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Assistive & Adaptive Technology

Assistive & Adaptive Technology

Assistive technology is commonly defined as any piece of equipment, device, or service that promotes greater independence by enabling people to perform tasks that they were formally unable to accomplish (or, had great difficulty accomplishing). This broad definition means that our Black Hills Works Technology Team has the opportunity to address a wide variety of barriers on behalf of the people we serve.

In 2013, industry leaders unveiled a declaration titled "The Rights of People with Cognitive Disabilities to Technology and Information Access". This declaration asserts that access to technology is no longer a luxury, but essential in order to fully participate in worlds of today and tomorrow. Black Hills Works, as a leader in the field, has already made great strides in implementing the principles set forth in the declaration.

Technology is important because it has the potential to impact virtually all areas of a persons' life – from living arrangements to employment to relationships. We have found that the implementation of technology often results in increased safety, enhanced relationships with friends & family, meaningful engagement in life activities, and outcome/goal attainment.

So, how do we go about helping people gain access to assistive technology? Our process begins with a referral from any team member and/or a detailed assessment. Once we have a complete description of the need, we research potential solutions. Those solutions are then presented to the person and his/her team to identify the best fit. Often times, we are able to loan the person a device to try out before they make the final decision to purchase. If the assistive technology works for the person, we proceed with identifying a method to payment (person served, family member, donation, insurance, grant, etc). Once funding is secured and the item purchased, we assist with the training needed to implement the technology. Occasionally, depending on individualized circumstances, attainment, repair, or training may need to be outsourced to a third party.

Assistive technology is present in all of our service areas. Touchscreens, iPads, and adjustable height surfaces are among some of the devices seen at the Learning Center and Suzie Cappa Art Gallery. Dressing aids, adaptive dinnerware, and communication devices are among the assistive technologies found in our residential environments. Classes, fairs, and the Creating Possibilities conference are just a few of the educational opportunities provided by BHW's Technology Team. In short, you will see many forms of assistive technology throughout our environments – all with the purpose of promoting independence and choice for the people in our services.

The Technology Team
The Black Hills Works Technology Team is led by Tammy Murner, Director of Innovation & Assistive Technology, Leah Drummond, Assistive Technology Engineer and Shelly Blank, Assistive Technology Technician.  The committee is comprised of members representing various departments in our company--from maintenance to vocational to residential services. All members volunteer for service on this team and are committed to securing technology that helps people increase their independence.

The Referral Process
People served and/or their team members solicit assistance from the Technology Team via a referral process. This assistance may take the form of reviewing/completing assessments, securing funding for technology purchases, identifying practical solutions to real problems, or providing training/instruction. The person and their team ultimately make the decision about which option(s) to pursue based upon information provided by the Technology Team and the individual preferences/needs of the person served.

Events Hosted by the Technology Team
The Technology Team hosts an annual conference – Creating Possibilities. The goal of this conference is to provide supporters of people with disabilities with:

  • best practices as they relate to the implementation and assessment of technology;
  • information on cutting edge technology currently in development;
  • real examples of how technology has improved the lives of people with disabilities;
  • "how to" processes for implementing technology;
  • information on reliable and practical technologies currently in existence;
  • ideas for funding technology purchases;
  • an opportunity to collaborate and connect with other professionals.

The Technology team also provides a variety of classes and educational opportunities for the people we support as well as staff members. Some of the most popular topics include internet safety, cool gadgets and introductory iPad use.

For more information, contact Tammy Murner, Director of Innovation & Assistive Technology, at (605) 343-4550


To financially support the Assistive Technology Program:  Donate Here