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How One Mother Discovered the App That Changed Her Disabled Daughter’s Life

From Woman’s Day

Nearly each morning, Alice Brouhard visits the yellow cottage in Glenwood Springs, CO, the place her daughter, Kara, lives. As they chat over espresso, reminders sound regularly from a speaker on the counter. “Finish breakfast,” it prompts. “Let Phoebe out.” “Brush teeth.”

Kara depends on these messages-about 85 of them, recorded in her personal voice on an iPad app referred to as Aida Reminder-to get by means of the day. As a results of a traumatic mind damage, Kara cannot inform time, learn or navigate every day duties on her personal. But Aida Reminder, together with different know-how, has enabled Kara, 36, to perform excess of her docs thought attainable.

A New Normal

On a chilly day in 1986, Alice and her husband, Jim, took Kara, their exuberant 5-year-old, snowboarding at an area resort. Kara fell in the snow, and earlier than she might regain her footing, an out-of-control skier crashed into her, shattering her cranium with the tip of certainly one of his skis.

A medical helicopter arrived to move Kara to the hospital, and in the following days and weeks, she had a number of mind surgical procedures. She remained in a coma for 2 months. One day, as Jim and Alice sat by her bedside, she opened her eyes. “Hi, Dad,” she stated, to her mother and father’ aid. Yet massive challenges lay forward. Kara’s left aspect was paralyzed, and she or he had suffered sufficient imaginative and prescient loss to be thought-about legally blind. Doctors advised the Brouhards that Kara won’t stroll once more or regain full speech.

Back at house, Kara relied on a feeding tube. Alice and Jim each labored as nurses, however they have been unprepared for the emotional and psychological process of tending to their very own daughter’s precarious health. “Every day I might assume, Maybe tomorrow will probably be higher,” says Alice.

Photo credit score: Matt Nager

With tutoring from her kindergarten instructor and intense bodily remedy, Kara returned to high school the following September, strolling and consuming on her personal and talking properly sufficient to convey her wants. An aide helped hold Kara on monitor, and academics modified her curriculum. Alice made positive Kara was included in Girl Scouts, choir, class journeys and different actions.

Because the a part of Kara’s mind answerable for initiating exercise had been broken, she required specific and repeated prompts for every thing from ending meals to getting out of the bathe after the scorching water had run out. Alice set timers as reinforcement. “I couldn’t remember what to do and what not to do,” says Kara, who speaks with a flat have an effect on.

Despite her challenges, Kara advocated for herself. In highschool, Alice recollects, “she took such a dislike to the ‘Special Needs’ room label that she had it renamed the ‘Abilities Room’-and even then, she didn’t want to go in it.” At faculty planning conferences, staffers would inform Alice to place Kara on the listing for a state grownup group house the place she might reside full-time. “Kara would speak up and say, ‘I want my own life. I want my own house when I grow up,’ ” says Alice.

A Tech Solution

As Kara entered maturity, she grew more and more looking forward to independence, although she nonetheless needed to rely closely on her mother and father. “She hated being told what to do, even though she needed it,” Alice says.

At a incapacity convention in 2005, Alice discovered about a pc program providing spoken reminders. The software program value $6,000, however the aid of discovering a device that empowered Kara proved to be nicely value it. About six months later, Alice and Jim got here house to seek out that Kara-following a recipe from the program-had made dinner. “They were the best bean burritos we’d ever had,” says Alice.

“I’ve realized that spreading the word about this technology is my mission,” says Alice.

In 2006, Kara, then 26, moved into a spot of her personal, six blocks from her mother and father’ home. “For months, once I’d depart after a go to, I might assume, Is she going to be OK?” says Alice. But Kara flourished. A state-funded aide got here by throughout the day to help with meal planning and grocery buying; drive Kara to therapeutic horseback driving or her gig volunteering at an animal shelter; and assist her bathe.

One night time in 2012, Alice Googled “best reminder apps” and located Aida Reminder, which prices solely 99¢. It took solely a minute to program a immediate on an iPad slightly than the 5 minutes the clunky previous program had required. Aida Reminder additionally enabled Kara to document herself. “It was better to hear my own voice than someone else’s,” she says. They might load songs, too; Alice had Jimmy Buffett’s “Hey Good Lookin ” go off earlier than dinner.

A Big Victory

Alice discovered extra apps to complement and increase Kara’s world, together with a Smithsonian one for wanting up something from animals to old-time film stars; artwork apps Kara might use to attract; and an app for Facebook so Kara might join with pals. Alice shared her findings at native and regional brain-injury help teams; Kara demonstrated utilizing Aida Reminder. “People told us we gave them such good ideas,” says Alice. “Kara was so proud.”

Photo credit score: Matt Nager

Several months after Kara began utilizing Aida Reminder, Apple up to date its working system, and the app not labored mechanically. For Kara to get a reminder, she’d should go to her iPad, open the app and contact the immediate to listen to it-which defeated the objective.

Concerned, Alice referred to as, emailed and wrote letters to Apple about the modifications, however acquired no response. In 2014, the Brouhards and 4 different households in Colorado with disabled youngsters launched Families at the Forefront of Technology (FFT), a grassroots group devoted to discovering technological assets for individuals with disabilities. That fall, they hosted a convention in Snowmass, CO. One attendee inspired Alice to start out a petition on urging Apple to repair the Aida Reminder app. Alice referred to as it “Kara’s Own Voice,” and signatures got here in slowly however certainly. Kara and Alice even picketed outdoors an Apple retailer in Denver.

Finally, in May 2015, Apple emailed Alice to request a telephone name. More conversations adopted. About a month later, Apple agreed to revive the voice reminder perform. To Alice’s and Kara’s delight, when the app first labored once more, they noticed a particular message: “Voice reminders are back!…(Thanks to Alice and Kara!).”

Today, the Aida Reminder app continues to be the soundtrack of Kara’s life. On Tuesdays, her voice informs her, “It’s Bible study day,” and on Thursdays, “Get out the cookie cart” (the place she retains provides for baking treats for native firefighters and police). The apps Kara makes use of, she says, “help me know what needs to be done. I don’t have to rely on anyone else to succeed.”

This month, Alice will preside over the third annual FFT convention. “I’ve realized that spreading the word about this technology is my mission,” Alice says.

Photo credit score: Matt Nager

She’s grateful, too, for the aid she’s discovered from a fear that haunts mother and father of youngsters with disabilities. “Because of technology, I know Kara can live the life she wants whether I’m here on this planet or not,” she says. “That’s the best feeling any parent can have.”

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