A Golden Opportunity
“You really don’t know the impact of the work being done unless you see it.” John Shalam, founder and chair of Voxx International, is referring to the impact of the newly formed CEA Foundation.
The foundation, which began as conversation between Shalam and CEA President Gary Shapiro five years ago and publicly launched in 2012, has a specific mission: to link seniors and people with disabilities with technology that improves their lives.
Shalam, who serves as the foundation’s chairman, depended on personal experience when constructing the group’s groundwork. So when Shapiro approached him with the idea of creating the foundation, Shalam knew fairly quickly who should benefit.
Recalling experiences he’s had with his own mother and mother-in-law, Shalam knew the cure for their loneliness and inabilities was technology.
Together with Larry Richenstein (Peak Ventures and Unwired) as vice chair; Veronica O’Connell, CEA’s vice president for Congressional Affairs, as secretary and treasurer; and Stephen Ewell as executive director; the team sought out the initial worthy organizations.
The First Six
So far, the foundation has identified six institutions that have received grants. At the American Foundation for the Blind, the CEA Foundation supports the AFB Small Visual Display Study, which will work to identify characteristics to make screens easier to read for people with vision loss.
For the Hearing Loss Association of America, a $50,000 Hearing Assistive Technologies Training Grant will support an intensive three-day training program for consumers to improve their knowledge about and expertise in the ability to use technologies that are not traditionally associated with hearing loss—such as smartphones to hear, access information and to communicate effectively—and transfer that knowledge to other consumers with hearing loss.
At Lighthouse International, the CEA Foundation support will help its Patient Resource and Communications Center inform and assist the visually impaired community.
In New York, Selfhelp Community Services’ programs link seniors with technology. The CEA Foundation grant will help to expand their virtual senior center in Manhattan as well as three additional markets in San Diego, Chicago and Baltimore. Members can participate in activities right from their living rooms, thanks to their “all-in-one” touchscreen devices. They are linked to interactive, video-based classes and Skype.
“Every morning they turn on the TV at 9 a.m., and there is someone there to say good morning and that there will be classes that day on modern art, Spanish language, etc,” said Shalam. “The people love this program. It has brought them new life.”
The Older Adults Technology Services (OATS), also in New York, has used the CEA Foundation’s grant to launch the Senior Planet Exploration Center—the country’s first technology-themed center for people age 60 and up. A variety of instructional classes are offered, including computer basics, iPad basics, building a website and introduction to photography.
Raising the Floor is an organization whose mission is to make the Web and mobile technologies available to everyone with disability, literacy and aging-related barriers, regardless of economic status. The CEA Foundation supports the Unified Listing by Raising the Floor, a program that will match consumer electronics to accessibility needs. The grant will be used to design the unified listing. The resulting database will enable easy identification of devices that best meet accessibility needs.