Assistive technology is an umbrella term that encompasses many different types of technologies but can be best described as, “any device that helps an individual with a disability improve their capabilities.” Often a complicated, high-tech device comes to mind when thinking of Assistive Technology (AT) but in reality it can be as simple as walkers, large print keyboards or even an ergonomically designed fork that better fits the hand of the individual using it. The possibilities are endless and exciting and amongst the rapidly changing pace of technology Summit DD continues to seek out its role.
Person-centered planning is the benchmark of what we do here, and Summit DD staff believes AT should be no different. “We don’t want to simply have the person fit the technology, we want the technology to fit the person.” said Russ DuPlain, Summit DD’s Director of IT. “Two people with the exact same diagnosis could use the same AT in completely different ways.”
Russ recently organized a workgroup to begin placing AT as a priority. The group consists of Summit DD staff from a variety of different departments. “It’s intentionally set up this way. Having all different kinds of departments in on our meeting is the best way to learn what we need and what is achievable.” The vision of the group is that AT becomes another valuable tool that is accessible during a person’s Individualized Service Plan (ISP) meetings with their Service and Support Administrator (SSA). The group believes that AT assessment should involve not just an AT expert but rather the individual, guardians, occupational therapists, physical therapists and anyone else that would be an integral part in truly discovering what is the best fit for the individual. “AT can often be a trial and error process,” Russ said. “Sometimes the first choice isn’t always the best and you go back and try something new until it’s right. That’s why it is so important for individuals we support to have these resources to choose from.”
AT can also be a catalyst for individuals seeking employment. Examples would be voice dictation software to allow a person to enter text without typing, using an iPad to show video or diagrams of steps required to complete a task, or even using a track-ball instead of a mouse. Summit DD would be the bridge between the individual and the employer defining what workplace accommodations would be crucial to success.
Currently Summit DD is utilizing AT with tablets and smartphones. Touchscreens and ease of use make these devices advantageous and the multitude of apps in AT is growing exponentially. But Summit DD is aware there is room to grow and seek new innovative ways to help a person served live their life to the fullest potential. The AT workgroup is in its early stages but is fueled by the endless possibilities of technology and a passion for helping others reach their goals.