April 1, 2020

Assistive Technology Q&A

If you have a disability, there are numerous tools and equipment available to help you live a full, independent life.Man in wheelchair using a puff/blow device to control a computer The Independence Center can guide you toward resources that can help you obtain various types of assistive technology (AT). Learn more below from Paul Spotts,  IL Specialist – Assistive Technology, and Stacy Gibson, IL Specialist – Hard of Hearing Emphasis.

What is assistive technology?

Paul Spotts (PS): It’s any kind of technology that helps individuals throughout their lifetime – whether it’s work, play, driving, etcetera – to become more independent. It includes things like durable medical equipment, car lifts for scooters, and ramps for vehicles. It also includes home modifications like ramps and roll-in showers.

Stacy Gibson (SG): For people who are Deaf or hard of hearing, there’s also technology like pocket talkers, hearing aids, amplified phones, and captioned phones.

What does The IC’s Assistive Technology Program do?

PS: A lot of times people think that we actually have the equipment here or can get the equipment for them. But that’s not the
case. What we do is talk to you and figure out what you need. Then we guide you toward the resources that are out there, like funding sources to help you pay for the equipment.

SG: We also have some accessible demo equipment here – like phones – that consumers can try out to determine if it will help them.

Are there other specialists at The IC who can help with AT?

PS: Yes. Matthew Ruggles is our IL Specialist – Deaf Emphasis. He has information about technologies like the Home Aware system, which alerts you to things like a smoke detector, an alarm clock, or the doorbell ringing by using flashing lights and a bed shaker. He can also connect Deaf consumers to a company that can help them get a free video phone.

For people who are blind or low vision, they can speak to Jeannette Fortin or Matthew Morris, who are our Older Individuals with Blindness (OIB) Specialists. They help people with technology like text-to-speech, closed circuit televisions (CCTVs), and ZoomText, which is a program on the computer that enlarges the screen.

What kinds of funding resources are available?

PS: There are two to three main grants people can apply for. I don’t write the grants for the consumer but I can give them the grant paperwork, explain it to them, and offer advice. Then it’s up to them to fill it out. After they give it back to me with all the documentation, I review everything and then submit the online forms based on what they’ve given me. I try to have them apply for as many grants as possible. That way, they hopefully won’t have to pay out of pocket. But every case is different,
so I do let them know that there’s a possibility they may have to pay something.

SG: On the hard of hearing side, I help people navigate the application process of a couple of different programs. One is HEARS (Hearing Education & Assistance by Rocky Mountain Sertomans), which supplies hearing aids to eligible applicants. There’s another program through the Colorado Commission for the Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and DeafBlind to help people get amplified phones, cell phones, iPads, and caption phones.

How do people get started?

PS: Current consumers of The IC can make an appointment to talk to any of us. People who are new to The IC will complete an intake with Maritta in Information and Referral to discuss the services they want help with. If someone is blind or low vision, they start with Jeanette. If they’re Deaf, they start with Matthew, and if they’re hard of hearing, they start with Stacy.
Anyone with any disability can start with me; if I can’t help them, I can always direct them to where they need to go.

What do you like most about your job?

SG: I like talking to people and helping them figure out the best option for them. For instance, if hearing aids won’t work for them, let’s try a pocket talker.

PS: It’s great being able to help somebody obtain whatever they need to open up their life.

To learn more about assistive technology, watch our video at bit.ly/Assistive_Tech_IC. If you’d like to talk to someone about available resources, call 719-471-8181.