LMC class bridges technology access for people with disabilities

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LMC class bridges technology access for people with disabilities

Courier

By Jonathan Garris

 

LeadershipClass

Members of the Leadership Montgomery County Class of 2013 gathered Friday afternoon in The Woodlands for a special ribbon-cutting ceremony and reception to unveil the new Killion Family Assistive Technology Lab in cooperation with the Greater Houston chapter of Easter Seals Disability.

For the past nine months, the LMC class has been working with Easter Seals Disability Service to establish one of its technology-focused programs in Montgomery County. The program, “BridgingApps,” is offered in Houston and provides consultation to special-needs families in selecting applications for Apple and Android devices that are designed to help those with disabilities.

The group donated the Killion Family Assistive Technology Lab to Montgomery County, where special-needs families can consult with a trained Easter Seals therapist for selecting devices and applications that best fit their needs. The class also donated $10,000 to ESD.Paco

“The program brings together special-needs families, therapists, doctors and communities to learn from one another for things that can help those with special needs and disabilities succeed at communication and education,” Project team leader Paco Rivera said.

LMC class members spent nearly a year providing resources and bringing awareness to the development of the new lab, Rivera said. LMC hosted four open house events across Montgomery County for technology and service demonstrations.

Among the fundraising events included a golf tournament at The Woodlands Palmer Course and a wine dinner at Crescent Moon Wine Bar earlier this year.

“The hardest part was trying to get people to understand what we were doing,” Rivera said. “They knew we were trying to help special-needs individuals, explaining to them how exactly we were doing it, why we needed the technology lab and how it was going to work.”

ESD Development Director Kelly Klein said many people, even those in special-needs families, may not realize the positive impact mobile devices can have as communication tools and motivators.

“With these devices, people will be sitting on their couch playing Angry Birds, and they don’t realize that they’re actually doing finger isolation, cause and effect and other different exercises,” Klein said. “The domino effect of that is that it’s made such devices so much more accessible to anyone who has disabilities and what it can help with.”

While the number of applications geared toward those with special needs can be overwhelming and expensive, therapists in the BridgingApps program help families navigate and select the most suitable apps for their needs, Klein said. Special pointing devices and styluses are also available for all types of disabilities.

The program features a website, freely accessible to anyone, that offers reviews and insight from other therapists, doctors and special-needs families, Klein said.

For class members like Kristy Villarreal, the opportunity to help special-needs families and those with disabilities was well worth the hard work.

“When you get a group of this many strong-willed people in a room together, there’s always going to be some kinds of challenges, but I’m happy we all came out alive,” Villarreal said with a laugh. “It’s not just an educational project for children as it’s going to span a variety of ages. It’s been a great chance to better people’s lives.”

The LMC will be holding a celebration luncheon honoring the LMC Class of 2013 May 15 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at The Woodlands Waterway Marriott. Cost is $40 per person.

The LMC will also hold a recruitment presentation for those interested in applying for the next class on May 16 from 9:30-11 a.m. at The Woodlands Area Chamber of Commerce boardroom. More information can be found online at www.lmctx.org.