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Digital Technology Skills Lead to Employment

Monday, January 4, 2016

Sheila Simmons, Sara Sack and Tim Spilker

Pictured from left, Sheila Simmons, ATK Program
Coordinator; Sara Sack, Assistive Technology
for Kansans Director; and Tim Spilker, president of
United Healthcare Community Plan of Kansas.

Thirty-four individuals with disabilities are mastering digital technology skills relevant to employment.  Sara Sack, Director, Assistive Technology for Kansans and her team received funds from the United Healthcare Foundation to select 75 Kansans with disabilities including mental health issues with interest in obtaining employment. The self-identified disabilities included 26 individuals with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD); 25 with cognitive impairments; 14 with orthotic injuries; 14 with chronic health conditions; 10 with traumatic brain injuries; and 4 who are legally blind.

Assistive Technology for Kansans staff developed an accessible training curriculum that was implemented in five locations across the state. Each participant received an electronic tablet to support the development of a plan with employment and behavioral health goals and access to resources through the use of digital technology. Goals addressed how to conduct online job searches, completion of online applications, completing a resume, as well as soft skills such as making appointments, setting reminders, and working with to-do lists. Behavioral health goals included managing stress, medication monitoring, and using electronic reminders for anger management.  After successfully completing the four six-hour workshops, participants were able to keep their tablets. Data obtained through follow-up calls found 10 individuals were working full-time; 24 part-time; and 13 were interviewing three to six months after completion of the workshops. A wide variety of jobs were reported. A woman with multiple health issues is working as a substitute teacher two to three days a week since she is able to manage her schedule, appointments, and medication with her tablet, as well as, post online assignments and communicate with students and parents.

Another woman started her own home cleaning business and uses the tablet to schedule clients, stay on time for cleaning and personal appointments, and manage to-do lists specific to each client. A participant in western Kansas who is a veteran with physical disabilities and PTSD was able to enroll in the EMT training since he was comfortable taking the required online course assignments and tests. He is participating in the ride along training with a local EMT service and has a job offer waiting for him when he completes training in a few months. Other individuals obtained positions in offices, shipping and inventory management, and food service. One is working with Kansas Rehabilitation Services and returned to college now that he is more comfortable with technology.

The workshop training curriculum and task specific videos are available on the ATK website, http://atk.ku.edu/ipad-training.

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