Our nationally known Assistive Technology program helps people with disabilities to live more independently and contribute to their communities.
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.
"[Easter Seals Assistive Technology] enables me to show the world what I can do and allows me to live the life I want"
From her first day in an Easter Seals swim class as a 10-year-old, to the day she received her Ph.D. in economics from MIT, Allison Thompkins has had Easter Seals at her side – with technology, expertise and encouragement that helped her to succeed.
Allison uses a wheelchair and faces challenges with speaking and typing, due to cerebral palsy. But this intelligent young woman with the engaging smile was raised to believe she could do anything she set her mind to. Easter Seals has supported that belief.
As a teenager working at Easter Seals camp, Allison learned the importance that technology and leadership training play in the workplace. She began to see who she wanted to be and how she wanted to function as an adult, and her future career in labor economics took shape.
When Allison was planning for college, an Easter Seals assistive technology specialist provided her with voice-recognition and word-prediction software. With the technology she not only succeeded, she excelled – graduating as a Phi Beta Kappa and summa cum laudefrom Scripps College in California.
Her long list of accomplishments since then includes work as a disability policy intern for Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry and an economic consultant on disability policy issues for the World Bank.
Today Allison, 33, is employed fulltime with Mathematica Policy Research in Cambridge, where she works on teams to estimate the impact of various public policies, drafts reports analyzing the impact and presents the findings to clients.
She uses Eyegaze technology on the job, which enables her to control her computer by tracking her eye movements over an on-screen keyboard. The system, purchased and set up with Easter Seals guidance, lets her type without pain and in a more relaxed position.
Allison also recently joined the Easter Seals board of directors. She is grateful for the role technology and Easter Seals have played in her life.
“I am so thankful to Easter Seals and its services,” she said. “Easter Seals has always been there for me.”
“Assistive technology can literally open doors,” she added. “It enables me to show the world what I can do and allows me to live the life I want.”
A wide range of technology and devices is available to learn about and try out before purchasing. Read more>>
A low-interest loan program helps people with disabilities purchase technology and other devices to help them live more independently. Low-cost devices also are available for loan. Read more>>
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