Connecting Through Technology

Connecting through technology banner with background of abstract expressionist painting in pink, blue, and white

Assistive Technology for communication and community integration

Not everyone communicates the same way. For some individuals, expressing thoughts, feelings, and emotions is made more challenging by certain disabilities. For non-verbal individuals, assistive technology supports offer additional ways to make connections, be heard, and join in. This is especially true for Dan.

Dan is a highly energetic and personable 65 year old man with cerebral palsy. He enjoys good company, good jokes, and a good beer. Throughout his lifetime, Dan has seen his fair share of technology advances—in his memoir, written with the assistance of his communication device, he recalls a time before he got his first wheelchair when he was pulled around in a red wagon. Now utilizing a power wheelchair to get around on his own, he has since added additional technology supports to further his independence.

Though he is able to communicate by vocalizing a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ (which he prefers in direct conversations) or by motioning when a choice is involved, he utilizes technology supports to express himself in greater detail. For the past several years, Dan has used the Essence Language System communication device, acquired using waiver funding. Resembling a large tablet, the device helps him to communicate via text-to-speech or through email using tab-based navigation and head mouse technology. The built in software, which includes spelling and word prediction for quicker and more efficient thought expression, also provides Internet access for Dan to perform Google searches or get to YouTube to listen to his favorite music—country.

“He expresses himself very well even though he’s not verbal, but through his communication device he gets the words out.”

Sam Subah, Assistant Program Manager at Living Well Disability Services

 

Communicating isn’t done through words alone. Art can be a powerful outlet for individuals of all abilities to capture their emotions and express themselves. After the passing of his wife, Sally, in May 2017, art became a great outlet for him to express his grief.Through the Creative Arts program at his day program (Midwest Special Services, Inc), Dan showed interest and skill in painting. To help him paint independently, staff members worked with him to create assistive technology tools made from basic objects. An adaptive head apparatus was created using the inside framing of a construction hat and a metal rod to hold his paint brushes directly in front of his eye, which is his preferred placement while working. Using this device, along with an adapted easel and palette, Dan is able to spend his time creating large paintings that have been displayed in local galleries and exhibitions—like his recent live painting installation at a Minnesota Wild Game.

Because of his patience and motivation for increased independence, Dan and his support team were able to explore different technologies that worked for him and met his goals. He is not only able to connect further with individuals through his communication device, but engage the broader community as well through his art—showing others what is possible.

• • •

In addition to taking advantage of assistive technology to express himself, Dan also utilizes various assistive devices around his home, supported by Living Well Disability Services, to maintain his independence which will be documented in an upcoming TRC case study—stay tuned!

Banner Image Credit: Dan Stallsworth

View more of Dan’s artwork on his website


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Visit the ARRM Technology Resource Center to learn about more success stories and case studies showing how technology is changing the lives of those living with disabilities or learn more about how to start the conversation.

Creating Organizational Buy-In Part 3 | Becoming a Champion for Technology

Being a part of an organization that utilizes all available resources to assist not only those you help support, but the staff and overall operations of the company sounds like a win win for all involved. But how is your organization able to get to that point? It could all start with YOU!

If you’ve missed the first two posts in the series, read up on creating organizational buy-in with The Basics, which covers the main steps to follow to help gain buy-in, and Breaking Barriers, which walks through common sticking points and offers solutions to get everyone on board.

The experts:

sean henderson headshot Sean Henderson, Information Systems Analytics Manager Hammer Residences
kathy larson headshot Kathy Larson, Director of Brain Injury and Specialty Support Services REM Minnesota
kit piltingsrud headshot Kit Piltingsrud, Program Manager and Assistive Technology Professional Living Well Disability Services

Put Yourself out There

To become the go-to-tech-person in your organization, you have to first let people know what you’re trying to accomplish and why it’s important—for them and for the organization.

  • Be everywhere. Literally. Attend all staff meetings, workshops, and team huddles to discuss the benefits of technology and share examples. Five minutes at the beginning of each meeting for a few months running is a great way to provide valuable information in a quick and digestible format to get individuals comfortable with the addition of technology in care plans.
  • Create opportunities to get in front of people by thinking outside the box. You could host tech talks like Sean or even create tech experience nights. The main point is to utilize your resources and creativity to meet individuals where they are—both physically and by interest level.

Share the Technology

Seeing is believing. Putting technology support options and devices in front of people is key to getting them on board.

  • Bring the technology to them. Demonstrations are a great way to show individuals what tech is available, and may also help get them comfortable with the idea of technology use by being able to see it (and test it out) themselves. Starting with lower tech/lower cost options is a great first step to get people comfortable with utilizing tech supports.
  • Share success stories and resources to get the latest and greatest technology in front of them. Seeing what others are doing helps get people thinking about possible uses, and about other individuals that could benefit from like technology. Subscribing/forwarding on the TRC monthly newsletter is a great start to share success stories and technology news from around the web.

Continue Training

Training. Training. Training. If you’ve read through The Basics and Breaking Barriers, you may have noticed a theme. Without proper training and check-ins to ensure the technology is always meeting the current needs of the individual, technology implementations may stall out, and frustration levels may rise.

  • Cultivate shared learning experiences and model behavior. Being present during implementations and having staff, individuals, and family members be a part of setting up the technology supports (no matter how simple) helps create a “learning together” atmosphere and gets everyone familiar with the technology and on the same page.
  • Create training documents for the team and for future hires. Include notes about the initial implementation, why you chose the tech you chose, and any tweaks you made along the way to give new staff background and get them up to speed.
  • Build on the momentum. Once people begin to realize the benefits of technology use, take the training a step further by spreading the word through experienced staff.

Ready to bring technology supports to your organization but have a few follow-up questions before you get started? Ask the Mentors! TRC Mentors are available to help answer any remaining questions you have and to help you get started. Learn more about the TRC Mentors.


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Basic Home Network Security: What You Need to Know

home network security basics

Jamie Wolbeck, VP of Operations, SUCCESS Computer Consulting

Imagine you sit down to dinner at a restaurant, and your server comes by to tell you about the specials. “Oh, the steak—tell me more about that!” you say. Your server shrugs. “It’s fine,” they reply.

Doesn’t exactly inspire confidence, does it? And it shouldn’t.

Unfortunately, when most people think about their home network’s security, they’ll probably describe it with the same lackluster adjective: “fine.”

Assistive technologies like voice-generated searches, hover recognition, and refreshable braille displays have made notable strides in recent years, and significantly contributed to promoting independence for those living with physical or cognitive disabilities—all the more reason, then, to make sure your home network is adequately protected. Keeping assistive technology secure is a positive step towards reinforcing independence and privacy.

So, where do you start?

The most basic items related to security are often overlooked,  but there are some simple things you can do to bump your home security from “just fine” to phenomenal. Let’s start with some of the most common ways you can protect your technology at home and terms you should be aware of.

  1. Don’t use the default password: Most devices—think modems, firewalls, printers, scanners, etc.—come preloaded with a default username and password. Change them. Defaults may be easily guessed to allow access.
  2. Use anti-virus and anti-malware software: All of your devices with an operating system can be impacted by a viral infection, or malware, which at best can reduce the performance of the system, or at worse allow it to be actively used against you. While anti-virus software only covers known infections, it still offers protection.
  3. Use wireless internet encryption: Your wireless network needs to be protected from outside intruders, and one of the best ways to do this is to use encryption. Encryption is, quite simply,  a means of scrambling or “coding” electronic messages while they’re in transit, so unintended recipients can’t glean them for sensitive information.

    When it comes to your wireless network, there are several levels of security: WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy), WPA (WiFi Protected Access), and WPA2, which is currently considered the standard level of protection.
     

    The best way to apply this protection to your home network is to research your router on the manufacturer’s site and make sure you’ve downloaded and applied the manufacturer’s specific firmware, with all settings enabled for the highest possible level of encryption. 

  4. Use a firewall, not just an ISP-supplied modem: Internet Service Providers supply a modem for most home connections, but common vendors like Comcast or CenturyLink don’t supply a device that allows for external protection. ISP vendors or outside devices should be purchased to provide firewall capabilities. Firewalls can take the form of hardware or software, but the important thing is that a firewall filters the data flowing to and from your home network, and determines rules for what type of traffic is allowed to reach your computer from an outside network, such as the Internet.
  5. Update your software and firmware: Patch your devices. Windows software patches, Apple software patches, and hardware patches (firmware) are a requirement to fix vulnerabilities. Like your favorite well-worn shirt, computing software or devices need repair from time to time, and these are offered in the form of a set of updates, improvements, and fixes. Often these bugs are worked out in later versions or new releases of the software, but the patches provide protection from known exploits in the meantime.
  6. Have an encrypted, regular backup: If your data is accidentally deleted or hit with an infection, you need a line of defense that allows you to bring back your data. This information should be stored and encrypted in a safe location, like an external hard drive, a device that can store all of your data in a location physically separate from your computer, for example. Using your systems frequently? Make it a practice to run your backups nightly.

These are first steps, and while they won’t make your network completely invulnerable, it is a great start to keeping your data, and the assistive technology devices you utilize, secure. It’s important to stay up-to-date by reading news articles about vulnerabilities, staying current on attacks, talking to your friends in tech and keeping apprised of email or phishing attacks, so you know what to watch out for.

Professional Security Options

If you are a provider looking for solutions to secure your client and organizational data, or are looking for increased security for your home, hiring a professional computer consulting company may be an option for you. Below are a few good questions to ask when looking to hire a professional service provider.

  1. Will I have a dedicated account manager and on-site technician?
  2. What level of service can I expect?
  3. What is expected of me, as a client?
  4. What do you offer in terms of security services? How are you making sure my devices are updated and patched?
  5. In what ways will your managed services encourage a partnership with our organization instead of a simple business transaction?


SUCCESS provides managed network support, cloud services, project services, security solutions, CIO services, HIPAA consulting and Microsoft Office 365 migrations. We work with business leaders to ensure technology delivers the best value and is utilized in the most effective way for the success of their business today and in the future.


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Creating Organizational Buy-In Part 2 | Breaking Barriers

Breaking barriers to organizational buy-in

You believe in the power of technology and the benefits it creates for everyday living—for everyone. Now how do you share and spread your enthusiasm with others in your organization? How do you get co-workers, family members, and self-advocates on board with adding technology supports into existing care plans to increase independence and privacy? In part two of our three-part post series on creating organizational buy-in, three experts walk you through what they did within their own organizations to break down common barriers and gain buy-in from all members of the care team.

Miss the first series post? Read more about ‘The Basics’ of creating organizational buy-in here.

The experts:

sean henderson headshot Sean Henderson, Information Systems Analytics Manager Hammer Residences
kathy larson headshot Kathy Larson, Director of Brain Injury and Specialty Support Services REM Minnesota
kit piltingsrud headshot Kit Piltingsrud, Program Manager and Assistive Technology Professional Living Well Disability Services

Help Combat Fears

Knowing what common fears exist for all members of the care team is essential to gaining buy-in. Being prepared with educational resources and responses for uncertainty may aid in moving the implementation forward.

  • Find out what concerns individuals have regarding technology usage. If you don’t know what their fears/concerns are, you won’t be able to properly navigate them.
  • Share resources you collected during your research phase to help get them up to speed with offerings and possibilities.Hear from the experts and utilize the resources below:

Bring in the Tech

  • Share examples of technology supports you think will benefit the individual with members of the care team. Live demos allow for increased excitement and questions.
  • Start small. Beginning introductions with low-cost or low-tech options may help ease the transition and offer limited risk to get individuals used to the idea of technology.
  • Create a shared learning experience by getting as many people involved with the setup of the technology as possible. Shared learning often leads to better questions, understanding, and increased buy-in support.

Maintain Open Communication

When assessing and offering person-centered technology solutions, open communication lines are a must. Not only will it help keep everyone on the same page, but will also help prepare individuals for any changes that may occur.

  • Offer choices to include all members of the care team in the planning.
  • Discuss the cyclical nature of person-centered solutions. Being prepared for change and expressing that reality to members of the care team is paramount to lessen frustrations and maintain buy-in.
  • Check in often with the individual and other support team members to ensure technology solutions are meeting current needs. Taking stock through scheduled assessments is a great way to ensure the individual’s current needs are met.

In part three of the series, experts discuss how they became the champions for technology use within their organizations and offer ideas on how you too can lead the way in your organization. Stay tuned!


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Creating Organizational Buy-In Part 1 | The Basics

Organizational Buy-in basics

Gaining organizational buy-in for change can be difficult, but it doesn’t need to be. We’ve broken down our most recent training webinar into a three-part post series where three experts who have gone through the technology implementation process share how they helped bring and spread the use of technology supports within their own organizations. In part one of the series, The Basics, experts cover the basic steps needed to bring forward technology supports as a valid option for your organization and the individuals you help support based on their experiences.

 

Get to know the experts:

sean henderson headshot Sean Henderson, Information Systems Analytics Manager Hammer Residences
kathy larson headshot Kathy Larson, Director of Brain Injury and Specialty Support Services REM Minnesota
kit piltingsrud headshot Kit Piltingsrud, Program Manager and Assistive Technology Professional Living Well Disability Services

 

Get Educated

The first step to gaining buy-in from others is being able to articulate why you believe in something, and why it’s a good choice.

  • Identify what you are trying to solve for, keeping the individual at the center. Assessment guides are great options to get you started.
  • Research possible solutions or next steps. A great place to start is the Technology Resource Center Library, which includes success stories, specially designed resources, and helpful links from around the web.
  • Find out what costs might be involved. Research possible solutions online and/or request information from tech vendors or peers. TRC Mentors are great resources to reach out to—they’ve been through this process before, and are ready to help.

Hear from the experts and utilize the resources below:

Bring it Forward

Now that you have identified the need, a potential solution, and rough costs associated, you can bring your plan forward to your supervisor or key stakeholders further explaining why you believe this to be a great solution for the individual, and for your organization.

  • Highlight the benefits of technology use (autonomy, decrease in staff hours, increase in staff efficiency, etc)
  • Share examples. Show examples of supports actually helping people to gain buy-in and excitement.

Hear more from the experts:

Spread the Knowledge

Now that you’ve got the attention of your boss and/or key stakeholders, further develop your case for technology and begin sharing concepts with others in your organization and the people you help support.

  • Bring in the experts for a “show-and-tell” experience. Many vendors offer free demos.
  • Use tech-solve language or terms around co-workers, individuals, and families to familiarize them.
  • Have open discussions with primary care staff to determine real needs/wants and promote innovation.

 

In part two and three of the series, experts will dive deeper into ways to spread the knowledge throughout your organization to create buy-in. Concepts include ways to educate all members of the care team, maintaining support, and how to become the champion for technology use within your organization. Stay tuned!


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“It’s Been Good for Me”: Angie’s Story

Angie talks about her choice to live independently

Interview reprinted with permission from Impact, a newsletter published by the Institute on Community Integration (UCEDD), and the Research and Training Center on Community Living and Employment (RTC-CL), University of Minnesota.

Originally published on the TRC blog, “Putting a Plan Together for Independent Living” walks readers through Angie’s experience with technology use to maintain her independence and continue to live on her own, even though she was experiencing health issues. In a recent Impact article by Sandy Henry, published by the Institute on Community Integration (ICI), and the Research and Training Center on Community Living and Employment (RTC), University of Minnesota, Beth Dykema, a Direct Support Professional with CCRI’s Independent by Design program, interviewed Angie about her home and life.

Beth: Tell me about what your life was like before you started with Independent by Design?
Angie: I lived on my own. I was mostly on my own. I set up my medications, someone called me [in the] morning when it was time to go to work. Someone came to help me with house work.

Beth: Where were you living then?
Angie: Different apartment in Moorhead.

Beth: I understand you had some health issues at the time. Can you tell me about that and what your biggest concern was then?
Angie: I didn’t always take my medications. My diabetes was up and the shower bothered me. Now I have help.

Beth: When you first heard about Independent by Design and CCRI, what did you think?
Angie: I thought it sounded like a good idea. I was scared to move.

Beth: What types of technology are you using with the Independent by Design team?
Angie: I used to have more. I have sensors for my medications box. I have a button for emergencies.

Beth: How does the technology and the Independent by Design team help you to be more independent?
Angie: I know there is always someone here. Daily staff visits or I get lonesome. I get out more.

Beth: Would you recommend using technology and the Independent by Design program to others?
Angie: I would, yeah. It is a good system for people to be in the community and not to stay home.

Beth: Anything else you would like to add that you feel is important?
Angie: If people really want to live on their own and be independent I think it is a good idea. It’s been good for me.

Learn more about Angie’s story and how, through initial conversations, she and her team were able to put together a support and response plan that met her needs while maintaining her desired level of independence.

Looking to begin conversations of your own surrounding technology use for increased independence and privacy? Begin the FREE 30 minute online training course “Technology 101: The Conversation” to get started today.


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New Technology Means New Options for People Needing Supports: A Minnesota Story

Technology options for people needing supports

Sandy Henry, Technology Advocate and former community residential services provider
Reprinted with permission from Impact, a newsletter published by the Institute on Community Integration (UCEDD), and the Research and Training Center on Community Living and Employment (RTC-CL), University of Minnesota.

Until recently “supervision,” as used in regulatory language, had often been synonymous with having a caregiver physically present, whether the caregiver is family or Direct Support Professionals (DSPs). This fact has been one of the greatest barriers to individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities (IDD) living more independent lives. But, what if there was a way for caregivers to know when they are needed and when the person is doing fine on his or her own? What if a caregiver could be assured a vulnerable person got home from work on time, didn’t let anyone else in the apartment, never left the stove on unattended, took medications on time, and could check-in for a chat or a question even with the caregiver miles away? And, what if the tools it took to do all these things were affordable? Remote supervision and support offers those possibilities.

Overview

Remote support and the technology it requires is not new, but spreading the word and adapting regulatory and funding rules to take advantage of it has been a slow process. Because “supervision” required the presence of a DSP, funders felt safe tying payment to DSP physical presence, and regulatory language often used “supervision” and “staff ” interchangeably. It all worked, for better or worse, until supervision no longer required the physical presence of a DSP. Minnesota has found a way to adapt funding and regulation to use the new technology tools, and it is starting to catch on.

Minnesota identified two ways of funding remote support through the HCBS Waiver:

  1. Individuals living in their own home (non-provider controlled) where services are offered via a menu of options. In this situation, remote support technology and services are covered under Environmental Accessibility Adaptations. Since the technology is of no use without DSPs or natural supports receiving and responding to information from the technology, DSP 24-hour remote supervision and response is covered under 24-Hour Emergency Assistance in a daily rate.
  2. Individuals living in licensed provider-controlled housing with services paid for via an inclusive daily rate. In this case a rate calculation system called the Rate Management System (RMS) is used to determine the daily rate. The RMS calculation is based on the person’s needs, including on-site awake staff, on-site overnight sleep staff, and remote monitoring hours of supervision.
    Two organizations using remote support technology in Minnesota are Dungarvin and CCRI.

Dungarvin: Alternative Overnight Supervision

Dungarvin is a national organization of privately-owned companies that are dedicated to providing high quality, community-based supports to people with varying support needs. In Minnesota, it first piloted the use of technology for remote support in 2006, and now uses remote monitoring technology in a number of locations. It took a few years of work with regulators and other stakeholders to receive approval for remote supervision as an alternative to on-site overnight staff, as required by regulation. Dungarvin now uses two active staff overnight to provide scheduled cares and respond to call devices in five homes in Minnesota. Staff can get to each house from another within the times specified in each person’s support plan.

Dungarvin currently uses bed, motion, and contact sensors, and a variety of call devices to match each person’s physical abilities. If a person can’t use a traditional call pendant, a button activated by the light touch of a knee, elbow or head will do. Adapted call devices are mounted to beds, wheelchairs, and walls in bathrooms and anywhere else a person might want to let DSPs know they want help. Dungarvin also uses sensors on individuals’ medication cabinets and sensors to prompt DSPs when critical cares are due, helping the busy staff stay on top of things.

The sensors and call devices are connected to robust software managed by Sengistix, a national remote support vendor. Each person’s support team decides the areas of vulnerabilities for which a DSP needs to be notified and respond in person. Individuals at risk of falls or wandering might require a DSP to respond as soon as a person is out of bed, or out of bed and not moving around in his or her room. Each person served decides how and when to use the call device to request DSP attention. All notifications to staff are private, going to a phone DSPs carry to receive and accept responsibility for responding to notifications. The various sensors also track the care actions of DSPs to help verify how quickly notifications are responded to and timing of critical cares, such as medication administration and repositioning.

CCRI: Independent Housing Options

CCRI, in Clay County of western Minnesota, developed the Independent by Design (IBD) program partnering with Sengistix as the technology vendor. For CCRI and Clay County this program is an alternative to traditional 3-4 person homes. By using the same type of technology Dungarvin uses, CCRI staff support a variety of people with a range of needs, each living in his or her own community apartment/home. Each person, with help from the support team, identifies what situations indicate a need for IBD staff to respond and what the expected response is. It might be a phone call to discuss an issue and offer direction, or a DSP going to the person’s home to provide face-to-face support. When appropriate, the technology keeps staff informed of when individuals come and go, take medications, are in or out of bed, have an activated smoke detector, and so forth. The technology is also used to provide reminders and prompts directly to the person, only involving staff if the matter isn’t resolved. For example, if a vulnerability for one person is getting up and off to work on time, a bed sensor can prompt a phone call to the person if not out of bed by 6:30, again at 6:35 and again at 6:40, if not out of bed. If by 6:45 the person is still not out of bed, the system will call the assigned DSP to intervene per the person’s plan. The same can apply to taking medications, leaving for work on time, or any number of activities and behaviors. When someone needs more intense support and education in certain areas, additional hourly supports can be added and adjusted as the need indicates.

The individuals supported by IBD are not restricted to living in group settings to share staff support. They get the interactive support they need when they need it, while living in the place of their choice. When they don’t need direct staff interaction, they are independent and on their own, knowing support is available at the push of a button. The IBD staff are mobile and can be anywhere in a 20 minute radius, helping someone prepare a meal, talking a person through a tough day at work, checking on a person with diabetes whose refrigerator hasn’t opened all day, being where they’re needed when they’re needed instead of sitting around a group living setting waiting to be needed.

Results

Both uses of technology profiled here:

  • Allow individuals greater privacy, dignity, independence, and control.
  • Extend the reach of DSPs by helping them know when, where, and how to be of greatest assistance.
  • Maximize the efficiency of taxpayer resources by reducing wasted DSP time when they are not needed.
  • Improve accountability of the services, as a collateral benefit.

To enable these uses of technology the Minnesota Department of Human Services allowed innovation to occur, then worked with providers and advocates to find ways to responsibly adapt funding and regulation to support it (see the department’s policy page titled Monitoring Technology Usage). Regulations that don’t overly restrict providers or teams enable ongoing innovation, and funding that allows flexibility and adequate resources while still incurring overall savings sets up the system for success.

 

Learn more about Dungarvin’s remote support implementation
Learn more about CCRI’s remote support implementation

Impact is a newsletter published by the Institute on Community Integration (UCEDD), and the Research and Training Center on Community Living and Employment (RTC-CL), University of Minnesota. Articles cover useful and practical information, research, and case studies related to persons with intellectual, developmental, and other disabilities.

Learn more about Impact


 

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Technology 101: The Conversation

NEW (FREE) TRAINING COURSE!

On the road to technology implementation

If there was a step you could take which could lead to greater independence and privacy for people with disabilities and make direct support staff more efficient and effective, would you take it? How about if that step only took 30 minutes of your time?

promo_tech101-conversation_signup

[Enroll in Technology 101: The Conversation]

Launching Technology 101

One main goal of the Technology Resource Center (TRC) is to promote and spread the use of technology in supporting people with disabilities. One way the TRC aims to do this is through a series of online training courses to get individuals up to speed on the process and familiar with the technology options available today.
Dubbed ‘Technology 101”, these video courses walk support teams through each phase of the technology implementation process, complementing the information and resources already found within the TRC.

The Process

diagram_process-conversation

The first video training course, “Technology 101: The Conversation,” may be completed in roughly 30 minutes and guides providers, support staff, case managers, and families through the steps necessary to have thoughtful, shared conversations regarding the addition and use of technology in care plans.

Covered in Technology 101: The Conversation

promo_tech101-conversation_curriculum

[Enroll in Technology 101: The Conversation]


 

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With a Little Help from Your Friends

TRC Mentor Network Launch

Technology sounds like a great addition to care plans. You’ve heard it can help increase independence for individuals with disabilities, and assist with staff management and how staff do their jobs. But where do you start? How do you turn conversations into actionable strategies? How do you find the specific technology supports that will work for the individual?

 

Step 1: Know there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution

Step 2: Review the resources available in the Technology Resource Center.

 

But then what? If only there was a way to connect with other individuals and organizations who have gone through the implementation process before that you could talk to and get answers to your remaining questions. Well, you’re in luck. The recently launched TRC Mentor Network provides just that.  

Who are the Mentors?

TRC Mentors act as guides for those looking to implement technology supports for individuals they serve, their family members, or for themselves.  Mentors are ARRM members from provider and technology vendor organizations (and soon, self-advocates), who have gone through the technology implementation process before and are available to provide guidance for those looking to get started or at any stage during implementation.

Provider Mentors offer their time and expertise to help answer questions individuals or organizations might have regarding the technology implementation process. They are available to help share their experiences, provide general information, and offer recommendations.

Vendor Mentors offer free, no-obligation consultations to provide answers to questions and offer solutions. Vendor Mentors are available to discuss what to expect during implementation, how certain items work, or what costs might be involved.

While there may come a point when the nature of your interactions with a Mentor changes from ‘mentorship’ to ‘business consultant’, the initial contact is a sales-free environment and a great way to figure out options and next steps.

How to get connected with a Mentor:

Visit the mentor page to view Mentor areas of expertise along with their availability to help guide you to the correct person for your particular question(s).

 


Visit the ARRM Technology Resource Center to learn about more success stories and case studies showing how technology is changing the lives of those living with disabilities or learn more about how to start the conversation.

Advocating for Technology Supports

An Interview with Lauren Ireland

Recently, we were able to sit down for an interview with Lauren Ireland to discuss technology and how it plays a role in her daily life. Lauren lives in Minneapolis, MN and her home is licensed for supportive community-based services. At 30 years old,  Lauren has had access to and has used technology all her life, though it wasn’t until she moved into her current home nearly 10 years ago that she became aware of remote monitoring technology and the benefits it provided her and other individuals with disabilities.

As an advocate for technology supports, Lauren has been featured in a recent TRC video success story  Technology Delivering Independence and Staff Efficiency,” and will be a panel member at the upcoming session going behind the video at the ARRM Annual Conference, held June 6 and 7, 2018, to discuss her feelings towards the move to technology and answer questions from the audience.

TRC: When did you start using technology supports?
Lauren: I started the [remote support technology] a couple of years ago when I moved into this home, but I have been using technology pretty much all my life.

TRC: What types of technology do you use?
Lauren: In general, I’ve used Dragon NaturallySpeaking before where it types for you on a computer. It’s a speaking software. I loved it. I wish I could, you know, find other ways to use it. I want to get a job in the community, so hopefully soon I’ll be able to use more technology like that.

TRC: When did you start using the speaking software?
Lauren: My high school had it there, so I’ve been using it since school off and on. It takes a lot of training, so it’s hard. Maybe I’m not going to be able to use it. But it will always be helpful if it came up again. I’m hoping it is something I can use. It does take quite a bit of training to get it used to your voice and things like that.

TRC: What additional technology do you use?
Lauren: I use the pendant [for remote monitoring]. I have a dog at my house and went outside with her one day and I accidentally got her leash wrapped around my wheel of my wheelchair and so she almost died. But I had the pendant on me and rang it and the assistant came to help me. And without that I wouldn’t have been able to save her.

Hear Lauren tell her and Jinger Jo’s story in the 60 second video:

My dog is like a therapy dog for everyone. Thank goodness that I had that light to press, because otherwise I don’t think she’d be alive. We did a video for ARRM and presented the video to a lot of the people and they all wanted to see the dog, they asked where she was.

Whenever anyone asks me questions about this I bring this up. It really shows me that when I was first introduced to it, I was thinking, “There’s no staff in the house 24-7”, because they rotate between the different houses. There used to be staff there and they switched to this technology and we were all a little bit nervous about how it was going to work. But it actually works quite well.

I forgot to say there are sensors at the house as well. In front of the door, or above the door, so if someone has come in your room, it tracks if the staff is actually doing what they’re supposed to.

TRC: What types of activities or tasks does the technology help you with?
Lauren: Typing on the computer. I work in Bloomington, actually, so I use the computer there. But I use [remote monitoring] when I’m at home. At night, if I need something, you press a button and it goes to this place and they call the phone at my group home and the staff will come and help me with whatever I need.

TRC: Overall have these devices been helpful to you? Do you like how they work?
Lauren: Oh yes. The [remote monitoring] pendant definitely helps. It makes me feel like if I need something I can press it. So I’m more safe, you know? Every once in a while I get nervous about “Gosh, I hope I don’t fall,” but I know if anything were to happen, I have that light there to ring.

I usually get rolled over one time a night. I don’t use [the pendant] often, unless I need something. I get rolled over and I’m pretty much good. Even though I may not use it as much as other people, it’s there.

I like the sensors because even if I don’t realize if people are coming in my room, and I don’t know if so and so checked me last night, the staff know, hey, they did. Usually I don’t question stuff like that but I know they look into those things, so that’s important.

TRC: Do you feel like using the technology has allowed you to live more independently?
Lauren: Oh yes. Definitely. I mean I only wish it would work further out into the community, you know? If you’re going to be late or whatever and you could just press it and it would automatically call someone. I wish it would do that. But obviously it can’t. If there was ever a  chance that something like that would happen, I would totally jump for that, because I’m usually gone. I’m usually not at home. So if something could do that it would be really great. I would love that.

TRC: Are you looking at adding any additional devices or technology pieces?
Lauren: Yeah. My best friend has an [Amazon] Echo at her house and she uses it for her own use and she and I love that thing. She uses it mostly for fun, but I think you can turn things on or off or get information about the world or the weather, or you know, whatever. But, you know, I’ve always thought of getting one to help with things like turn off lights and stuff, so that’s always something I thought about.

TRC: What’s holding you back from getting one?
Lauren: More information [on what it does] and the money. The money is a big deal. I’m not sure what it costs. It varies so much on what you get, and I want to make sure I’m going to be able to utilize it the most I can.  I’m hoping I can get one though, sometime here.

TRC: How was life different before moving to this location and using technology?
Lauren: When I was living at home without the [remote monitoring] technology I was asking people (my parents) if I needed something. I really wish I had had that there honestly. It would have been much calmer and nicer to have that. But also I want to encourage families if they have a person with a disability to look into getting something like this. It makes it a lot easier to sleep at night.

TRC: How has using these technologies changed the way you live your life?
Lauren: Oh my God. Well, it makes me a lot more comfortable to like be outside and go around to different places to like buy books and stuff, to visit people, you know? As long as I remember to take it with me. It’s pretty easy; I can bring it and it will alert someone to “Hey, I need help here.”

TRC: Would you recommend using technology to others?
Lauren: Definitely yes. And I wish it was more in the houses – like I had no idea that it existed. I have had a disability all my life and had no idea there was anything available like [remote monitoring].


Visit the ARRM Technology Resource Center to learn about more success stories and case studies showing how technology is changing the lives of those living with disabilities or learn more about how to start the conversation.