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CEA Foundation

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The CTA Foundation, founded in 2009, is a public, national foundation affiliated with the Consumer Technology Association. The Foundation reflects the Consumer Technology Association’s longstanding interest in giving back to the communities that support its member industries, and launched its first series of grants in 2012.

Early on, the CTA Foundation board of directors decided to focus its efforts on two important audiences: seniors and people with disabilities.

“The CTA Foundation is lucky to be supported by an industry that believes deeply in innovation,” says CTA Foundation Executive Director Steve Ewell. “We look at the aging demographics in the United States and we see opportunities where technology can be used to keep people healthy, socially active, and also to assist the caregivers working with these populations.” 

CTA Foundation’s first grantee was Selfhelp Community Services, a New York City nonprofit dedicated to maintaining the independence and dignity of seniors and at-risk populations through a spectrum of housing, home health care, and social services. Selfhelp is committed to applying new methods and technologies to the changing needs of its community; the CTA Foundation saw an opportunity to engage homebound seniors and promote social engagement and learning through technology. CTA Foundation’s funding will help Selfhelp expand their virtual senior center, a pilot program launched in New York City with major funding from Microsoft,  to at least three additional locations.

Many of the foundation’s grants have benefitted older people by supporting vision and hearing loss organizations. One early success from its disability portfolio is a “train the trainer” program run by the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA). The CTA Foundation supported a three-day training program, designed specifically for the needs of older adults, in which hearing impaired consumers learned to use consumer devices such as smartphones and tablets in addition to traditional hearing loss devices (hearing aids, cochlear implants, etc). Trainers then go out into their communities around the country to help others with the same challenges. 

The Foundation also strives to connect electronics with its core audience. Ewell believes the Foundation provides a platform for information exchange between technology developers and consumers at different stages of life. By stimulating dialogue between consumers and industry, the foundation aims to help inform the industry, improve products and fill gaps, and inform consumers about technologies that can meet their needs.

Other grants include funding to help open the Senior Planet Exploration Center, the nation's first tech-themed center for older adults, run by Older Adults Technology Services (OATS); the American Foundation for the Blind, which is conducting a study of small visual displays to improve accessibility in mobile communications for people with vision loss; Lighthouse International, supporting their low vision center; and Raising the Floor, expanding a database of consumer electronic products to include those that are accessibility-compatible, to help people easily identify devices that best meet their accessibility needs.

During the CTA Foundation’s first year, Ewell says he focused on ensuring strong internal procedures, gaining a solid understanding of mission-related issues, and identifying where the Foundation can add value. He places a high priority on building an organization that is sustainable and smart in how it allocates funding. Ewell credits an effective, active, and connected Board of Trustees, made up of entrepreneurs and businesspeople, with helping to open doors and create early success for the Foundation.

He also acknowledges that the backing of CTA is an incredible asset. “I am a one person staff (recently increased to two with the hiring of an intern), but I have 150 dedicated professionals who are willing to assist where they can,” says Ewell.

Ewell considers CTA Foundation’s GIA membership a part of the Foundation’s ongoing success because it offers an opportunity to learn from fellow grantmakers.  “I am not an expert in all things aging,” says Ewell, “but being able to reach out to GIA and learn who is doing great work on any given topic is certainly an important benefit.”

“Technology is such a crucial topic area,” he adds. “I want to ensure that it is considered across different GIA programs. I believe we can make a significant difference to many seniors and people with disabilities.”




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