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How Technology Helps Individuals Build Their Own Career Success

By Sara Porcaro | Feb 10, 2021
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Able Opportunities, PCSEPP, Rhode Island, Disabilities, Technology, Empower, Employment, Accessibility
Photo Credit: Able Opportunities, Inc.

When it comes to the human services industry that Perspectives is a part of, dedicated to improving the lives of individuals with disabilities, it's important to remember where our core values spring from. They don't simply sprout from a place of wanting to provide quality services to those who demand them, as any company is driven to do, but a need to see the world become a more equitable, inclusive place, and developing our services, company culture, and more, to help individuals grow their voice and use it to advocate for what's important to them. We seek to advocate alongside them, to help break down the systematic barriers that stand in the way of individuals we support as they work towards their goals and grow in their communities.
 
 
However, when well-meaning professionals move to find solutions, it's all too common to find the very way we understand these barriers is missing something. Being allies who don't personally experience these issues ourselves, activists and professionals everywhere can often miss important pieces of the puzzle. That's why at Perspectives, where we're always looking for the next steps in bringing the best quality services to individuals we support, the chance for our professionals to learn from Able Opportunities, Inc.'s CEO, Jennifer White, in a virtual workshop, was an eye-opening experience--one that inspired us to look to the future of person-centered services.
 
 

MORE THAN A PRODUCT: ABLE OPPORTUNITIES' FOCUS

 
 
"The problem isn't the shark, but the water; change is so hard because the system was built without marginalized people at the table," Jennifer says. "At Able Opportunities (AO), we ask ourselves, 'how can we get out of the way?' And that's important, because it's about more than making tools and accommodations; it's about rethinking systematic barriers."
 
 
AO is an agency dedicated to empowering individuals through their desire to work and make an impact in their community. By focusing on social justice, growth, and collaboration; they work to inspire the way towards systematic change not on behalf of, but alongside with, individuals with disabilities. As a result, the agency works with employers and individuals to create strong relationships and build lasting workplace connections. Through employment services, training for employment professionals, and creating new accommodations for individuals to use in order to become more independent on the job. However, not only do they develop the tools necessary for individuals to increase their independence, they also to teach individuals to develop those tools for themselves. These technological tools and resources have already made it to Rhode Island through the Person Centered Supported Employment Performance Program (PCSEPP), of which Able Opportunities is a part of.
 
 
One piece of technology in particular, the iPad, has been a special focus, as AO has developed the curriculum, resources, and tools to teach individuals how to use technology to their advantage in the working world. After learning the basics through making movies and other media on the iPads, where they create video resumes that let them present themselves exactly as they want to, individuals are also taught how to use an app called Work Autonomy, a tool that lets them design their workflow from start to finish. Through the app, individuals can use pictures, video, sound bites, and/or text directions of the steps their tasks require, time themselves, set reminders, keep track of their progress, and present clear and easily accessible data to their supervisors.
 
 
"The app helps people stay on track," Jennifer says as she discusses the perks of the iPad tool. "It gets people what they need, and best of all, it's person-driven. The individual captures their workflow, in ways that will help them succeed, and then references the tool to become more independent, and to connect directly with their boss about work performance."
 
 

SHIFTING GEAR: PERSON-CENTERED TO PERSON-DRIVEN SERVICES

 
 
That ability for individuals to design their own accommodation tools to track workflow, therefore learning about themselves and identifying the ways they can help themselves on the job, is something that pushes our understanding of person-centered skills into the future. With person-centered services, individuals become the focus of their service plan, as it's tailored to their specific needs and goals. However, it's all too easy to become overwhelmed--especially when individuals are at the center of the plans, but aren't equipped with the tools to drive the discussion forward on their terms. At the virtual workshop Able Opportunities hosted for Perspectives professionals, a variety of topics--including differences in people's brains and ways of communication, financial literacy, systematic barriers, available tools to encourage individuals to succeed, and more--came up for professionals to learn together.
 
 
"I see an opportunity for [individuals we support] to have more control, predictability, and to live more self-determined lives."
 
 
During the presentation, COO Kim Einloth noted about the topics presented, "I see an opportunity for [individuals we support] to have more control, predictability, and to live more self-determined lives."
 
 
Within the workshop's Zoom chat, there was plenty of excitement shared between attendees as they made connections with their own work. One example of an especially gripping topic was the idea of "compliance to alliance": the idea that, rather than traditional support models where individuals are queued to perform the steps of their job, they instead learn the steps and, with the help of software creators like Able Opportunities, learn to build their own tools to support them in performing their tasks. It's this shift in perspective--moving from supporting individuals to follow methods outlined for them to supporting them in understanding and developing their own methods for success--that brings individuals with disabilities into the conversation about their own lives, making person-centered services become person-driven.
 
 
"Perspectives is a rock star company with phenomenal leadership," Jennifer says, "and it's been such a pleasure to work with [their] professionals. [They're] ready for the next level of work and are committed to making progress. That takes real emotional intelligence, and it's great to see that baked into Perspectives' company culture."
 
 
That commitment is something our professionals take seriously. Perspectives is looking to move forward, inspired to continue the search for the tools and knowledge that will inspire future best practices. There's always room to improve, and there's always new technology, information, and other resources becoming available for us to improve the future with--and we're grateful for the knowledge and resources that the experts at Able Opportunities have shared with us!


 

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