Friday, May 11, 2012

Our Campus Geeks

The first place I toured upon arrival at Wendell Foster’sCampus (WFC) was Western Kentucky Assistive Technology Center (WKATC) housed in the Green Therapy Pavilion.  WKATC provides assistive devices, equipment or systems that help improve the ability of individuals with physical disabilities, vision and hearing impairments, communication challenges, or cognitive impairments to function in their life. 

Technology and I have an estranged relationship.  Technology turns me into a deer in headlights, and much like a computer locking up, my brain freezes up, my eyes glaze over, and my ears tune out anything high-tech.  When I purchased a new laptop that forced me to shift from Microsoft Word 2003 to Microsoft 2007, I cried and experienced moments of meltdowns as my brain short circuited coping with the changes.  It was a Prozac opportunity.

The two gals who staff WKATC are passionate about their work, and that passion comes through when they talk about the devices that are available to empower individuals with disabilities.  This passion is what makes them good at what they do, and their efforts in empowering others successful.  Whether it’s iPad trainings, or assisting a client in their high-tech lab to facilitate life skills learning, or assessing someone’s need for a power switch, these experts are the “go-to gals” in assistive technology.  I am in awe of their knowledge and what they do, and I’m very glad they do what they do and not me.

I learned WKATC and their offerings in small bites so my technologically-challenged brain could process.  With each visit and inquiry, I am slowly understanding what all they do to empower their clients.  I attended their iPad training, offered free to the public, and learned all the amazing accessibility features on the iPad (and iPhone!) to accommodate visual and hearing impairments!  iPads are fast becoming a popular assistive device for individuals with disabilities with oodles of applications available to support individuals with disabilities.  For example, someone unable to speak can use an app called Speak It where you can text what you need to say, then it speaks on your behalf.  WKATC staff provides guidance and information about all the apps that are available for different needs.

WKATC also has a “lending library” with an inventory of communication and visual devices people may borrow and “test-drive” before literally investing thousands of dollars into its purchase. For example, one device is a camera that takes pictures of something printed, like a restaurant menu, a magazine, or a book, then reads back what was photographed!  These devices are available to try in WKATC’s computer lab or to check out and take home.  Also available is the Attainment Workstation which provides forty software programs promoting skills development such as literacy, social, math, and money skills, to name a few.  Then, there are these switches that facilitate a user’s ability to power on and off his or her computer or iPad, or manuever the mouse if s/he cannot do it the traditional way.  These switches may be operated with a hand, a foot, and if someone is completely immobile, even a puff of breath!

WFC doesn’t just “house” individuals with developmental disabilities.  We empower people with disabilities who live on and off Campus that want to learn, to speak and be heard, and to better manage normal daily activities.  WKATC plays a huge part in providing assistive solutions to facilitating independence for adults and children in their home or school environments.  They help people identify what they need and how to best enhance their abilities through device assistance while providing cost-effective alternatives and a means in which to make the best financial investment possible.

In reviewing what I’ve written, I’m pretty impressed I understand that much!  The gals at WKATC may feel differently though . . . . . .

In the Next Blog Entry:  The Path to Blessings - I made every effort to be invisible during the sessions, especially when it involved children  . . . Easier said than done. . .”
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