RESNA 27th International Annual Confence
Implementation of Effective Assistive Technology Solutions for Individuals with Disabilities in Corporation of National and Community Service Programs
The National Service Inclusion Project (NSIP) is the national training and technical assistance provider on the inclusion of people with disabilities for the Corporation of National and Community Service (CNCS). The Project is committed to the increase and the successful participation of people with disabilities in CNCS programs. NSIP identified that a component of successful service/volunteer experience for individuals with disabilities was having the appropriate assistive technology (AT) or service-site accommodations. Through the implementation of information integration and dissemination, training curriculum, and individualized situational assessments components, NSIP seeks to foster routine investigation of AT solutions when identifying service-site accommodation; to initiate community mapping of state AT resources; and to bring about the perception of CNCS programs as opportunities for individuals with disabilities to give back to their communities and be a potential precursor to employment.
Assistive Technology Solution, Corporation of National and Community Service (CNCS), Service-Site Accommodations
The National Service Inclusion Project (NSIP) at the Institute for Community Inclusion (ICI) is the national training and technical assistance provider on the inclusion of people with disabilities for the Corporation of National and Community Service (CNCS). CNCS oversees a network of national service programs (AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, and Learn and Serve America) that engages citizens of all ages throughout America to serve in critical needs areas such as education, public safety, health, and the environment.
Traditionally, individuals with disabilities have been perceived as recipients of service from CNCS programs.  However, in the past years, significant efforts have been put forth to fully engage individuals with disabilities as active service members and volunteers in CNCS Programs. NSIP identified that a component of successful service/volunteer experience for individuals with disabilities was having the appropriate assistive technology (AT) or service-site accommodations. Technology appears on the horizon as the "great equalizer" for individuals with disabilities.  To achieve successful implementation of assistive technology solutions in CNCS programs, the NSIP has identified and developed three components: information integration and dissemination, training curriculum, and individualized situational assessments.
Individuals with disabilities and staff from CNCS programs can contact NSIP through a toll-free telephone, TTY, website, and email for any questions regarding service-site accommodations and assistive technology. CNCS also maintains a disability listserv open to any subscriber dedicated to the exchange of knowledge and opinions on inclusion of individuals with disabilities in its programs. NSIP recognized the extensive AT system infrastructure constructed by each state through State Assistive Technology Projects, State Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Agencies, Centers for Independent Living (CIL), University Centers of Excellence in Development Disabilities (UCEDD) and other disability-specific organizations. NSIP has tapped into these existing resources and introduced them to the different aspects of CNCS programs. Although CNCS programs are not employment-based, service members with disabilities can still benefit greatly from a transfer of knowledge from the types of AT services (e.g. augmentative communication, job-site accommodation, alternative computer access, and job task analysis interventions, etc.) developed in the vocational rehabilitation sector.
To improve NSIP's capacity to support state and national CNCS programs, NSIP has drawn on its affiliation with the UCEDD network. ICI is a member of the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD), which is the parent organization of all UCEDDs. Through the assistance of AUCD, NSIP has been able to mini-grant to other state UCEDDs. Since assistive technology service delivery varies from state to state, UCEDDs mini-grantees can provide state specific technical assistance to CNCS programs. This network element is unique to NSIP.
NSIP has provided specific workshops and training throughout the country to various CNCS programs. Due to the diversity of CNCS programs and the broad age range (kindergarten to age sixty and over) of service members, each workshop is customized for the target audience. Some examples of these workshops included:
Additionally, NSIP has held monthly teleconference, which addressed concerns raised in recent listserv postings, periodic focus group meetings, and current CNCS initiatives. A sample of past teleconference topics were:
These introductory trainings served to increase the knowledge base of CNCS programs staff on specific disabilities, federal policies pertaining AT provisions, service-site accommodations and AT solutions. Furthermore, it built the capacity of CNCS programs to map out their community AT resource network and challenged them to become self-sufficient in formulating AT solutions.
While the previous two components served as the foundation for understanding AT solutions and service-site accommodations, NSIP also has the capacity to provide customized situational assessments to all CNCS program, as AT solutions are unique to the individual and the service position. The requests for assessment could be submitted to NSIP via the toll-free telephone, TTY, or email. The NSIP team then interviews the service member, site supervisor, and program director to obtain full descriptions of service duties, service environment, current challenges in service, expectations and member's previous AT experiences. In the assessment process, NSIP team could proceed in three pathways. First, NSIP team could provide on-site assessment and implement AT solutions for CNCS program. However, NSIP recognized that this model of service can become very expensive and would underutilize existing state and local AT service infrastructure. Therefore, a second option would be for the NSIP team to bring in local service provider (agency) such as UCEDD, VR or CIL to be a part of the AT solution team. The local service provider would complete the direct application of the AT solution. If the situation could be more easily addressed, then the third alternative would be for the NSIP team to instruct CNCS program staff on how to implement the AT solution over teleconference or internet communication. In all three pathways, NSIP routinely taps into State AT Programs' equipment loan libraries (when available) for service members to try out various piece of AT equipment. This reduces the probability of purchasing the wrong AT and ensures the full utilization of the AT equipment by the service member.
Assitive technology solutions have proven to be the most effective strategy for reducing and resolving barriers to tasks for individuals with disabilities . In the course of developing each component, NSIP has received numerous requests for repeated trainings, positive feedback on individualized technical assistance, and dissemination of accurate and reliable information. Beyond the successful participation of individual with disabilities in CNCS programs with effective service-site accommodations, NSIP aimed for CNCS programs to foster routine investigation of AT solutions when identifying service-site accommodation; to initiate community mapping of state AT resources; and to bring about the perception of CNCS programs as opportunities for individuals with disabilities to give back to their communities and be a potential precursor to employment.
This is a publication of the National Service Inclusion Project. NSIP is a cooperative agreement (#01CAM0016) between the Corporation for National and Community Service, the Institute for Community Inclusion at University of Massachusetts Boston and the Association of University Centers on Disabilities.
Sue Chien-shy Lin M.S.
National Service Inclusion Project
Institute for Community Inclusion
University of Massachusetts Boston
100 Morrissey Blvd
Boston, MA 02125
(617) 287-4303 fax: (617) 287-4352