New Equipment is Key to Success for University of Utah Student

September 25, 2014
woman on mountain

“Inspiration” should be Burgon Jensen’s middle name.  The 23-year-old University of Utah junior, who is deaf and blind, has a message for others with hearing and vision loss: “Just stay positive. It might be a lot easier to sit around and mope. It’s a lot more fun to be out there enjoying life.”

“She was born with a happy core,” say mom, Katy Jensen.  “She’s just faced all of her adversity with a smile.  She inspires so many people that way.

Like anyone her age, Jensen uses technology to stay in touch. Now, engaging in distance communication is easier than ever thanks to the National Deaf-Blind Equipment Distribution Program, which is promoted as iCanConnect.

After applying to the program and receiving an assessment of her hearing and vision loss, Jensen received an iPhone 5s, a MacBook Pro laptop, and a Focus 14 braille display at no cost.

“I’m able to communicate with people anytime I need to,” says Jensen.  “I don’t have to ask somebody else. I’m a lot more independent because I can call anybody, text anybody!”

iCanConnect is a federal program that provides communications technology to people of all ages who have significant, combined hearing and vision loss so they can engage in distance communication. Devices such as smartphones, tablets, telephone amplifiers, braille displays are available to those who meet disability and income requirements. Plus, they receive expert one-on-one training to ensure they know how to use their new tools.

Katy Jensen calls the equipment “miraculous” and a “game-changer!”  She recalls how the new technology gave the family “piece of mind” during the six months her daughter spent in New York City at the Helen Keller National Center for training. 

Burgon Jensen also recalls the sense of comfort that came with her newfound communications capabilities. “I could text my mom anytime, anywhere.  I could connect with my friends there and at home.” 

Retinis pigmentosa took Jensen’s eyesight at birth and is the cause of her hearing loss as well.  Jensen amazed her family and schoolmates by mastering both American Sign Language and braille at a very young age.  Those methods – along with the cochlear implant she received as a teenager – helped guide her way.

An avid rock climber, guitarist, and horseback rider, Jensen is a full time student at the University of Utah, using her new communications tools to stay in touch with her classmates and professors. “There’s no way I could be successful in college the way I am now without all the equipment,” says Jensen, who is working on her Associate’s Degree and is considering a major in Communications. 

The Utah Public Service Commission administers iCanConnect/Utah.  Commission Secretary Gary Widerburg says that clients that have received the equipment report “improved quality of life experiences” and “have integrated better with family, friends and society.”

“We live in such a wonderful time of technology,” Katy Jensen exclaims. “To be able to receive it free is such a blessing with a capital ‘B’.”

iCanConnect is available in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.  Learn more at www.iCanConnect.org. Click on “State Partners” to find each state’s contacts. The website is accessible to users with low vision and those who use screen readers, and it features video that is both audio described and captioned.  Information about iCanConnect is also available by calling 1-800-825-4595 Voice or 1-888-320-2656 TTY.