October 30, 2017

Disabled needed more tech services

Paul Medeiros

Easter Seals Massachusetts has been a leader in providing services to people with disabilities in the commonwealth for almost 75 years. In addition to strong programs like employment training, transition, recreation and rehabilitation, this is accomplished today though assistive technology. With a team of augmentative communication and assistive technology specialists providing evaluations, training and caregiver education throughout the state, thousands of people are served on an annual basis.

Unfortunately, this is only a small percentage of the people who would achieve greater independence with assistive technology. That is why MassMATCH, managed by the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC) exists. The goal of MassMATCH is to maximize assistive technology in consumer's hands. This is accomplished through a number of programs, including the Assistive Technology Regional Centers.

The Assistive Technology Regional Centers (ATRC) are locations where people with disabilities, family members, therapists and caregivers can come to learn about, try, and even borrow assistive technology for up to four weeks at a time. These centers have a variety of low- and high-tech devices to help people to achieve greater independence in their homes, schools, work and communities.

Easter Seals MA has been fortunate to manage the MassMATCH ATRC: Boston for over 10 years. When the contracts for this site and its sister site in Pittsfield came up earlier this year, the Easter Seals MA team knew it would apply to continue running the Boston site, but we also saw an unmet need in Central Massachusetts. Having run the Boston center for so long, but also being headquartered in Worcester, Easter Seals MA has collected data on people in Central Massachusetts who have utilized equipment from ATRC: Boston. The missing piece was the opportunity for Central Massachusetts residents to have a local center to come into and trial equipment before borrowing.

Understanding state funding is always tight, the Easter Seals MA team formulated a plan to create ATRC: Worcester as a collaborative effort. Utilizing not just MassMATCH funding, but also private donor funding lead by Roy and Diane Brazelton, Easter Seals MA could create a welcoming and accessible space right in Worcester for Central Massachusetts residents to learn about and explore technology close to home.

Fortunately, MRC was very supportive and gave approval for the creation of the MassMATCH ATRC: Worcester, which is run by Easter Seals MA in our office at 484 Main St. The center, which is housed in the Fuller Classroom in the Roy and Diane Brazelton Assistive Technology Center, is filled with technology to assist people in every aspect of daily life. Now people in Central Massachusetts have a local place where they can go to find devices to ensure equal opportunities to live, learn, work and play.

Paul Medeiros is president and CEO of Easter Seals Massachusetts.

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