Nine-year-old Lillian was born with a condition that inhibits her ability to speak. Her mother Camilla Downs says when she started school she used a communication device called a DynaVox, which was large and cumbersome. “There's all the kids running and jumping and doing the things that elementary school kids do and there was Lillian pulling a cart behind her with her DynaVox unit in it.” Downs said, describing Lillian at recess. “It was about 5 lbs but way to heavy for someone her size to tote around on her body.”
Downs dedicated herself to researching the latest technology and found an iPhone application called Proloquo2Go that would allow Lillian to communicate effectively through the handheld device. Lillian uses a touch keyboard or pre-programmed icons and the iPhone becomes her voice. Now Downs wants to help other families with similar needs afford this technology.
She says even though the phone and app are thousands of dollars cheaper than the DynaVox system, often they are not covered by insurance or Medicare. Even at a minimum cost of $300 the phones are out of range for some. So Downs has established a foundation called Turning Views to help families nationwide get the device and software they need. “We have 13 people who have applied for help, and my goal is to be able to have a quicker turn around to help them.” says Downs. “Hopefully a two week turnaround.”
She turned to a local networking group, eWomen Network, for help. In monthly meetings members exchange ideas, advice, even services. Members even have online profiles allowing them to build their relationships in the community and on the web. “We have about 300 members and we have events that help bring women together because women do business differently then men.” explains Executive Managing Director of eWomen Network, Kymberlee Simantel. “We network differently we communicate differently and we don’t go to the yellow pages if we need a product or a service.”
Camilla says she turned to eWomen because she had success with them when she started her business in as a social media advisor 2007. She says she's just one example of how the group makes small businesses stronger. And for Downs it provides the support to grow not just her business, but a charity she's passionate about.