AT Help Desk Celebrates Ten Years of Answering Your Questions About Assistive Technology

Rebekah, Serge, and Alain from our AT Help Desk team at a Neil Squire booth.

Imagine that you have a technical problem or a computer question at work, you might call your company’s IT help desk. But what if you have a disability and you have a question about assistive technology? Maybe you need to find a device that will help you with your needs, or maybe your assistive technology isn’t working right and you need help. That’s where Neil Squire’s AT Help Desk comes in.

In 2024, the AT Help Desk celebrates 10 years of serving New Brunswickers with disabilities. Whether you’re working, studying, simply need an assistive technology that makes your life a little easier, or are calling on behalf of a client, student, or family member, anyone can reach out. And all services are available in English and French.

“It’s for everybody,” says Neil Squire Regional Manager Charles Levasseur. “You could be 70 years old and pursuing a PhD and you could benefit from it, or you could be in grade 5, or teachers could be connecting to get some answers.”

Available to anyone in New Brunswick, there’s no commitment to join a program — you simply call or email, and the team will help you find a solution based on your needs.

“The concept here is anyone can go and ask questions without having to go through an intake process,” explains Charles.

“We’re set up virtually, and we’re set up to operate outside of normal office hours, so part of that is we want assistive technology users and their families and support teams to be able to reach us when they’re having a problem with the assistive technology, or when they have time to contact us,” says Rebekah Cant, the AT Help Desk Coordinator. “We’re kind of that one stop shop, so they don’t need to remember who deals with this and who deals with that, they can ask us any question.”

Established in 2013 as a pilot project with a small cohort of schools in New Brunswick, the program was launched across the province the following year. A virtual program, they can serve rural and remote communities just as well as those in city centres. The AT Help Desk has responded to nearly 5,000 inquiries since its inception.

One of the main goals of the program is to help reduce the employment gap for people with disabilities by providing information on assistive technology solutions for education and employment.

A key factor is the fact that it’s vendor neutral. Before the AT Help Desk, you might call an assistive technology vender for advice, and they’d likely recommend one of their products rather than the best solution possible. Or you might have just got recommendations for the big brands because the referrer was not aware of all the options out there — the AT Help Desk team spends time researching to stay up-to-date with the latest assistive technology solutions.

“We’re providing answers based on whatever’s best for the client,” explains Charles. “We don’t have any affiliation with any of these companies.

“It’s unbiased recommendations, unbiased information, vender neutral and right to the point, and the latest — so what people need.”

And a big part of that is finding solutions that are affordable to the people reaching out.

“It’s always ridiculously expensive, why is accessibility stuff so inaccessible? There’s something wrong there,” says Nakia Singh, an assistive technology researcher, who has a visual disability himself. “So, part of our jobs is to find ways to achieve the same goal for them, we just find ways to make it work without it having to cost them another arm or a leg.

“It’s wonderful because if there isn’t a piece of accessibility software or hardware to do the job, we generally find things that aren’t known for being accessibility equipment, and that still does the job.”

Nakia relays a story of how he helped a drummer who could no longer keep the beat because of their newfound disability by recommending a Soundbrenner acoustic watch which sends timed vibrations that matches the rhythm — they were able to continue doing the drumming they love thanks to the vibrations.

Nakia was able to recommend the same device to another caller who was struggling with their gait while walking — the timed vibrations helped them keep stride, which improved their balance, and everything straightened out.

“They never knew that it existed,” Nakia explains. “So, it’s just research, then we did some testing, and it’s life changing for people.”

Sometimes it can be as simple as a 10-minute call troubleshooting some piece of technology that isn’t working as it should.

“For people that have small little things in their lives that cause them anxiety or just add to the hardships that they’re already facing, to be able to reach out to someone and have someone, that for free, and with no expectations of anything else, can walk them through that in a non-judgmental way, I think that the mental health impact on a person-by-person basis is definitely huge,” says Seaver Stafford, an assistive technology technician. “Because I know what it’s like to have no one to help me with things, and it’s not a good feeling.”

During the COVID pandemic, the AT Help Desk worked with schools to help students with disabilities to do remote learning.

In addition to serving as a help desk for assistive technology, a big focus is on raising awareness about assistive technology, with a particular focus on clinicians and teachers supporting people with disabilities.

“The program was originally designed as a capacity building solution for the province of New Brunswick, where we would increase the expertise of assistive technology,” explains Charles.

In 2017, the AT Help Desk launched their website, which has published 250 e-bulletins demonstrating different assistive technologies, as well as one-pagers and resources helping people use or set-up assistive technology. In 2022, the team launched a podcast, hosted by Seaver who is frequently joined by Nakia, where they discuss assistive technology and issues facing people with disabilities.

The team regularly participates in events in the community, and hosts presentations with organizations and schools across the province.

“It’s not to expect them to remember all the details about the little device we just showed them, but to get them thinking about using assistive tech to help them,” says Rebekah. “So that they can then have it in their mind to start asking questions when they’re having a challenge doing a task or when they encounter a barrier at their workplace.”

What’s in the future for the AT Help Desk? The team agrees an AT Help Desk app could be a great way to make information about assistive technology more accessible. The team would love to expand their services beyond New Brunswick, as it’s a needed service no matter where you are located.

But one thing that’s for sure is that the AT Help Desk is needed more than ever. Since the COVID pandemic, the AT Help Desk has been at its highest demand, answering 1,972 inquiries in the last fiscal year alone.

If you need assistive technology help, you know who to call. To reach the AT Help Desk, you can call 1-855-450-3287, text 1-506-450-3287, email, or visit the website at

This post originally appeared on the AT Help Desk website.

Tags: assistive technology, AT HelpDesk, Atlantic Regional Office, New Brunswick

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