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Breaking Ground 99 - More Independence at Work for Anita through Technology

by Nicholas Filarelli, Program Director, Core Services of Northeast TN
a photo of Anita - a close-up of a woman working in a Taco Bell restaurant. She is wearing an apron over a gray sweatshirt. The apron has a badge with a Taco Bell company logo and the words, “now serving breakfast.” The employee also has a smart phone strapped to her right arm, and she is wearing large, pink headphones over her ears. She wears glasses, and has a huge smile. In the background you can see several customer tables with empty chairs, and the large, front windows

Each weekday morning, Anita can be found patiently waiting in the Taco Bell lobby for her shift to begin. She wears a pair of pink headphones connected wirelessly to a smart phone that is attached to her arm. She is highly punctual and would never clock-in before her scheduled shift.

At exactly 11 a.m., Anita receives a notification through the headphones: “It is time to clock-in.” Anita dismisses the reminder with the tap of a finger and makes her way towards the computer. A few minutes later, the app reminds her that it’s time to begin cleaning the ladies bathroom. She gathers her supplies and begins the daily routine of attending to the cleanliness of the restaurant.

Anita was in her early 50s when she got her first job. In the years since, it has become a large part of her identity and a great source of personal pride. She has become an integral part of the team, a valued worker who is greatly missed when she is absent. Her smiling face and commitment to the job have made her a favorite of customers and coworkers alike. Managers note that the windows sparkle whenever Anita is on the job. On her birthday, she was even treated to a surprise party complete with cake, decorations, and, of course, presents. She is truly appreciated in this role.

Anita is proud of her job, but she is especially proud of the level of independence with which she is able to perform it. Like most of us, she takes her work ethic seriously, and doesn’t enjoy being micromanaged. Through the use of Enabling Technology, Anita is able to complete her job with very little job coach intervention. This has created not only a happier employee (which we didn’t think was possible!), but also a better relationship between Anita and her support staff.

At 12:00, the app alerts Anita that it’s time for lunch. She dismisses the reminder, clocks out, and enjoys her break. At 12:30, it reminds her to clock back in and begin cleaning the lobby windows. Anita is eager to stay on schedule and is much more comfortable taking reminders from an app than from a job coach. She competes with the clock to stay on or ahead of schedule.

The consistency of the program gives Anita a sense of order and security that she thrives on. In the past, when staff would intervene to help Anita stay on task, it was a source of irritation. Now, the phone and app are merely tools that Anita uses to complete her job, rather than a nagging nuisance.

The program, “Endeavor 3” by AbleLink Technologies, is simple, user-friendly, and can be easily programmed by someone with little technical ability. Therefore, the job coach is able to customize the schedule to meet the needs of Anita’s changing job and evolving duties. It can even be programmed with pictures and detailed instructions for more complex tasks.

In addition to her vocational technology, Anita has gained independence in her home through technology from Night Owl Support Systems.

For the first time in her life, she is able to spend time alone in her own home. Between the hours of 11 p.m. and 7 a.m., Anita can easily access support when she needs it, but has privacy and independence when she does not. With the push of a button, she can quickly request assistance. In the event of smoke detection or an emergency, remote support staff receive an alert, call Anita to see if everything’s ok, and then dispatch local staff or call 911, should the need arise. This gives Anita the ability to feel safe in her home, while also enjoying the peace and quiet of the apartment that she works so hard to afford.

This is only the beginning of a journey towards a more self-directed life. Anita hopes to soon be able to work without any job coach assistance, utilizing technology and the natural supports of her friends and co-workers. She aspires to live as independently as possible, and to create the life for herself that she has always envisioned.