University of Victoria

Together we CanAssist.

Classroom Alert System

A six-year-old boy's physical limitations were making it very difficult for him to participate in his Grade 1 classroom.

Having a condition called Arthrogryposis means Ethan has severely restricted movement in his joints. He manages to move his arm by biting down on an attached armband and hoisting his limb into position with his mouth. But he can't raise his hand like his classmates to participate in a discussion or ask a question. Instead, he must call out or get an assistant to raise her hand on his behalf.

Hoping to find a way for Ethan to gain independence when communicating in class, his learning support teacher contacted CanAssist.

The alert system allows Ethan to participate in class without having to call out.Paul Leslie, an electrical engineering specialist, explored ways Ethan could easily let his teacher know he had something to say. In the end, Paul chose to adapt a light fixture typically used on boats, which casts a bright, narrow beam. The battery-powered LED light was attached to the back of Ethan's wheelchair with a height-adjustable mounting solution and wired so it could be activated by any external accessibility switch.

“By pushing the switch on his wheelchair tray, Ethan can turn on the light when he wants to get the teacher's attention, instead of having to call out,” says Paul.

On delivery day at Colwood Elementary School, Ethan was very excited.

It didn't take long before Ethan was able to turn on the light by resting his hand on the switch and pressing down. Once activated, the light remains on for 10 seconds. Another mode has also been programmed so that eventually Ethan will be able to press down on the switch for as long as he wants the light to shine.

From now on, Ethan will be able to use his light whenever he needs to signal his teacher. He'll also be able to use it when he wants to get a person's attention in the hall or even outside on the playground. In fact, members of his educational team believe the device will help him in classrooms for many years to come.

CanAssist is grateful to Variety – The Children's Charity for covering the cost of developing this technology under its Variety Freedom fund. The fund provides financial assistance for devices that enhance a child's mobility, ability to communicate or overall independence.

Section Navigation: Technologies