While speaking with Allison Leedy and Lisa Myers, I grew curious about how they ended up thinking about AT the way they did. Leedy identified her desire to positively impact others and her attraction to the work Hamilton County Developmental Disabilities Services (HCDDS) was doing as the reason she works in the field. Myers’s story had similar beginning, she cited a passion for justice and “meaningful connection with people with developmental disabilities” as her core motivators. Their respective paths to AT advocacy began differently. Leedy’s experience with disability technology began with the HCDDS Remote Supports Initiative of 2018. She saw how remote supports were poised to alleviate the effects of the DSP staffing crisis. She also appreciated its capacity to increase independence for individuals served. Myers, however, saw disability technology as a progression of technology penetration. Sensitive to the ubiquity of technology, she began to notice caregivers adopting it to suit their needs. For her, technology’s movement toward addressing disability concerns “ was just a natural place to grow from there.” What unites them in their support of assistive technology is their emphasis on outcomes, particularly surrounding independence, and how tech can improve them.
Their passion for their work and for these outcome improvements came through as they described the work HCDDS is currently doing to promote the implementation of assistive technology. They have scheduled to meet with all of their SSA teams to review their assistive technology referral process, the AT rule, and AT as a service along with consultation and support. They’ve also worked with remote support vendors to develop a common understanding of the rule and to explore whether those vendors would be able to provide assistive technology under the rule. Additionally, they hosted Tech Chats, listening sessions with HCDDS staff, community members, self-advocates, family, and providers. These listening sessions were focused on identifying gaps in the lives of people with disabilities where technology could be applied. Using the information they received from the public, they have planned a Tech Fair on September 12th. This fair is intended to provide solutions to the problems that were discussed during the Tech Chats, with solutions for education, employment, safety, independent living, and health. The Tech Fair will also feature information about Ohio waivers and how they work with assistive technology.
But HCDDS isn’t stopping there, they have things in the works to even further expand AT implementation and effectiveness. They are in the process of developing trainings to help SSA’s understand the Ohio definition of assistive technology and to make effective referrals. They are also working toward staying on top of new developments in technology offerings so that HCDDS staff are always able to make the best recommendations possible even into the future.
Yet, as we all know, there is always more to be done in the world of disability technology. Myers detailed some conditions she believes necessary to begin taking full advantage of assistive technology. Firstly, “...technology needs to be available and affordable to all people with disabilities.” I agree completely with her, without affordability assistive technology assists little. Secondly, she stresses that caregivers and individuals need the opportunity to experience assistive technology, and to “...feel confident in using it and keeping it up to date and working.” I thought this was an interesting addition. I don’t think we focus enough on how technology awareness must incorporate a real understanding and trust on the part of the individual using it and their network of natural/paid supports. Lastly, Myers stressed the need for enhanced communication to create an open-source style forum for ideas and collaboration. Important information such as tips and tricks, helpful advice, and all other manner of support shared experience can provide will catalyze the assistive technology adoption process.
The efforts of HCDDS and the vision they have for how assistive technology can improve lives is frankly inspiring. What’s more, their efforts to gather information from the community to guide their projects should serve as an example to the entire industry. Those types of fact-finding sessions keep county administrative efforts in line with the will of the people they serve. We should all hope to follow their example in our efforts to bring assistive technology to the people who could benefit from it. No doubt Hamilton County Developmental Disabilities Services will continue to remain on the cutting edge of assistive technology in the future, and we look forward to what they do next.