Date: Friday, August 19, 2022
Currently volunteering with the Conference Planning Committee and Government Affairs Committee
How did you get your start in assistive technology?
There hasn’t really been a start, Assistive Technology has just been how I do things. I didn’t know the tech had a term when I first started using it, I just knew I needed it. I have always used technology to help make my life better, but now it has a name [assistive tech].
I have always advocated for what I needed. My advocacy space has evolved with my needs when it comes to assistive technology. When it comes to tech, I have spent most of my adult life struggling with the processes we have in place for people to have access to assistive technology. Therefore, I just started asking questions, such as “why is this so hard” and “what can be changed here?” I received more questions than answers so I knew I had to keep asking until I found one.
How have you seen the field of assistive technology develop over the years?
Everybody has an iPhone, Google Phone, or MacBook, right? I didn’t grow up that way. I grew up with an electric typewriter and taking courses on typing. As time moved forward, I needed a workplace accommodation to raise my filing cabinet. I did not realize that placing it on four wheels to elevate it was assistive. I saw it as a need for myself. Now we put more things in the category of assistive technology which is one way I have seen things evolve.
What have been your volunteer roles within RESNA?
I’m carving my own space with RESNA. Before, I was a second year intern for a University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disability, where within that program I happen to meet a member of RESNA. I always knew about RESNA but wasn’t sure how to get in. So, I asked questions and I let members know I wanted to be involved in advocacy, policy, design, and access space. Then I found out I could join RESNA as a consumer member. I was then recruited to join the RESNA Governmental Affairs Committee (GAC), which is responsible for coordinating RESNA’s position on public policy and related activities. On behalf of RESNA, I’ve attended and participated in coalition meetings in a meaningful way. It just so happened that people liked what I had to say! I say what I see and some things that others may not think to say.
Why do you choose to volunteer with RESNA?
The reason I want to be involved is that sometimes when I am talking with people they don’t know what RESNA is. RESNA is issuing certifications and doing important work in the AT space so it’s important for people in the disability community to know who RESNA is and how to be involved. I want to help make this better.
Do you have any advice for AT professionals or those new to the field?
For me, it’s encouraging those who using Assistive Technology to get involved with the field. We are the ones that use these various technologies for most of our days, so we need to have more of a say at the table. Also creating mentorships for people wanting to become ATP certified. Having open education for those who use technology is important.
One last piece of advice for current professionals, do not enter the AT space thinking your classes have taught you everything. Always be open to learn more from others.
Anything additional you would like to share?
I would like to see people at the advocacy/RESNA tables who have had success and failures in the AT world. To hear about what works for some people and how we can help others in those similar situations. At the end of the day, some parts of life are still tough, but it’s good to understand how people have made it to the spaces they are in now.
No matter what piece of technology you are looking at, we need consumer-supported legislation. No one in my life has ever asked me “how does your wheelchair support you?” It has not been a part of a medical questionnaire or a health insurance set-up. We need support in this area.