I am extremely fortunate for the Easter Seals Massachusetts Assistive Technology Program and know firsthand the transformative impact this organization can have on a person's life.
I’ve been using Easter Seals Assistive Technology (AT) throughout my life, Easter Seals provided my first adaptive telephone when I was in elementary school. When I was in middle school, I met with some of the knowledgeable and dedicated AT specialists to learn about Environmental Control Units (ECUs). With a single switch, for the first time in my life, I could control lights, appliances like air conditioners, fans, televisions, and a stereos. This allowed me to be more independent growing up in my parents' home and my ECU was crucial to enabling me to live independently in a dorm at college and in my current apartment.
It was another set of assistive technology that helped me succeed in the classroom at Northeastern University and then ultimately join the workforce. Working with Eric Oddleifson, AVP of Easter Seals Assistive Technology Regional Center, I was able to obtain a head mouse and onscreen keyboard software. This combination of hardware and software allows me to fully control my computer with the same speed as somebody using a conventional mouse and keyboard. I used the software every day for basic and complex tasks like homework and taking exams. I now use this assistive tech at my job as a Software Engineer for MIT to accomplish complex things like writing code, sending emails, and creating PowerPoint slides! Easter Seals Assistive Technology Program has truly allowed me to be fully integrated into the academic and professional environments, which is the ultimate goal for many people living with a significant disability.
I should mention that Easter Seals is not just about pairing people with existing solutions, they are innovative and create solutions when other service providers cannot. Recently, Eric Oddleifson actually modified the circuit board of my door opener remote so that I could use switches, which are much easier for me to press, so I can easily open and close my bedroom door! The act of opening a door can seem small, but being able to do so independently has given me a sense of normalcy and agency. Unfortunately, before assistive technology, people with disabilities like me just had to settle for less.
Without a doubt, Easter Seals has been a champion in helping me get to where I am today. However, there are many children and adults who could and should have access to the transformative services Easter Seals has to offer and I hope that more people will help Easter Seals help others. The National Health Council has ranked Easter Seals #1 for the past 25 years in its commitment to direct services, whereby 98% of all contributions raised in Massachusetts service Massachusetts citizens. Even more inspiring, it’s true that on average Easter Seals of Massachusetts spends 90% of its budget on direct services to children and adults with disabilities.