Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Technology Tuesday

This week's Tech Tuesday takes us to the Charles Family SmartHome, where Shelly has found new and exciting ways to control her environment. In the past, because of her significant physical disabilities, Shelly has had to rely on others to control certain aspects of her environment – say, opening and closing window blinds or turning on and off a room humidifier.

But technology has changed that, and the tech keeps on improving, sometimes with the help of some friends.

For example, a team of engineering students at the University of Colorado recently put together a really fascinating project for the benefit of Shelly.

First, a little background. New products like the Amazon Echo or Alexa can use verbal commands to operate any number of household devices or control entertainment options. However, there is still a gap for individuals like Shelly who are non-verbal, as these devices may not be able to “understand” the commands.

The CU student project “teaches” Echo and Alexa to understand non-verbal commands (like grunts), so even non-verbal individuals can take advantage of the amazing opportunities for independent action and environmental control these devices bring. Shelly has been testing the project, and it's proven to be very exciting as a proof of concept, but we still have some adjustments to make before it can be reliable for everyday use.

In the meantime, Shelly continues to use her DynaVox, controlled by a head switch, to communicate directly with Amazon to do any number of exciting things, as you can see in the video below. Of course, we've only just scratched the surface of what we can do, so stay tuned for more!

Great work, Shelly!
  Can’t see the video? Click here.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Technology Tuesday

Today's Tech Tuesday provides another opportunity to hear from some of the pod people at Imagine!.

Imagine!’s CORE/Labor Source department hosts a Radio class that, thanks to instructor Jonny Brennan and the assistance of our good friends at KGNU radio (including use of their studio), gives participants the opportunity to learn how to produce their own radio show/podcast.

Here's what the class has to say about their most recent episode:

"This month our class explored the concept of "Positive Self-Talk". In our last episode we discussed the importance of self-advocacy and standing up for oneself when interacting with others, but what happens if it is our own attitude that we need to adjust? Sometimes in life we allow negative thoughts to enter our minds and while being aware of these thoughts is important, allowing them to take over is something we try to steer clear of. Being able to talk to yourself and build yourself up to get through difficult times is a skill we all can strive to develop and maintain. Today you will hear us practicing our positive self-talk to use in our daily lives. Enjoy!" 

Listen here.

You can also check out previous podcasts here

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Technology Tuesday

Today we’d like to introduce Rob Foster, our very first Imaginect recruited employee (pictured below, in the middle).

What’s Imaginect (pronounced imagine – eckt)? We’re glad you asked.

Imagine!’s service delivery is very labor intensive. The unemployment rate in Boulder County is at historically low levels, making finding qualified workers challenging. In addition, many in our growing elderly population desire personal supports that are similar to the personal supports for those with I/DD. This means that for the foreseeable future Imagine! will be facing increased competition for services coupled with a shrinking workforce available to provide those services.

 In short – we’re short workers and need to find more.

To address this critical need, we have reimagined how (and who) we recruit to fill these positions by developing an app called “Imaginect,” which takes an Uber style approach to employee recruiting, engaging a team of on-demand employees pulled from typically underutilized labor pools such as college students or retirees.

Imaginect is about flipping Imagine!’s approach to workforce recruiting on its head. Currently, Imagine! caregivers are hired “one size fits all” - employees who are expected to work standard 8-hour shifts performing direct care duties as well as tasks such as cooking for clients and cleaning homes. Imaginect assigns tasks such as cooking, janitorial work, or simple care giving duties to the on-demand employees.

Since these tasks don’t require full shifts, the on-demand employees can use Imaginect to select times, dates, and locations convenient for them, vastly increasing our available labor pool while tapping into the CU-Boulder student population. Using this labor pool for these tasks frees up time for full-time employees to focus on other tasks designed to allow individuals we serve to become active, participating members of their communities.

Imagine! is currently testing this app at one of our residential sites – that’s where Rob will be working. Eventually, we plan to use this app to bolster our workforce for our day services such as employment services and life enrichment classes for adults with I/DD, and early intervention services, after school, and summer camp programs for children with I/DD.

In the spirit of self-determination and self-directed services, we also hope for a future where families will use Imaginect to direct their own trusted and qualified workforce to meet their unique needs.

We’ll keep you posted as we move out of the testing phase and move toward fully engaging Imaginect as another tool designed to create a world of opportunity for all abilities.

  Can’t see the video? Click here.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Guess Who's Touring The SmartHomes?

Touring Imagine!’s Charles Family SmartHome in Longmont last week: representatives from the Colorado Department of Human Services (CDHS) and architects from RNL Design. RNL is working with CDHS to redesign the department’s Grand Junction Regional Center Campus, and they were checking out a few of Imagine!’s homes to discuss ideas and best practices.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Technology Tuesday

Anthony and Shelly, who live at Imagine!'s Charles Family SmartHome in Longmont, are set up with their own iPads, accounts, and tools needed to navigate their devices using simple switch technology.

Shelly has had very promising results with this year-old technology. Her head switch uses Bluetooth and connects to any device compatible with Bluetooth. She uses subtle head movements on the head switch to select buttons and icons on the device. The progress will improve as she fine tunes this feature with custom settings on her iPad. Because her head switch is Bluetooth compatible, she can use this at home, day program, and work.

Anthony is learning how to use the cloud and access his calendar and email on any device. This feature helps him stay up to date with doctor appointments and his supported employment schedule. All of his devices are equipped with “support navigation,” which allows for a specific app to be locked to prevent unintentional jumping between apps. He also uses the read feature, which allows him to hear audibly the text on any page.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Guess Who's Touring The SmartHomes?

Touring Imagine!’s Charles Family SmartHome in Longmont Monday: good friends from RE/MAX of Boulder.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Technology Tuesday

Today’s Technology Tuesday features a guest blogger! We thank our good friends at Cerebral Palsy Guidance for sharing the information below. 

Adaptive Technology Helps Kids with Cerebral Palsy Get Active 

Adaptive sports are so important for children with physical disabilities. Too often children with cerebral palsy and other conditions are limited, not included, and aren’t given the opportunities to get active and enjoy sports like other kids do. This is changing, though, and it’s changing for the better. While there was once a time when people assumed a child with disabilities couldn’t participate, more individuals, schools, communities, and non-profit groups are ensuring that these children can participate, and adaptive technology plays a big role.

Cerebral Palsy and Limitations
Cerebral palsy is a neurological condition. It impacts muscles and motor skills, and although symptoms and severity vary by individual, most children with cerebral palsy have at least some physical limitations. Depending on the type of cerebral palsy, a child may struggle to control muscle movements, may have jerky or floppy movements, may have a hard time with balance and coordination, or may even be unable to walk.

Treatments for cerebral palsy can improve mobility. Surgeries, for example, can readjust tight muscles or joints to make moving easier and less painful. Physical and other therapies can help a child stretch and build muscles, learn how to move in ways that are less painful, and generally be more mobile. Sometimes medications help too. A big part of treatment for mobility issues in cerebral palsy is adaptive technology.

What is Adaptive Technology?
For everyday needs, adaptive technology may be as simple as a walker or a standard wheelchair. Where adaptive technology gets more fun and exciting is when it gets kids with cerebral palsy involved in sports. There are many more devices available now than ever before that allow kids with limitations to participate. Athletic wheelchairs, for instance, have come a long way and can help a child get involved in sports like basketball, racing, and even ice hockey.

Adaptive equipment for sports is used for both kids and adults with a variety of disabilities. The technology has advanced greatly in recent years. There are even adaptive devices that can help a person with a disability surf, skateboard, race in moto-cross, compete in cross-fit, and even play golf. Boundaries are being torn down thanks to new technologies in adaptive sports.

Adaptive Sports Organizations Pave the Way
The technology is just one piece of the puzzle in getting children with disabilities involved in sports. There also has to be opportunity and availability. This is where dedicated organizations step in and use the technology to make sure kids have the chance to participate. Groups like the American Association of Adapted Sports Programs, Disabled Sports USA, the Special Olympics, and the Paralympics are leading the charge.

These groups provide opportunities and events and advocate for children and teens with physical and other disabilities, like cerebral palsy. Some of the groups mainly organize events around the country, while others actively participate in schools and communities creating models and funding programs to help children get involved at the local level.

Having a physical disability, having limitations or a diagnosis of cerebral palsy, is no longer a sentence that means sitting out when other kids get involved. Thanks to advocacy and technology, more children than ever are using adaptive equipment to participate in sports and to enjoy what all children enjoy: being active and social.