Founded in 1920 to serve the social and financial needs of people with hearing loss, the Center for Hearing and Speech has helped over one million St. Louis, Missouri area residents communicate and connect with their communities.
Staff at this full-service audiology clinic have fitted thousands of patients with hearing aids over the years, but that isn’t the only technology they use to accomplish their goals. In 2020, the Center began providing patients with mobile Wi-Fi hotspots and tablets to use at home so they could stay connected to health services, friends and family members throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.
Grants for Affordable Internet
“Some of our older adult patients found themselves very cut off during the pandemic,” explained Sharon Elliott, a social worker at the Center. “Internet became vital for connecting with family, church groups, telehealth providers and more, but many of our patients either couldn’t access Internet from home or couldn’t afford it.”
She and her colleagues considered internet access a natural extension of the Center’s mission to empower communication for people with hearing loss, so they wrote grants to make it happen. Then they stretched those grant dollars as far as they possibly could by purchasing hotspot devices and high-speed internet service from Mobile Citizen.
A digital equity project of Voqal, Mobile Citizen offers low-cost mobile Internet devices and unlimited 4G data plans exclusively to schools, nonprofits and social welfare agencies nationwide. The low flat fee pricing and quality devices appealed to Elliott, as did the company’s responsive and friendly service.
Bringing Wi-Fi into Patients’ Homes
Elliott may be a social worker now, but she was a librarian prior to that. On a regular basis, she taught kids and adults how to use technology and research tools on the internet. That background has come in handy lately, as she helps the Center’s patients get set up with Wi-Fi at home. Most of them are between the ages of 60-75, but the oldest is 103. “They want to learn, and they have so much to share,” said Elliott.
“When we ask if they’re interested in getting online, almost everyone says yes,” Elliott explained. “They use the Mobile Citizen Wi-Fi hotspots to attend Zoom church services, schedule doctor visits and Covid-19 vaccinations, play online bingo, join the Center’s weekly virtual Circle of Friends meetings, and generally keep isolation and loneliness at bay.”
One added bonus of delivering and setting up Wi-Fi devices is that Elliott can uncover other ways to help while she’s in patients’ homes. Besides showing them how to stream music or watch movies online, she has helped connect them with resources for everything from food and wheelchairs to access ramps.
Being able to hear well is an important first step, but staying connected to their communities is just as valuable to a patient’s quality of life. For that reason, these hotspots will likely be a permanent part of what the Center does even after the pandemic.
Affordable mobile internet from Mobile Citizen helps organizations like the Center for Hearing and Speech bridge gaps in home Internet access, creating a more equitable health and wellness environment for all. To explore opportunities for your nonprofit, please contact our experts in the Mobile Citizen Customer Service Center at 877-216-9603.