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Community Partnership and Technological Innovation

As a great example of community partnership and technological innovation, Jordan Jankus, Technologist at Arc of Westchester, shares some background about Arc of Westchester’s partnership with Mercy College in Dobbs Ferry, NY.

Since 2014, faculty and student interns from Mercy College, led by Joan Toglia, Dean of Mercy’s School of Health and Natural Sciences, have been visiting the agency’s residences and other day program sites where Arc of Westchester serves 2,000 people with autism and other developmental disabilities each day. The Mercy College team has been working with Arc of Westchester staff to develop solutions; often involving technology resources, such as tablets and applications (apps), to address some of the daily needs of the people they serve, with the goal being to increase their functional independence and inclusion in community life.

eDocNY, a technology-based social benefit enterprise created under the umbrella of Arc of Westchester, is an electronic document management business that helps its clients transition to paperless workplaces. At eDocNY, Mercy College faculty is helping develop touch screen interfaces for the imaging equipment so that it will be more accessible to individuals with cognitive challenges. This new technology will open up employment opportunities for individuals with autism and other intellectual and developmental disabilities.

In one of Arc of Westchester’s residences, an individual had difficulty preparing for his day on a timely basis. Mercy College staff and the direct support professionals analyzed the tasks that the person needed to accomplish and they developed a scheduling program to help him complete those tasks in a timely manner and get out into the community more efficiently. In another residential setting, an individual had medical complications dealing with renal difficulties. With the use of apps and other technologies, including a digital medication reminder device, the nursing faculty and student interns from Mercy successfully taught her to better monitor her medications and dietary requirements resulting in a higher quality of life.

Arc of Westchester and Mercy College have also partnered on several well-attended public events which showcased tablet and app technology for families and professionals in the community. The most recent conference, Transitioning with Technology, was held in November and illustrated how technology, both low and high tech, might serve as a valuable resource to help high-school students with autism and other developmental disabilities make a more successful transition to the adult world. Mr. Jankus stated, “Technology holds such potential for people with disabilities, especially those with cognitive challenges and our partnership with Mercy College provides a great vehicle for exploring those possibilities.” He also emphasized the importance of first focusing on the person and their immediate need and not just technology. He went on to say, “If technology can provide a solution, that’s great, but it’s not always the case. The solution might be something as simple as a poster-based visual schedule or as sophisticated as a calendar app with audible timers. The important thing is that we need to understand the person and their needs first.”

On March 31, 2016, Arc of Westchester and Mercy College will be co-hosting Tech Supports for Cognition & Learning: Everyday Applications & Emerging Trends on the campus of Mercy College in Dobbs Ferry, NY. Technology experts from Apple, Google, Microsoft and other technology firms, along with the faculty of Mercy College and staff of Arc of Westchester, will provide guests with opportunities to learn about the latest technological innovations that can empower people with cognitive and learning disabilities to live more independent lives in their communities. To find out more about this conference and other services at Arc of Westchester, visit www.arcwestchester.org.

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