2004 Conference Proceedings

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USING ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY TO IMPROVE EMPLOYMENT POSSIBILITIES FOR PERSONS WITH COGNITIVE IMPAIRMENTS

Presenter(s)
Gary M. McFadyen, Ph.D., ATP
T. K. Martin Center for Technology and Disability
P.O. Box 9736
Mississippi State, MS 39762
Email: gmcfadyen@tkmartin.msstate.edu

ABSTRACT

The purpose of this project was to demonstrate the value of assistive technology in enhancing the transition from a work activity center to community employment for people with cognitive deficits. The target population was those people within the Employment Related Activity Program with cognitive deficits who would need accommodation in order to transition from the sheltered workshop setting into community integration. The goal was to assist 5 clients per year for three years.

In less than two years, 11 clients have been served through a total of 41 accommodations. These accommodations have helped the clients to perform more types of job tasks with greater productivity and accuracy, which also resulted in an increase in the clients' self-esteem and income.

BACKGROUND

Work Activity Centers strive to integrate clients with cognitive disabilities into competitive employment in the local community. Many of these clients are physically able to perform some or all of the required job tasks but are unable to handle the cognitive demands of the jobs. However, with the proper use of assistive technology, many of the cognitive deficits overcome to some degree.

OBJECTIVE

The object of this project was to integrate the Assistive Technology capabilities of the T.K. Martin Center for Technology with the needs of the clients of Life Help Industries to enhance work productivity by modifying the environmental issues related to specific job tasks to compensate for the cognitive deficits and capitalize on the physical capabilities of the individuals.

METHOD

A rehabilitation Engineer and a Co-op student were assigned to work with clients identified by the staff of a work activities center to evaluate the clients' abilities and limitations in performing selected job tasks within the workshop and in competitive employment situations. The productivity of the clients was determined prior to accommodations. The job tasks were then re-engineered and assistive technology devices were fabricated to help compensate for whatever limitations the clients had. Productivity of the clients was again evaluated.

Some clients had already been identified for competitive employment positions prior to the start of this project. Accommodations were made to the identified job positions. Other clients were evaluated within the workshop. Assistive technology solutions were developed for the tasks required within the workshop. The productivity of the workers was evaluated within the workshop. After the application of appropriate assistive technology, more clients became eligible for outside positions. These new outside positions were then evaluated for the need for assistive technology.

RESULTS

Eleven clients have been directly assisted by a total of 41 assistive technology accommodations. The accommodations were cognitive, physical, or a combination of both. In addition, many other clients in the workshop have benefited by having access to the accommodations. Accommodations developed for use within the workshop continue to be used by other clients in the workshop when the client the accommodation was originally designed for move up to community employment.

Accommodations have been made to a total of 22 tasks. These accommodations not only increased the efficiency and quality of the work of each person for whom the accommodation was made, but also allowed additional clients to perform the tasks. As an example, a Christmas card folding jig allowed the workshop to prepare 8000 cards in two weeks. Last year, without the jig, the workshop needed 2 months to fold 5000 cards.

Only two of the accommodations cost over $100.00. Twenty-six of the accommodations cost less than $20.00. This is only the cost of the supplies needed for the fabrication of the accommodations. It does not include the cost of engineering time to develop the design. Fabrication time for the accommodations ranged from 1 hour to 48 hours.

In addition to increasing the productivity of many tasks, the accommodations also allow more clients to perform the tasks and allowed most clients to perform tasks which they could not previously perform.

DISCUSSION

The proper application of appropriate assistive technology has resulted in a decrease in the amount of time needed for clients of a work activities center to complete job tasks they were already capable of accomplishing. It also resulted in an increase in the number of tasks each client could perform, as well as an increase in the number of clients who could perform any tasks at all.

The expectations of the project were exceeded both in the number of clients served and in the increase of capabilities of the clients themselves. The increase of capabilities of the clients has also resulted in a higher self-esteem for the clients as well as an increase in income.

The accommodations not only increased productivity, but also have resulted in an increase in quality of the completed product or job outcome.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

This Project was funded by the Mississippi Developmental Disabilities Council through a grant to Life Help Industries of Greenwood, Mississippi.


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