Group sending phones to people with disabilities to stay connected during crisis

Capitol Bureau

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – Many people are struggling to stay connected during the coronavirus outbreak. Kansans are staying in more often and seeing fewer people.

The Kansas Council on Developmental Disabilities is starting the Access to Technology project. It will provide 50 smartphones to people with intellectual or developmental disabilities who aren’t able to access the internet or don’t have the technology necessary to video chat with others.

“We’re social animals, that’s just what we do,” said Steve Gieber, the council’s executive director.

Gieber said about 13,000 Kansans could be eligible to receive a phone. It also includes 6 to 12 months of prepaid service. The council is funded by federal tax dollars.

Advocates said it’s important to socialize with others no matter the topic. The phones will give people a chance to chat with others going through the same things, attend virtual conferences, and even see a doctor online.

“They were some of the first people that’d lose their jobs and now they’re being isolated and then of course, a lot of times with isolation comes abuse, neglect, exploitation, those types of things,” Gieber said. “If we don’t help our citizens stay connected and connected with others, then people are really at risk of some bad things happening.”

The group said if the need is greater than they thought, they will look for more funding opportunities in order to get more people connected.

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