|Meet Your MassMATCH Program Staff|
|MassMATCH provides AT services to anyone wanting to learn how assistive technology can increase independence for persons with disabilities. In our last edition, MassMATCH News highlighted ways to use the MassMATCH AT Regional Centers (ATRCs). This edition we bring you profiles of your MassMATCH program direct service staff (at the ATRCs and beyond). These are the friendly faces demonstrating equipment, providing short-term or long-term device loans, and helping consumers locate funding to make a purchase.
Cathy has worked for the eastern AT Regional Center for three and a half years. The Center is operated by Easter Seals in Boston and Cathy coordinates it with Meaghan Fitzgerald (below). Cathy holds a Masters of Education as a teacher of students who are blind or have low vision. Prior to coming to the ATRC she worked for various school districts in Massachusetts. Low-vision herself, Cathy uses the Zoomtext screen magnifier at work in addition to various hand-held magnifiers, a 4x telescope, and an MP3 player for audio books.
About working at the ATRC, Cathy says, "This is a wonderful job. We're a free program. Anyone from Massachusetts can make an appointment to visit our center to learn about all types of AT, and they don't need documentation for a disability. We educate people about AT so they are able to make their own conclusions about what device or devices are best for them. We're empowering them to make their own decisions, not telling them what they should or should not do."
One of Cathy's favorite work moments:
"A woman came in who was hard of hearing and didn't speak English very well and we showed her the Pocket Talker--such a simple amplification device--but she was in tears trying it out. We were all choked up because it made such a difference for her."
Cathy's favorite pastime:
"Travel! Someday I'd like to go to Italy. I'd also love the chance to live abroad and flex my Spanish."
Meaghan has worked with Cathy to coordinate the eastern AT Regional Center for the last seven months, although she started at Easter Seals in 2006 as an AT specialist. Originally from Omaha, NE, Meaghan grew up working with kids with disabilities through her mother's children's respite care center. She moved to Boston to take the Easter Seals job after completing graduate school in Chicago to be a Rehab. Engineer.
"I'm a big huge nerd," Meaghan freely admits. "I'm obsessed with math. Last year for Halloween I went as a math nerd and my favorite TV show is the Big Bang Theory."
Uncharacteristic of the stereotype, however, Meaghan's favorite part of her job is interacting with people... in addition to having her hands on the technology. "What's really enjoyable is getting to introduce people to different types of technology and getting the word out there. Most people think AT is a wheelchair or something really high tech. They don't understand all of the in-betweens."
Meaghan says she enjoys demonstrating the low-tech equipment as well, especially when "someone sees something that makes the simplest tasks that much easier, the appreciation that you see from that. All of a sudden this other area of their life opens up. It's neat to see."
Still, we wondered, as a rehab engineer, aren't you yearning to someday design and fabricate equipment?
Meaghan responded in a low voice: "I'm dying to."
Ferol SmithFerol works in Worcester at Easter Seals where she is the new director of the Massachusetts AT (financial) Loan Program (MA ATLP) and the Long-Term Device Loan Program. The former provides low-cost financial loans to eligible borrowers so they can purchase AT; the latter obtains and loans actual devices valued at or below $500 for as long as borrowers need them.A native of Massachusetts (Millbury), Ferol left the corporate world to come to Easter Seals because she wanted to work for and with people. Originally the Easter Seals operations data manager, Ferol is relishing her new position. "I'm getting to work with different people and l'm learning all about assistive technology which is something I've always been interested in. I really like it. There's just so much to learn right now."
Since coming to Easter Seals in 2006, Ferol has gone back to school to get her Masters in Public Administration. Her favorite part of her new job is talking to clients about the technology they are looking to obtain. "I talk with Meaghan in Boston a lot to better understand what the equipment is. It's all so interesting." In just a few short months she's processed upwards of 25 applications for the Long-Term Device Loan Program. "It's really picking up. People are learning this is out there for them to obtain equipment they need."
Since she's a former operations data manager, we couldn't help but ask, do you have any nerdy interests like Meaghan?
"Well...I do have a new interest in knitting and crocheting, that I picked up from one of our employees at Easter Seals who recently retired. She showed me how. So I've become a knitting fool! At lunch time a little group of us are knitting and crocheting in the break room. That's my nerdy thing."
Leo has worked for almost four years as the assistant director of the AT (financial) Loan Program at Easter Seals in Worcester. Originally from Worcester, Leo came to Easter Seals after working in the alumni relations department at Nichols college. The move, he reports, was perfect for him. "I've known Easter Seals for many years. And I've always wanted to work for a non profit."
We asked him what he likes best about working for the financial loan program?
"Being able to help people with disabilities lead more independent lives. I receive a lot of calls each day, and process a lot of applications, and we really help out a lot of people. Plus we get phone calls and letters and cards thanking us for the program and they're just very happy. I feel like I've touched a lot of people. They're all really special to me."
Leo's interests are decidedly less nerdy than his colleagues; he loves to play and watch soccer, tennis, baseball and football.
Dawn has coordinated the western AT Regional Center for the last four years. The Center is housed at United Cerebral Palsy in Pittsfield. Dawn is a Pittsfield native and says she loves working in her home community. "I know lots of people here," she emphasizes, "and I love going out into the community with my bag of tricks."
The tricks, of course, are devices that open eyes to what is available for increasing independence. Dawn says she enjoys raising AT awareness among educators, elder service providers, rehabilitation counselors, as well as persons with disabilities. "Often times we hear people saying that they doubt there is anything out there to help them, but then when they come in and see what's here, the simple fixes, then they get pretty excited. We've had some pretty emotional moments here."
Since coming to work for the ATRC, Dawn has completed the AT Applications Certificate Program through the California State University at Northbridge (CSUN). Asked what she'd like us to emphasize in this newsletter, Dawn echoes Cathy Bly: "These services are free. The loan program is free. Come in and learn, try, and borrow equipment!"
Contact MassMATCH program staff:
Catherine Bly and Meaghan Fitzgerald, ATRC Coordinators
89 South Street
Boston, MA 02111
617-226-2640 or 800-244-2756 Voice
Director of the MA AT Loan Program
Easter Seals MA
800-244-2756 ext. 428 or 431 (Voice) or 800-564-9700 (TTY)
Assistant Director, MA AT Loan Program
Easter Seals MA
484 Main Street
Worcester, MA 01608
Dawn Matthews, ATRC Coordinator
208 West Street
Pittsfield, MA 01201
|Exhibit A: Why Leo Loves his Job|
From Lisa Attenazio to Leo Toneveski (and Jason Luciano) of the Massachusetts AT Loan Program:
|"To say thank you seems meek compared to how grateful we really are for your generosity of sending us a laptop computer. Its people like you who really make a difference in the lives of people w/disabilities. Ajay will now be able to access the programs on the internet that will help him succeed in the areas of his special needs. You don't know how much we appreciate this. Thank you for helping us during this time of need. We really needed it. Thank you for all that you do :)|
|Get AT Stuff Highlights|
etATStuff--the New England "Craig's List" for AT--currently has hundreds of items available for sale or free throughout the six New England states.
As of this writing, GetATStuff highlights include:
16 Vision-related items
including an illuminated stand magnifier for $50 in Acton, MA
2 Hearing-related items
including an amplified cordless telephone for $45 in Manchester, NH.
18 Speech Communication-related items
including a Pocket Speak and Read VCO in Woonsocket, RI
11 Learning, Cognitive, Development related items
including a Somatron Playfloor for $1500 OBO in Worcester, MA
375 Mobility, Seating, and Positioning related items
including a free Action Arrow power wheelchair in Amherst, MA
305 Daily Living related items
including a CPAP + humidifier for sleep apnea for $150 in Acton, MA
63 Environmental Adaptation related items
including an Ameriglide stairlift for $800 in Easthampton, MA
61 Transportation and Vehicle Modification related items
including a 1999 accessible Dodge Ram for $4,999 or best offer in Sudbury, MA
7 Computer related items
including a free eye blink switch in New Milford, CT
14 Recreation, Sports, and Leisure related items
including a bouncing chair by Southpaw for $275 in Whitinsville, MA
|10 Great Online Transition Resources |
|New Product Spotlight: |
Did you know that those NIMAS
digital text files don't work on iPad, Nook, Sony Reader or Android devices? Yet these are the devices many students depend on. Recently Don Johnston, Inc. has released a text converter solution to this dilemma. DAISYtoEPUB converts NIMAS, DAISY, and Bookshare files to ePub, the format most used by mainstream ebook readers (and Kindle 2 users can use a Kindle converter with the ePub format).
As of this writing, Don Johnson is offering this converter to individuals (for a single hard drive installation) for $99.00, and marketing it to school districts for between $999 and $6,999 (depending on the number of sites).
Learn more at donjohnston.com.
Read Brian Friedlander's review at this AssistiveTek post
Reminder: MassMATCH and the U.S. Department of Education make no endorsement, representation, or warranty expressed or implied for any product, device, or information set forth on this newsletter. Neither MassMATCH nor the U.S. Department of Education has examined, reviewed, or tested any product or device contained in this newsletter.
|QIAT's 7 Common Transition Planning Errors|
The QIAT Consortium is a nationwide grassroots group dedicated to identifying, disseminating, and implementing a set of widely-applicable Quality Indicators for Assistive Technology Services in School Settings.
Their quality indicators for transition also highlights 7 common planning errors which all too often impede students with disabilities from making a effective transitions from school to postsecondary education, work, or community living. These are:
- Lack of self-determination, self-awareness and self-advocacy on part of the individual with a disability (and/or advocate).
- Lack of adequate long range planning on part of sending and receiving agencies (timelines).
- Inadequate communication and coordination.
- Failure to address funding responsibility.
- Inadequate evaluation (documentation, data, communication, valued across settings) process.
- Philosophical differences between sending and receiving agencies.
- Lack of understanding of the law and their own responsibilities.
Thank you QIAT
for these reminders!
"A Talk on Transition"
A Transition TeleSeminar
December 13, 2010
2:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.
One of the most pressing and important issues the U.S. Congress will address in the forthcoming reauthorization of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, will be the issue of Transition of students and young adults with disabilities into post-secondary education and careers.
Hosted by the National Rehabilitation Association, this TeleSeminar will keynote the Assistant Secretary of the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS), the Honorable Alexa Posny, and the Commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA), the Honorable Lynnae Ruttledge, in the U.S. Department of Education.
For more information on the TeleSeminar and to access the online registration form, go to this National Rehabilitation Association Web page.
(There is a registration fee for this TeleSeminar: The cost to members of the National Rehabilitation Association is $29 per person. For non-members the cost is $39 per person. CRC, CVE and CDMS Continuing Education Credits (CEUs) will be offered to those registering for the TeleSeminar.)
Free Conference on Transition Planning
February 12, 2011
9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Metropolitan Community Room
38 Oak Street,
Boston, MA 02111
This is a training and clinic for parents and youth on special education transition services for children with disabilities, ages 14-22, presented in Chinese and English. The morning will be group presentations on Transition Services and Planning for children with disabilities. The afternoon will offer individual consultation time with attorneys from the Disability Law Center and other legal services agencies. Lunch is provided.
Register at this Disability Law Center Web page.