Come Learn about the Possibilities that Enabling Technology May Hold

By Harold Sloves

On May 1, a fellow who aspired to have a more independent life moved into a trailer of his own, supported in part by “enabling technology.” A sensor on his stove will alert his staff if he leaves it on too long; a doorbell camera assists him in identifying visitors; a motion sensor will trigger a staff notification if he were to wake up and leave his trailer unexpectedly at night; and he wears a bracelet that can allow him to call for in-person support staff to arrive at his home within minutes.  Most of the time, he doesn’t interact with the technology, yet it is there, silently and unobtrusively supporting him in his goal of living an independent life.  The staff support is still there, but now it is when he wants and needs it.  His story is the first page of the first chapter of Tennessee’s enabling technology movement. His first day in his own home is recorded here: https://www.facebook.com/tn.didd/videos/1761744960580305/

More people throughout Tennessee are preparing for a similar journey to a more self-determined life, with safe space created by enabling technology, allowing them to assert greater self-reliance and achieve more independence. But what is this technology?

About the Author

Harold Sloves is DIDD’s Fiscal Operations Analyst.  In this position within the Program Operations division, he focuses on assisting provider agencies with fiscal strategies and program engineering concepts designed to meet the demands of a changing service environment. Enabling technology has become a principal focus of his work. Prior to coming to Tennessee, Harold had a longstanding consulting practice in New Jersey.  He has also participated in the development and launch of programs supporting persons with intellectual disabilities in two states, New Jersey and Delaware. Since arriving in Tennessee, Harold has held key leadership positions for agencies within the DIDD network of providers as well as adolescent treatment centers while also providing consultation focused on market research and strategic plans.

Our hope is that this weekly blog will offer information you want to know, so if you have a question you want answered about employment for people with disabilities or other mysteries of the world of work, please email me at janet.shouse@vumc.org.

Enabling technology includes audio, video, sensors and apps, some with GPS-capability, for use in homes and in the community. Most importantly, enabling technology is not a “one-size-fits-all” resource. The type of technology, the frequency and location of its use, are guided by a person-centered planning process, ensuring that the technologies chosen support individuals’ aspirations for independence.

As Tennessee’s enabling technology projects reach more people, the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities continues to offer its constituents stories and examples of the transformational potential of these technologies, for individuals, their families and service providers. Toward that end, DIDD will hold Tennessee’s 2nd Annual Enabling Technology Summit, Sept. 12-13 at the Hotel Preston, 733 Briley Pkwy, Nashville, TN 37217. You can register here. You can see the agenda here and then clicking on the arrow that says Enabling Technology Summit. Registration is limited.

If you are coming from out of town, the Hotel Preston is offering a discounted room rate that can be found here.

Last year, our speakers presented the various enabling technology options available to people. This year’s Summit will present enabling technology from new viewpoints.  A roster of nationally known speakers will offer unique insights into the transformational potential of enabling technology.

Leading off our Summit is a family member and technology advocate who has formed a Colorado non-profit, named Families at the Forefront of Technology, expressly for the purpose of advocating for enabling technology options for people with disabilities. Other speakers will represent the provider point of view, describing the transformation process they led at their organizations, the profound impact it had on individuals using these enabling technology options, and the positive culture change that ensued within their organizations.

The Summit is also an opportunity to meet with our exhibitors who will be on hand to show and describe their companies’ enabling technology options to help attendees see how technology can offer support at home and in the community.

Who should attend? Those who are interested in what’s possible and are open to new ways for people with disabilities gain greater independence are strongly encouraged to attend.

The coming months will be filled with new opportunities and developments. DIDD will be supporting numerous enabling technology projects across the state; we are partnering with The Arc Tennessee to review and rate evidence-based apps for people with cognitive disabilities and people with autism; and there are plans to develop technology self-advocates and peer mentors to further our efforts to share information statewide about the possibilities.

For those who are ready to take the first steps, the opportunity awaits. There will always be people supporting and caring for others.  The ultimate goal for supporting a person is to allow them to live the lives they envision for themselves.  Technology and staff supports both have an important role to play in realizing that goal for hundreds of people in Tennessee.   As the provider who supports the first person to move into his own home in Tennessee with enabling technology remarked, “No matter how much credit you are giving somebody, they are more capable than you think they are.”