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  • Writer's pictureMichael Pearce

A Vest for Jess - How Vest is helping break Cerebral Palsy's grip on a young woman's independence

When we first launched Vest, we had the pleasure of meeting Jess, and we are so excited and proud to share her story with you.

Jess lives with Cerebral Palsy, which affects the muscles in her whole body. She also has a speech disorder, which makes her speech difficult to understand. So, throughout the years, she has worked through various communications systems to let others know how to help her navigate life with CP. But none of these systems quite fit Jess’s needs. That is, not until she discovered Vest.

Jess’ Life Journey with CP

Before we dive too deep into how Jess found Vest, it is important to understand her journey. For instance, when Jess was younger, she had no formal communications system in place. She had her mom, Cathy. And Cathy was incredibly involved with Jess’s health care, daily care, and much more.

Throughout much of Jess’s younger school years, she also had a support team. This team remained the same, so Jess didn’t have the need to advocate for herself—they all knew her well.

Then Jess went to high school, things started to change. She was spending more time with other classmates, but had a dedicated educational assistant with her throughout every day. Her assistant and her mom remained in close contact, and together the three of them built a strong support team.

But then the assistant went on maternity leave, and it took a while for the new special education support team to learn about Jess’s needs. Also, Jess expanded her daily care to the Children’s Treatment Centre for caregiver respite services so her mom could take time away, knowing all the while that Jess would be well cared for. Yet again, it took time—including multiple phone calls and written instructions—to ensure all of Jess’s needs were met.

Jess Knew that she must Take Control of her own life

Jess’s experiences led her to start creating her own system for communicating basic information about the most important things people should know about her. She started using mini photo albums to store typed information about herself that her mom then cut up and slid into the sleeves.

Soon Jess found that there wasn't enough room for everything, so she converted to a full-size binder that she kept with her in her backpack.

The binders posed frustrations for Jess, however, as things were constantly changing and she had to reprint pages often (e.g., changes to medications, wheelchair information, emergency contacts, etc.). So Jess stopped printing and decided to save her files on an iPad, which is mounted on her wheelchair.

She opened the file when she needed to show someone how to help her. Unfortunately, the roadblocks began to hit as Jess realized that she had to continuously scroll through pages and pages of information until she found the information she needed.

It was time for a change.

How Jess Chose Vest as a Solution to make her life better

Jess performed her own research on potential systems that would allow her have a communications system that explains everything about her. She first researched iPad apps and many other similar, free options. She came across multiple notepad apps and word processing apps, but they all still posed the scrolling hassle. She tried working in Pages and Evernote, but found those tools frustrating to update, as she always had to format everything.

And the worst part? She would sometimes lose information between app updates.

So Jess kept digging when, finally, appeared in her search results. Jess gathered all the information she could and then created a pros and cons list for Vest (provided here by Jess):

Jess presented her research to her mom and together they decided to give Vest a try. The result, in Jess’s own words:

I feel more confident about my life in the future, knowing all of my information is in one spot. I feel more independent as I have full control over information that's in my Vest.”

How Vest is Helping Jess Gain Control of Her Own Life

We think it's best hearing this straight from Jess:

I’ve been using Vest and I really love it. I log in several times a day and fill in information. I love how it's so accessible to me. My iPhone and iPad are mounted on my wheelchair so I have access to it at all times.

"I appreciate that everything has a section and pocket and I can just tap on them and it takes me straight there. I love how it is a cloud app and has a password. I can certainly see myself using this for the rest of my life. I am very optimistic that Vest will continue to benefit me and all the people involved in my life, from family to personal care workers to friends.

"Vest is like my security blanket. I love to be on Vest and adding information every day. Sometimes I log in just to read over what I have written. Due to my Cerebral Palsy, I also have a learning and developmental disability; I need everything written down. For me to go into Vest and read everything is very comforting to me.

"Vest has given me a sense of accomplishment, knowing that I am preparing for my future and I have some control.”

Thank You, Jess!

We are so humbled and honored to be part of Jess’ life, and to be providing her with a Vest that helps her take greater control over her own life. Thank you for sharing your story with us, Jess, and thank you for letting us share it with the world. You inspire us every day!


Sadly, Jess' Mom, Cathy, has passed away. Jess continues to use her Vest that she and her Mom set up together. Since signing up, Jess has become a Vest Power User with over 800 Vest sessions!

Sources: Interviews with Jessica W. Photo credits: Jessica W.


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