Alliance Hopes to Increase Empowerment and Rates of Employment for Disabled Population in King County
With help from the Bill Wright Technology Matching fund, the Alliance of People with disAbilities invested in a new area of expertise this year, a technology lab. Named the Independence Teaching & Education Computer Lab, it offers many different Assistive Technologies to the Seattle Community.
The lab has new computers, but more importantly fully adjustable furniture, such as a dual-adjustable training workstation, many different types of seating solutions and specialized hardware and software—such as a thermal imager (raises images on sheets of paper) and a new Braille printer. These are exciting and some would say necessary tools for any Independent Living Center. Everything in the lab is purchased with idea that one should alter the demands of the environment to maximize the abilities of the individual. Some devices are necessary for disabilities, while other devices are new to many users and make the difference in getting enough confidence to go back into the workforce or enable them to work without pain. Many participants have had large breaks in employment or possibly entering the workforce after years of illness.
Alliance is located in the zip code where the most people with disabilities live in the state. With the addition of the ITEC Lab, residents can simply request assistance with access to supports in lifestyle training, educational access, and employment preparedness training. “The Community gains a vocal and strong voice for employment and educational preparedness for people with disabilities in the Seattle community at large,” said Raymona Baldwin, Technology Specialist at the Alliance. Baldwin, along with Sean Butterfield, Technology Specialist, schedule and deploy much of the programming offered.
Baldwin and Butterfield completed a rigorous national certification course on disability accommodation this year, along with programming from the University of Washington’s Rehabilitation Science program. Each participant in the iTEC program has an evaluation appropriate for their disability administered to determine next steps during their time at Alliance. The iTEC department is headed by Mary Beth Lum, Manager Advocacy and Technology. Lucille Walls, MSPH, MSW is Executive Director of Alliance.
Grant Assisted with Tech Trainings, Independent Living Event
A series of programming talks were provided as part of the Bill Wright Technology Matching Fund. Over 100 participants gained confidence in a number of areas, including social media, digital photography, running personal technology and knowing what reasonable accommodations are related to technology. Participants were inspired to purchase or acquire new technology to further educational or personal goals. Two participants were key in developing the “Assisting Role” during the Tech Trainings, furthering their ability to point to the events as vocational experience. The trainings gave many the introductions to technology that they needed to be able to join in and be enfranchised.
In May the Alliance of People with disAbilities held a special event for key service providers in the area. Participants were given an insider look at Independent Living Skills training and ITEC Lab. Tours were given of Alliances’ ITEC Lab featuring an inputting station, demonstration of Dragon Naturally Speaking & Screen Readers, iPad technologies for people with mobility disabilities, Portal Gaming Software, and Adjustable Furniture and Specialized Chair Technology.
On the Independent Living side, services included a cooking demonstration and laundry preparation using a combination washer/dryer which is popular for small spaces. The kitchen at Alliance features refrigerator and other devices which should be purchased with Accessibility in mind.