Article

Frontline Initiative DSPs and Technology

Riding the technology wave

Author(s)

Author Rodney Bell is a technology consultant for the Coleman Institute for Cognitive Disabilities at the University of Colorado. He thanks DSPs Chris B. and Tyler W. with Imagine!Colorado for their keen insights that informed this article.

Like ocean waves, technology keeps coming. Technology is inherent to society, a constant presence for millennia. We can ride it or get swept away. If you’re afraid of new technology, there’s likely a good reason. Using a new technology is often difficult at first, but by providing feedback, we can be a part of making it better. 

DSPs using technology at work can help change it to better meet the needs of people with disabilities. Devices that are difficult to use, fail frequently, or do things we don’t intend can make one hesitant and apprehensive. But over time technology improves and soon the best technology, like phones, seem second nature to us. Good technology can be customized. Soon, some technology, like SmartHomes, will adapt to us rather than us adapting to it. 

It’s up to us to make technology right. Feedback into the development of technology happens from how we use it, informing developers what’s wrong, or by not using it. As we change technology, it also changes how we work and live. Technology and society co-evolve and have been for ages; nowadays the pace is ever faster. The only way to ride these waves is to get on board. 

Choices: To tech or not to tech

DSPs are key to making choices about technology — whether it is a monitoring system to alert you, a communication device for a person with disabilities, or a documentation tool for your organization. DSPs generally know what is needed to support a person’s independence in life. Choosing the technology, and determining whether it works for the person being supported, is the next step. 

Once you’ve picked your wave, the challenge is to get on it. When a tech wave is coming — say, remote supervision — start moving ahead of it. Learn about it, try it out, and figure out if it is right for you and those you support. Then you’ll better know whether to go with it or catch an easier one. 

Like catching a wave, timing your technology uptake is critical to success. If you adopt a new system too early, you can get pounded as by a breaking wave. An expensive, comprehensive software system can soak up precious resources. But, wait too long for the perfect wave, and technology passes you by.

Fit: Riding the wave 

Once we get on the wave, we want a great ride. But a technology wave doesn’t do all the work. Just like a surfer maneuvers the wave, DSPs make technology work. Like having the right surfboard, training, technical support, and assessment tools provide DSPs a solid foundation. Mentors, buddies, and coaches can also help along the way.   

Like a surfer maneuvers the wave, DSPs make technology work.

Adjusting position on a surfboard is the difference between falling off and a good ride. Fitting a device to the individual needs of the person being supported can make all the difference in how well it works for the person. A PC can be a diverse and liberating support, but DSPs must set up simple applications for the people they support. They also provide continual support and training to help people stay on their wave.

Good surfing takes some trial and error. If a technology doesn’t seem to work at first, try a different approach. Monitoring systems are a case-in-point. Sensors set to detect risky conditions give DSPs an extra set of eyes. But, too many false alerts or a few missed emergencies would erode confidence. By working with the system, DSPs can discover how to best support each person. 

Practice: The endless summer

 Like the surfing summer, technology keeps going. Like the ardent surfer, the best service providers make a standard practice of riding new technology. DSPs and innovative service providers play a key role in realizing the potential of new technology. What is used today will soon be replaced by something new and better. As technology continues to improve, so does the quality of life of people with disabilities who use these technologies. DSPs and the people they support will help make that happen.