Frontline Initiative DSPs and Technology

Direct support competencies and technology toward better lives


Rachael Sarto has worked as a DSP and is currently NADSP’s Administrator.

The right technology, used well, can improve the quality of the lives of people with disabilities. The NADSP Competencies and Code of Ethics can help DSPs use technology to support individuals in achieving their life goals. 

Assistive and adaptive technologies 

Assistive technology may be very high tech, or simply a good idea that allows someone to do the same activities as other people. Communication, hearing, and vision devices allow expression and connection. Various aids can support daily living, for example electronic aids like a switch that operates appliances. Devices like wheel chairs, walkers, or prosthetics can help someone get around. Adaptations like hand cycles can increase options for recreation. Seating and positioning systems can improve stability or increase comfort. Transportation and driving modifications can allow a person to drive or ride. As you can see, many types of adaptations can be empowering to a person with disabilities. 

“Universal design” is the idea that technologies and systems can and should work better for everyone, including people with disabilities and people without disabilities. One recent example is smart phones and other mobile devices. Some universally beneficial applications include “Pill Time,” which tells you when to take your medications. “Music for Users,” can act as an “alarm” to help with managing time and planning tasks. “LocateMeNow” tells you where you are, making travel easier. “Ring Finger” can speed dial a pre-programmed number at a preset time. These tools can make life easier for all of us. As DSPs, we are responsible to learn about what is available. It is our role to advocate for someone who wants to try or purchase a new device. 

Internet and social networking

Do you use email, social networking, or the Internet to learn about world events and connect with other people? How about the people you support? In general, people with disabilities have less access to computers and the Internet than those without disabilities. One reason is that computers and Web sites are harder to use than they could be. But also, a person with disabilities may not get a chance to learn about using computers.

Computer and Internet use are part of inclusion in the wider community. When people with disabilities can email or Skype with friends, coworkers, or family, participate in social networks, and read or write blogs, they are more connected to others and their community. This also means that they have a more visible role in their community and can be recognized for the value they bring. As DSPs support people to build and maintain relationships, access to computers and the Internet is key. DSPs can also teach skills that promote safety on the Internet. DSPs can help people to participate in online communities in empowering and safe ways. 

Documentation technology 

Many agencies are adopting documentation systems that let DSPs document quickly and efficiently from community locations. These systems also enable managers to better oversee and organize records. The goal is to reduce the time spent coordinating paper records. This can give DSPs more face-to-face time with those we support.

Technology, competencies, and ethics

New technology will continue to be developed. As DSPs, we are responsible to advocate for technology to be used in ways that enhance life opportunities for the people we support. Questions to ask ourselves can include the following: Does this technology use promote inclusion? Does it support self-determination and privacy? Is it based in person-centered practices? These questions can help DSPs use technology in the most responsible and ethical way and in adherence to the NADSP Code of Ethics.