Assistive Technology: C-Pen ReaderPen
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At LDS, our innovative use of assistive technologies (ATs) is a pillar of our work. This month’s Mission Maker is our Assistive Technology Manager, Mike, whose background in Mechanical Engineering first exposed him to assistive technology (AT).
AT is a broad category of physical and software technologies that can help individuals with a range of disabilities. The most common example of AT is a prosthetic limb, but there are also ATs for those with learning differences. Mike’s role as the AT Manager includes helping families to navigate the tools available through LDS’s Assistive Software Suite, find the ATs that help their children the most, and then overcome the learning curve of integrating the technologies into their lives.
“I really like engineering and the science that I learned,” Mike says, “and that just stressed that I wanted to use that knowledge to help people and use it in creative ways.”
Mike completed his Master’s in Biomedical Engineering as a way to use technology in ways to help people. This was also where Mike was first experienced working with children—his Master’s research focused on therapies for children with cerebral palsy by developing a game to improve children’s mobility.
“In that experience,” Mike explains, “it really affirmed that this is what I wanted to do, and particularly with children they are so positive even though they are there to improve their mobility.”
Since then, Mike’s career has been on a path of exploring how to use technology and his knowledge to better the lives of others, which led him to his position as Assistive Technology Manager at LDS. Mike is responsible for overseeing everything AT-related, including researching, acquiring, and integrating AT into LDS’s learning support programs.
There are many assistive technologies available, and investigating the quality and effectiveness of those tools is part of Mike’s job at LDS. “I like to think that my role,” he says, “is to help our instructors and families access well-researched assistive technologies.”
Mike’s job is also changing the narrative around online educational software applications as some teachers see them as crutches and not necessarily as helpful tools. However, Mike believes these technologies enhance what instructors are teaching and instead should be seen as tools to overcome certain barriers.
Mike hopes to continue to open eyes and minds to the changing nature of software and its ability to help individuals with learning differences. In the short term, Mike would like to spread awareness of our AT Studio and integrate its tools into additional LDS programs. In the long term, Mike wants to help shape how ATs are created and designed to keep every type of user, including those with learning differences, in mind.
“It would be great if we could…go back to companies and say, ‘These are the things we want to see in your products.’ Because a lot of these tools aren’t developed for people with learning differences, they just happened to fill a need. If we can get to a point where we push information back to [the assistive technology companies] and ask for new integrations and shape what AT for the learning sphere looks and acts like, that would be impactful not only for LDS but for everyone with access to those ATs.”
In his parting remarks, Mike wanted to let families know that if they have any questions about our AT Studio or would like to try them out, please do not hesitate to reach out to him via email, firstname.lastname@example.org.
“I really want families to be comfortable reaching out to me in saying, ‘Hey, let’s email Mike about Grammarly or Read&Write,’ or any piece of AT they may be interested in. I want to be that go-to person for helping them, and if you have any questions, please email me. I just want families to know I’m here for them.”
Rie Stadnichuk (she/her) is the Digital Communications Specialist at LDS. She recently graduated from Simon Fraser University with a degree in Communications and Economics and she hopes to use her position at LDS as a way of exploring meaningful work in the field. Rie is passionate about social issues and creating environments of inclusivity and open dialogue. Rie graciously lives and works on the unceded territory of the Syilx people.