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VIF Care App introduced to SKN special needs community; suggestion by local fire department will be implemented in the App


by Eulana Weekes

St. Kitts and Nevis (WINN): Representatives of a private organisation in the United States, Vital Information at your Fingertips (VIF), visited St. Kitts and Nevis to introduce members of the St. Kitts-Nevis Special Olympics Committee to the app, VIF Care.

VIF Care has been on the App Store since two years ago, following five years of software build-up. However, the App was rolled out about six to nine months ago and has gained significant traction as more people are informed of it. It was created to make life easier for people with special needs and their families. VIF Care is cloud-based and is available anywhere in the world. It requires an internet connection and is available for Android and Apple.

The President of VIF Care, Ms Holly Doherty, in an interview with a WINN FM reporter, said that the organisation took a long time to build the App to meet the needs of millions of people. She also shared how effective the App has been thus far.

“We took that time essentially because we wanted this to be worldwide and to handle millions of users. So rather than putting an app out that would just handle a few, we really put the time and the thought and the research into doing it, and what has happened most recently is that police departments have discovered that having an app like this in which we’ve built a registry, informs them about- it could be a person with intellectual disabilities, it could be somebody with Alzhiemer’s, it could be someone with a mental ailment; so if a police officer is deployed to a house for any other reason, maybe there is a break in at the house, when that police officer is deployed, dispatcher can say, “By the way, they have an adult who is autistic, who if he sees a shiny badge, he will lunge at you.” That happens, and that can be a really serious situation for the police officer.”

Vice President of VIF and Software Developer for VIF Care, Mr Dan Paradis, gave an overview of the App and shared some of its features.

“On the features side, we have so many features. Some of my favourite ones are entering athlete information or the individuals being cared for information, profile information, all that basic stuff, but Holly (Doherty) added some neat features like a comforting message. You can pre-record a message that has your child calm down, a calming voice, something so that they can hear your voice.”

Paradis said, “A lot of features like that, a video Id where we record a person and if something happens and they get lost, it automatically sends out a message to all the first responders; police, fire and it has a video recorded message, so they know that somebody is lost. A lot of times, you have these Amber alerts. I don’t know if you have that here, but an Amber Alert is a message that goes out to say that somebody has been abducted or whatever. In the United States, they have that, but all you see is a message, “This actually shows you a video of the person speaking, so you really know who it is.”

“Support network allows anybody in your family, school teachers, coaches; you can invite them in to participate in the app. So, in other words, take my friend’s brother Greg; Greg has five brothers and sisters. He has a lot of friends. So, you set up an account for him, and then you invite all these people in. You can [determine] what they can see. They might not care about his medical records or private and personal information, but they might care about what event he is going to; they might want to chat. So all these people can chat together and ask, “How is Greg doing? What next event is he going to?” So I call that a private- social network,” Paradis informed.

Regarding security, Paradis declared that a lot of care and precaution was put into the App to ensure that it is secure and private for all who created an account.

“All the data is encrypted in a database. We use Amazon Web services, and we use Cognito for security. So, for example, we don’t require a password, but you get a one-time password sent to your phone, so that allows us to make sure that somebody doesn’t steal a password and get access to someone’s account. So, we need a phone number, you put your phone number in, and it pings you a password to your phone, and then you’re connected in. So the only way you can lose it is if someone steals your phone. It’s like what a lot of other software apps are doing,” said Paradis.

The technology is currently being presented to the Department of Defence in the United States, Doherty told WINN FM. She said the information can be shared with military families to help them transition smoothly to another state if a family member has special needs. Similarly, VIF hopes law enforcement agencies and other first responders in the Federation will embrace the technology.

St. Kitts and Nevis is among the first group of territories that have been formally introduced to the App. Other interests include New Mexico, New York and Connecticut. The representatives said that while they have had video conferencing and meetings with groups about the technology, St. Kitts and Nevis is the first country they have physically marketed the App to.

A delighted Doherty said, during the session with members of the St. Kitts and Nevis Special Olympics Committee, she proposed the need for wearables. However, an idea was given by a representative of the Fire Department to create the wearables in such a way that they are not easily removed but will need a special tool to remove them. She further explained that a code will be on it, and if the police need to identify an individual who may have wandered off, the code can be scanned, and their information will show up on the registry. The wearables will be implemented in the further development of the App.

The duo said the App would continue to be developed as relationships are created with special needs organisations worldwide, highlighting that its ideas from the meetings and conferences helped to create the VIF Care App.

Additional and follow-up support on Zoom about the App will be given to Addie’s Place and the Cotton Thomas Comprehensive School through the Special Olympics Committee, the VIF reps confirmed. However, they disclosed that VIF Care is not only an App for individuals with special needs, but it is for anyone who desires to use it. On it, basic information can be saved, such as birth certificates, passports and COVID-19 Vaccination information.

Clarice Cotton, Chairperson of the Board of Directors Special Olympics St. Kitts and Nevis, appreciated VIF for introducing the App. She explained to WINN FM some ways the App will benefit the special needs community.

“We are quite happy that Holly and her team have presented us with this App, and it will really help us because we can now have all of our athletes’ information stored in one place. It will help those who are hearing impaired, those who are nonverbal because if they have to go to the hospital or if they get into trouble, we can share the information with the police, we can share the information with the health department. Everything will be in one place, and we can update it from time to time. It will also help us because whenever we have to go to games, we have to register our athletes. Usually, it includes their passport number, name of parent, name of guardian, name of next of kin, sports they are going to compete in, their times and everything. If we have this already, it will make the registration process a lot easier, so we are really looking forward to using it.”


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