Sister Robin smiles while sitting in her wheelchair

Sister Robin is the founder and Executive Director of Able to Serve - New England, Inc., a nonprofit charitable foundation based in Lowell, MA, that provides immediate support for low-income families, the homeless, and children at risk. She is also a consecrated nun in the Roman Catholic Church.

Robin has spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy with ocular involvement and dysarthria, which gives her physical limitations, visual impairment, and speech difficulties. Being incredibly dedicated to her foundation, Robin realized that to gain more independence with oversight of the organization, she needed to use a computer and find other suitable technology to improve her daily life. Having participated in ESMA’s summer camp when she was young, even highlighted as our state spokesperson in 1984, she knew exactly who to turn to for assistive technology (AT).

Robin met with Tiffany, ESMA AT Specialist, for an assessment to find solutions to implement AT into her day-to-day routine and expand her capabilities to grow her organization. Tiffany proposed a variety of low- and high-tech technologies to help her. To address her vision difficulties, Robin now uses a Tile device to locate her phone and keys and an audible meat thermometer to measure cooking temperatures. These low-tech AT devices quickly improved seemingly small parts of daily life which were previously more difficult. Additionally, Robin uses Siri on her phone to have emails and texts read to her. This is also how she makes calls and sends out texts.

Tiffany worked with Robin to identify other challenges and goals. One challenge was reading the mail. Robin started utilizing Seeing AI, an application that identifies objects and people and then audibly describes them. While this technology was a powerful tool for Robin, her shaky hands made it difficult to use. Tiffany came up with the solution by constructing a custom stand to keep Robin’s phone in place using PVC and 3D printing. Robin’s feedback was pivotal in making the final design, which offers her independence and the ability to lead her foundation.

Pleased with the individualized approach Tiffany had taken, Robin shared, “Easterseals empowers individuals using the skills that they already have and are more focused on the dreams and goals than rehabilitation.”

Another major goal of Robin’s was to improve her computer literacy for both personal and professional use. Tiffany showed her how to use a variety of software including Dragon Naturally Speaking and JAWS screen reader with J-Say for voice commands, all of which helped her fundamental computer knowledge grow exponentially. These allow Robin to dictate an entire document in HER words, not depending on others.

Through these AT devices and applications, Robin has gained the skills necessary to expand her organization and provide more support to those in need. She shared, “Computers were almost impossible for me to think about using and now I can use them efficiently and effectively.”

Robin’s dedication to serving people in need is admirable, and her use of assistive technology demonstrates the power of technology to empower individuals and organizations alike.