto the market every day, BridgingApps’ goal is to help users of all abilities find technology solutions to develop skills, reach goals, and reach their full potential.

Learn more about BridgingApps or search for apps to meet your needs at www.bridgingapps.org.

By Evan Jones, Easter Seals Greater Houston, BridgingApps Marketing & Development

Leave a comment

Filed under Latest News