As we recently celebrated Veterans Day and are mindful of the service given to our nation by members of our armed forces, disabled Iraq veteran and entrepreneur, Chelsea Ann K.E. Fernandez, is fulfilling a dream of serving the disabled community of Maui. The president and co-founder of FernanTECH Inc., Fernandez and her husband, Joey, are opening a new branch called Hawaii Assistive Technology Company. Its mission will be to provide people with disabilities a chance to live independently with the use of technology. “It was always in my heart to help the disabled,” Fernandez said.
At age 14, Fernandez, a graduate of Hilo High School, saw her two-month-old sister die in part because of complications from both physical deformities and Down syndrome. Fernandez said she vowed that she would do what she could in her adult years to support impaired youth and adults. Her vision is to find technological devices that assist the deaf, the blind and the disabled in everyday living, concentrating on education and communication. “The range is so wide,” she said, adding that products could include walking canes for the blind and iPads for autistic children. Fernandez was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Syndrome Disorder as a result of her service in the U.S. Army Reserve and a tour in Iraq. Following her year of military service in 2004, she moved to Maui in 2006 and established FernanTECH Inc. She also earned an associate degree in business from the University of Hawaii Maui College and earned certificates in entrepreneurship, management, marketing and accounting.
The current treasurer of the Maui Lions Club, Fernandez has made connections with the group that empowers volunteers to encourage the deaf and the blind. Fernandez also started the Maui Deaf Club and she’s partnered with the Hawaii Independent Living Center on Maui and a panel of service providers for the disabled to learn more about the community she wants to serve. She has invested some $10,000 in educating herself about the needs of the disabled including registering for a February 2012 international conference sponsored by the California State University. “I really want to do this,” Fernandez said.