Assistive Technology and Me

The following article was written by Andrew with help from the manager of his program.  Andrew lives in a Venture residence in Worcester County and wanted to share his experience with using assistive technology.

Every day, I rely on assistive technology.  I use an overhead barrier-free lift system to get out of bed in the morning.  I then use my customized wheelchair to successfully complete my morning routines before leaving for work.  To get to work, I ride in a customized van.  The van lifts me off the ground and into the van with staff assistance.   When I was younger, all of these things – getting out of bed, getting into my wheelchair, and getting into any mode of transportation – were done by people lifting me.  When people lift you, it can be really scary and sometimes I was injured.  I have not gotten injured since I started using mechanical lifts and I feel much more comfortable.

In April 2017, I wanted to begin doing some races, but wasn’t sure I would be able to.  However, I did not realize that specialized running wheelchairs are available.  The first time I saw the running chair, I was a bit nervous.  I thought, “It doesn’t look like any other chair I have ever used.”  It only has three wheels – two in the back and one in the front.

I was very lucky to meet the team of individuals who designed and built these running chairs, and they explained aerodynamics to me.  Until that moment, I had never realized the importance of science in assistive technology.

When I participate in races with the assistance of Team Hoyt New England runners, I am sitting in an aerodynamically correct position for both my physical needs and for the person who is pushing me – amazing!  Later this summer, I will be learning to sail on a sailboat that has been fitted with assistive lifts to get in and out of the boat, and a rudder that has been adapted for me to use.  I can’t wait… And I am no longer scared of trying any new assistive technology!

Assistive Technology Partnership

Assistive Technology can best be described as a variety of items which can help an individual work around functional limitations imposed by a disability.  Some of these items include wheelchairs with adaptive trays to hold a person’s iPad, a brace for a person to be able to hold an eating utensil, a built-up handle of a spoon, or a communication device.  These items are essential to improving the quality of life and level of independence for people with disabilities.  Other examples of such equipment might be lifts, swings, tricycles, tablets, computer software, shower chairs, specialty writing utensils and so much more. These items can help individuals with mobility, communication, sensory, recreational, or social needs.

With the increasing specialized needs of the individuals we support, Venture has developed an Assistive Technology Committee to help effectively meet these needs.  Key employees have been attending conferences and trainings to learn how to develop a program that will help assist individuals access the resources available.  Currently, the committee is in the process of conducting assessments to determine what equipment would be most helpful to the individuals in our programs.

In keeping with our mission to enrich the lives of those we serve, we are very proud to announce our partnership with Tantasqua Regional Vocational High School in their commitment to assist people in their community by creating individualized and innovative assistive technology.  This fall, we will be working with Ray Rousseau from the Manufacturing Department and Bruce Tranter from the Computer Technology Department to assist us in developing creative approaches.  We are looking forward to teaming up to expand our services and we are thankful to the many students who will be dedicated to helping with these projects.  Stay tuned for updates!

First Inclusive Water Park

Morgan’s Wonderland, the country’s most accessible theme park, has opened the world’s first inclusive water park.  Morgan’s Inspiration Island offers the excitement and fun of a water park to children and adults of all abilities, and offers complimentary waterproof wheelchairs (including air-powered power wheelchairs), warm-water splash pad, beautiful interactive water playgrounds, cabanas for relaxing, and a river boat ride.  Spacious accessible changing rooms, reasonable ticket prices, sensory-friendly environments, and handicapped-accessible everything make this water park an incredible experience for everyone – especially those who haven’t had the opportunity to enjoy an amusement park due to physical disabilities, developmental disabilities, ambulation difficulties, or medical conditions.  Admission for those with disabilities is free of charge.  This park has truly thought of everything!

The park’s creator, Gordon Hartman, is a philanthropist who created the amusement park and water park after being inspired by his daughter Morgan, who has developmental disabilities.  In addition to funding the parks, the Gordon Hartman Family Foundation offers grants to organizations that help people with special needs.  Let’s hope that others around the country take the lead of Morgan’s Wonderland and make recreational opportunities available for everyone!

For more information, check out their video.

Assistive Technology is Closer Than We Think

Following is the first blog from our Assistive Technology Committee.   They will be exploring the benefits of all different types of assistive equipment that help people with disabilities on a daily basis.  This first feature is about something we all use every day and may take for granted, but once adapted is a tool that makes life a bit easier for those with a disability.   By: Dan Kakitis, Residential Program Director / AT Committee

Assistive Technology is Closer than We Think

Assistive Technology (AT), sounds like a box full of big ideas and flashing lights inside a box full of big ideas and flashing lights inside a box full of big ideas and… well, you get the idea.  The concept of AT is enormous and always brings to mind high tech expensive devices geared to help someone speak, hear, walk or run.  To a point, it is all of these things and more.   AT is a whole host of wonderfully creative tools to help a person with disabilities realize a function of life otherwise unavailable to them.

Quite often, simple everyday items might hold the key to help make life easier for those we support here at Venture.  Whether it be oversized salt and pepper shakers, spill proof cups with spouts to make drinking easier, uniquely shaped spoons to aid eating, or the focus of today’s blog, electric toothbrushes.

There are dozens of electric toothbrushes on the market: Variable speed, multiple brush choices with clever actions, shuffling bristles, rotating bristles, or both shuffling and rotating, even wave-like action bristles.  They come with a multitude of attachments: soft rubber nubs, stiff rubber prongs, tooth-picking attachments of almost any size and shape, a seemingly infinite number of attachments.  All of these options provide a variety of sensory choices, especially to our autistic population.

An electric toothbrush can become a valuable method of sensory intervention to help to soothe and calm during moments of fear and anxiety. The many different rubber spiked or knobby heads work great as massage tools for gums and tongue or to just to clench teeth on to send the vibration sensation through their mouths to their heads.  Something as simple as an electric toothbrush becomes an adaptive tool assisting those we support in an area that has long been a point of anxiety in their lives and is truly the foundation of Assistive Technology.

We, on the AT committee, challenge residential programs to review items that are already in use or to use an assessment tool to discover other items that may be useful to those we support as methods to help foster independence in their lives.