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ATK Suspends In-Person, Face-to-Face Services

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Some ATK staff participating in an online meeting. Assistive Technology for Kansans staff started 2020 with renewed energy and enthusiasm for providing AT services to consumers across Kansas with in-person and face-to-face hands-on device demonstrations and appropriate training, facilitating the short-term device loan system, assisting consumers to identify funding sources for their chosen devices, and when needed, an appropriate, refurbished device, often delivered to their home. New staff were hired, business cards ordered, and plans made for the March statewide training involving staff and partners.

As it sometimes happens, some systems are put in place for one reason and become essential for a new reason. In January 2020, ATK management arranged online training for LSI Parsons’ staff and others to be provided by the KU Information Technology team on Microsoft Excel software. Training was provided remotely even though most of the attendees attended together in the Research Conference Room, kind of a learn and lunch set-up. Enjoyed by all.

A March highlight for ATK is always the quarterly statewide staff meeting in Wichita, March 11-12 this year. The 2-day meeting includes the TAP (Kansas Telecommunications Access Project) statewide training with the addition of staff from six Kansas partners who participate as regional demonstration centers for the adapted phones available from TAP. Together ATK staff and others learned, planned, and departed the meetings ready to tackle the to-do lists.

And they did. They just had to do it differently.

On March 16, Sara Sack, ATK Director, announced that ATK would suspend all face-to-face, in-person services because of the Coronavirus Pandemic following a discussion with other State AT Programs and with guidance from the University of Kansas. By the end of the week, all staff were set up with the equipment they needed to work remotely. Kudos to the talented and tireless management team for finding solutions that matched the situation and then inventing solutions when it seemed impossible. By Monday, March 23, all staff were able to participate in the new ATK reality, online.

(Pictured above: ATK staff meeting online).

Zoom planning meetings started with sanitization of AT devices. By the end of the week all staff had participated in an array of meetings, matching their interests and responsibilities; examples include Home Automation, the new Gaming grant, and Funding Resources among others.

Determined that ATK will emerge as a stronger, more knowledgeable statewide AT leader, staff identified areas of individual interest, scheduled much of their own training, then shared what they learned during scheduled staff meetings. The staff were equal to the task: of relocating, in many cases to their homes; figuring out how to receive adequate internet access in remote locations, sometimes taking the online meetings outside; and still able to provide AT services, device demonstrations, and the numerous other supports to consumers. The silver lining… ATK staff are working, consumers have access to talented, resourceful AT Specialists, and together, needs will be met, effectively and with compassion.

Assistive Technology for Kansans includes five regional AT Access Sites across Kansas. The Western AT Access Site has two offices, Oakley and Garden City; the North Central office is in Salina; Northeast is in Topeka; South Central in Wichita; and the Southeast AT Site is in Parsons. The ATK Management Tech Center is also located in Parsons. For more information, visit the ATK website online, http://atk.ku.edu/.

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