AAchieving personal goals one “swipe” at a time at Barbara Olson Center of Hope

"Often, for our individuals with severe developmental disabilities, accomplishing daily tasks such as communicating with others or participating in daily living activities can be a challenge…new computer equipment and assistive technology [can] improve the effectiveness and impact in preparing and conducting training for both participants and staff.”

Carm Hermann, Executive Director, Barbara Olson Center of Hope

Barbara Olson Center of Hope (BOCOH) has served individuals with disabilities and their families for over 70 years. Their robust and varied programming helps individuals with developmental disabilities reach personal goals through individualized skill development, vocational opportunities and community service.

Participants range in age from 18 – 90+, come from a variety of backgrounds, and have a variety of interests and abilities. Regardless of their level of ability, every participant is included in a variety of activities and staff are adept at discovering the interests and preferences of each individual. With such a large and diverse participant population, the use of assistive technology helps staff ensure those unique interests, preferences, and abilities are reflected in daily educational and training activities.

iPads are one such assistive technology that helps participants living with autism and related disabilities overcome communication challenges and enhance the quality of their lives. Participants who do not have the physical mobility to use a computer mouse can often, sometimes with help from staff, utilize a touch screen. Specialized apps open a world of opportunities: touch photos (including photos of people from the participant’s real life!) to build a sentence that the app reads aloud; trace letters or numbers to enhance fine motor and reading skills; touch the screen to activate bright colors or bursts of light like fireworks for sensory stimulation. Staff can deepen learning about each week’s theme with videos and pictures — learning about lions? Let’s find a video of a lion roaring. Having a difficult day and just need some fun? Pull up a participant’s favorite song and have a dance party: “My favorite is Prince ‘1999’”, stated one participant.

BOCOH received a grant in CFNIL’s 2018 Community Grants Program cycle to replace out of date assistive technology, including nine iPads. Thanks to BOCOH staff’s careful price-watching, they were ultimately able to purchase sixteen new iPads. With their long history of innovative and responsive service to people with disabilities, it is exciting to see just how much “Hope” the use of assistive technology puts in the hands of Barbara Olson Center of Hope’s participants and staff alike.

Your donation to CFNIL’s Community Grants Program helps support vital human services including those for people with disabilities, just like the participants at the Barbara Olson Center of Hope. Make a donation to Community Grants today!