he Province is providing CanAssist at the University of Victoria (UVic) with $4.5 million to expand its services for seniors living with dementia, and children and youth with special needs, building on government’s ongoing efforts to ensure people can access unique technologies that help increase their independence and quality of life.

Michelle Stilwell, Minister of Social Development and Social Innovation, made the announcement today at CanAssist’s facility at UVic.


CanAssist will receive $3 million in one-time funding to continue the CanStayHome initiative, which has two components:

  • the development of new innovative technologies and
  • the completion and launch of Ability411, a web-based assistive technology information service for seniors, their families and other caregivers.

The funding builds on the success of the CanStayHome initiative and its technology development projects that assist with mobility, independence and safety to enable vulnerable seniors to stay at home longer. This work has been made possible through partnerships with the Ministry of Health and the five regional health authorities with input from other provincial and community partners.

Examples of technologies CanAssist has developed include a wandering redirect system, an easy-to-use manual wheelchair/scooter lift that attaches to motor vehicles, and a phone in monitoring system that makes it possible for caregivers to learn about their vulnerable loved one’s movements while the person is home alone. Caregivers can call from any location to receive automated details about the person’s activities.


The funding also supports the completion and launch of CanAssist’s Ability411 website to further ensure that seniors and their caregivers have access to an easy-to-use resource available from any computer or mobile device. Ability411 will provide practical, up-to-date information about commercial technologies that can assist seniors by increasing independence, and reducing doctor visits and stress for families. The official launch of Ability411 is expected in late fall 2017.

In addition, the Ministry of Children and Family Development is providing CanAssist with $1.5 million to produce and supply existing assistive technologies to service providers throughout the province to further support children and youth with special needs.

The technologies provided for children range from making it possible to participate in recreational activities to aids that support early intervention. They include:

  • a BatSwinger, to assist with swinging a bat and enable participation on T-Ball teams;
  • the Choices2Go software app that provides in-the-moment choice-making opportunities for children who may not otherwise be reliably understood; and
  • a Mobile Music Therapy Kit, to enable classes of up to six individuals to create music independently or as a group.

CanAssist is dedicated to helping people of all ages and from across the disability spectrum to improve their quality of life, with a focus on promoting independence and inclusion. As part of this work, the CanAssist team develops innovative technologies and programs to meet needs that are not currently addressed by existing services. CanAssist’s vision – “A society where all people have the opportunity to participate, contribute and reach their full potential” – supports B.C.’s Accessibility 2024 goal to become the most progressive province for people with disabilities in Canada.




Michelle Stilwell, Minister of Social Development and Social Innovation –

“Here in British Columbia, we’re very fortunate to have access to the expertise and specialized technologies that CanAssist provides to people with disabilities throughout the province. Today’s announcement ensures CanAssist can continue providing unique services that will help extend the length of time seniors can stay in their home and increase the independence of children with special needs.”

Stephanie Cadieux, Minister of Children and Family Development –

“We want all kids to be able to take part in and get the most out of life. Specialized equipment can make a world of difference for children and youth with disabilities. Not only can it help them overcome barriers to mobility and communication, but CanAssist devices can give them the chance to participate fully – for the first time, in some cases – in sports and music activities with their family and friends.”

Robin Syme, executive director, CanAssist –

“CanAssist would not be what it is today without the funding over the years from the B.C. government, including the new investments announced today. Along with all the generous individual donations and ongoing infrastructure and resource support from UVic, the provincial funding has kept us going in more ways than one.”

Susan Jensen, CanAssist client –

“The easy-to-use scooter lift for our vehicle is a necessity for both my husband Ken’s health and mine. We are so grateful and want to thank everyone involved for the amazing place called CanAssist.”

Jason Gordon, provincial advocate, BC Association for Children Development and Intervention –

“The BC Association for Child Development and Intervention is very pleased that the provincial government is continuing to support the great work of CanAssist. We look forward to CanAssist’s innovative resources, expertise and technology being available to child development centres across B.C. and the support it will bring to help children and youth with special needs to reach their full developmental potential.”

Quick Facts:

  • The Accessibility 2024 action plan, released in June 2014, is in response to the thousands of British Columbians who took part in a public consultation on what society can do to reduce barriers and increase accessibility for people with disabilities.
  • Over the past 10 years, CanAssist has:
    • Provided innovative technologies to 879 people with disabilities;
    • Developed 309 unique technologies to meet clients’ needs; and
    • Seen more than 21,000 web apps download for use by people with disabilities and their families.
  • Since 2011, government has provided a total of $15 million in funding to CanAssist to support technology development including the CanStayHome initiative, which includes the development and launch of the Ability411 online service.
  • Approximately 60,000 British Columbian’s throughout the province currently live with dementia, including some individuals as young as 40 years old.
    • Dementia is a general term for a decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily life. Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia and symptoms include memory loss, decreased visual perception and impaired communication and language.
  • About 30,000 children and youth with special needs access services through the Ministry of Children and Family Development. Funding for these vulnerable group has more than double since 2000-01, from $147.6 million to $331.8 million in 2017-18.
  • To further support seniors to stay at home longer, government recently provided:
    • $31 million in funding to enhance and support the Better at Home program which provides access to non-medical home support services to help seniors to live independently in their own homes for as long as possible; and,
    • $2.7 million for First Link dementia support which assists people living with Alzheimer’s through information, education and support, such as bulletins, support groups and one-one-one phone calls at any stage of their journey.
  • To further support Accessibility 2024, government recently provided:
    • $5 million to the BC Spinal Cord Injury Community Service Network to help increase services that will enhance community participation and develop and provide assistive and adaptive technologies to people with disabilities; and,
    • $9 million to the Rick Hansen Foundation to further their work building accessibility in B.C. by creating a certification program that will identify buildings and developments that are leaders in accessible design, and for an accessibility fund that community organizations and businesses can access to help fund accessibility projects.
  • In 2015, government launched the Technology@Work assistive technology program – operated by the Neil Squire Society – to give people streamlined access to tools and devices they need for employment. As part of Accessibility 2024, the Province has committed $9 million over three years for the program. To date, 494 clients have worked through the needs determination process. Of these, 346 clients have already received assistive technology through the program.

Learn More:

CanAssist: http://www.canassist.ca/

Accessibility 2024: www.gov.bc.ca/accessibility

The Provincial Guide to Dementia Care in British Columbia: http://www.health.gov.bc.ca/library/publications/year/2016/bc-dementia-care-guide.pdf

HealthLink BC’s Dementia webpage: https://www.healthlinkbc.ca/health-topics/uf4984

First Link dementia support: www.alzheimerbc.org

Children and Youth with Special Needs (CYSN): http://ow.ly/t1Aq30aj12l

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