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Gleason Foundation, Comcast combine to create ALS-friendly remote control

Doug Nadvornick/Spokane Public Radio
Comcast says people with ALS can manipulate their remote controls with eye movements.

The device is expected to help people losing control over their bodies maintain some independence.

The foundation created by Spokane native Steve Gleason has worked with Comcast to develop a TV remote control that people with ALS can use.

People who live with neurodegenerative diseases such as ALS often lose the ability to channel surf.

“There’s always been a high interest from Team Gleason as it relates to the in-home experience, cable control, just because of all the difficulties that come with all of the different set-ups that people have, from a TV to a smart home," said Blair Casey, the Gleason Foundation’s chief impact officer.

When Comcast approached the foundation to share news about how it was developing a remote control that could be controlled by eye movement, the foundation said it wanted to be involved. Gleason lives with ALS. Casey says the two organizations solicited input from customers with neurodegenerative diseases. Now, that technology is ready.

“All you do is type in and it will actually bring you to the log in that will allow you to log in with your credentials and start navigating your TV experience with your eyes.”

It’s a free service for customers of Comcast and other cable TV providers around the country.

Casey says the technology gives people who have progressively degenerative diseases the chance to continue to exercise some control over their lives.

“Imagine losing your ability to speak, your ability to get around and things like asking a loved one, as often your caretaker, to turn on the TV, change the channel. It adds an extra layer of stress on a family and one that should be the exact opposite with an in-home entertainment experience," he said.

Casey says the Gleason Foundation is also working on other smart home initiatives that will bring more independence to people with neurodegenerative diseases.

One of the Northwest's most seasoned reporters is returning to his SPR roots. Doug Nadvornick will be heard frequently on KPBX and KSFC reporting on local news.