2013-03-14 / Front Page

Voice-activated devices enable SCC resident to do more tasks

By Terri Lang


Valerie Heim’s mother, Patty Horner, discovered the availability of voice-activated equipment and got it for her. Valerie, a resident at the Strasburg Care Center, appreciates the voice-activated equipment she uses to control devices in her room. Valerie Heim’s mother, Patty Horner, discovered the availability of voice-activated equipment and got it for her. Valerie, a resident at the Strasburg Care Center, appreciates the voice-activated equipment she uses to control devices in her room. At the Strasburg Care Center (SCC), resident Valerie (Horner) Heim recently received a device that enables her to perform functions that she has not had the ability to do in recent years.

Because Valerie suffers from Multiple Sclerosis, she is unable to operate a TV or radio, or change channels, or control the fan in her room. With the Voice IR, a new voice-activated remote control, Valerie is now able to do those tasks by training the device to detect her voice and repeat her commands to be performed.

“I say ‘Elizabeth’ (Elizabeth is her daughter’s name) as my key word, and then I tell it a command I want it to do,” she said.


Assistive technology items that Valerie uses at the SCC include a “Books on Tape” machine, Voice IR and a voiceactivated telephone. Assistive technology items that Valerie uses at the SCC include a “Books on Tape” machine, Voice IR and a voiceactivated telephone. The Voice IR only responds to Valerie’s voice, hears her key word and her request and then responds by performing it. It allows Valerie to control her TV, DVD, radio and fan— any item that is controlled with a remote.

“It is so good to have this equipment,” Valerie said. “I was frustrated that I always had to call for the staff for help and worried that I was becoming a burden to others.”

Valerie’s mom, Patty Horner of Strasburg, discovered the Voice IR after

Valerie had been using her voice-activated phone and found that worked well for her. Through Interagency Program for Assistive Technology (IPAT), Pat ordered a Voice IR for Valerie, and in January an IPAT representative from Bismarck came to install it.

“This has been so nice for Val as it works pretty good for turning on and off the TV and other things that she would always have to have someone do for her,” Patty said.

Patty initially submitted an application to Pedaling for Possibilities (P4P) and received a grant to cover the cost of the device. P4P is a program designed to provide assistive technology devices and services to those in need residing in North Dakota and Moorhead, Minn.

Individuals who are impacted by a disability and/or aging often have expenses that are above and beyond what insurance and other funding programs will cover. This is where P4P steps in. With the funds raised through P4P, they purchase vision and hearing equipment, computer access tools, vehicle modifi- cations and communication devices for people who are eligible to receive P4P funds.

In the last three years, they have raised over $68,000, and as of February 2013, they have provided assistive technology to 40 individuals in 21 counties of North Dakota and in Moorhead.

SCC Administrator Brian Schumacher said this is not the first piece of assistive technology that residents are using.

“We have been provided the service of ‘Books on Tape’ through the North Dakota State Library,” Schumacher said.

The State Library provides the machines that play the tapes, and residents are able to check out the books they wish to “read.”

“We have a fair number of residents taking advantage of this,” he said. “Mostly it has been for residents who have limitations in sight, but also in the case of Val, for someone who is unable to physically handle reading materials. This technology is a great service to provide independence and quality of life for those who have enjoyed reading in their lives.”

Val added, “I used to read a lot, and so I missed that so much. Now I am able to listen to books on tape.”

SCC also works with the North Dakota Rehabilitation Counseling and Service through North Dakota Vocational Rehabilitation in providing equipment for those who have vision impairments.

The SCC also chose to provide wireless Internet when they computerized the facility as they knew that would be a need in the future.

“Families have been able to use their wireless devices in our facility,” Schumacher said. “And a family already donated an iPad to us.”

SCC staff have been introducing the iPad to residents, and a new resident asked about being able to Skype (video call) with family. Staff informed the family that they would be able to do that because of the wireless Internet as well as the availability of the iPad.

For Valerie, it is important to her that she share information of the availability of these special devices to others who struggle with impairments as she does.

“It feels good to be able to do some of this myself,” Valerie said.

Valerie’s parents, Virgil and Patty Horner, said their daughter remains positive and has such a good attitude.

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