According to a Kaiser Family Foundation research on Medicaid (PDF), the reasons immigrant families have poor access to technological advancements in healthcare vary significantly. These families might not know many of these services are available, language and technological barriers may prevent them from applying, or the costs of the services might be too high.
Not one for letting technological barriers get in the way of his son’s health, an Associate Professor of Computer Science at Wake Forest University named Paul Pauca invented a communication app called Verbal Victor. Pauca, originally from Peru but now living in North Carolina, is also a father. The app shares the name of his son, Victor, who was diagnosed with Pitt Hopkins Syndrome, a condition characterized by severe intellectual disability and developmental delay.
The app helps families who don't have the means to buy expensive communication tools talk to children who are developing their skills or who face serious delays in language development.
Pauca developed the app to be customizable. Any family can add content that relates to their child and in the language of their choice.
Verbal Victor is now selling all over the world for an accessible price of US$6.99.
"We were surprised that we were selling Verbal Victor all over the world. India, Asia, Africa, Kenya, all over Latin America," Pauca told Huffington Post. "To see people who didn't have access to conventional technology, and are now able to download it all over the world. Now we are even making them cheaper by using a mass market license."
That low price point and easy accessibility is on the cutting edge of showing how technology can cross borders to reach families that may not have had access to these products otherwise.
“To me, it's a revolution," says Pauca.
However, many Hispanic families don't have access or know how to take advantage of the latest technologies, according to research by the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid.
An outreach worker from Florida is cited in the research as saying: “The issue is that, technologically, we [society] are going really, really fast. Our community, the community of immigrants, they are really, really behind. When you are talking about the regular families in the United States, they are used to 'now', to do it all… payments, applications, bank accounts, everything is on the internet. But in the Hispanic community, sometimes they don’t have a computer at home.”
Pauca hopes that he can help bring awareness of what is out there to these communities. He is now an international ambassador for Pitt Hopkins Syndrome and continues working on innovative products with which children with disabilities can lead an easier life.
What started out as a way to help his son, has led to a family endeavor to make a difference in the world.
“Victor brought meaning and purpose to my work,” Pauca said in an interview with NBC Latino. “My wife [who holds Master's degrees in Early Childhood Development and Special Education] and I have started a foundation. And my daughters are becoming leaders in disabilities and trying to change the world in their own way.”
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