Breakout Session Descriptions
Initiatives for Accessing Assistive Technology for Individuals with DDS
The Department of Developmental Services (DDS) has developed several Notice of Opportunities for Individuals and Families receiving supports from DDS and Qualified Providers interested in receiving grants to fund Assistive Technology (AT) to benefit individuals who are currently supported by DDS and are living in a Community Companion Home (CCH), Community Living Arrangement (CLA), Continuous Residential Supports (CRS) or who are residing independently with In Home Supports (IHS). DDS grants will assist with procuring and utilizing Assistive Technology (AT), hardware, software, equipment, and internet connectivity to enhance access to virtual supports and services, including the development of remote supports. It may include training, assessments, and environmental modifications/adaptations designed to increase accessibility, safety, and independence. The intent of the grant is to support and advance the creative use of Assistive Technology to enhance independence and virtual interpersonal and community participation for individuals with intellectual disabilities
Times: 11:30a – 12:15p And 2:45p – 3:30p
Location: Grand Ballroom- Salon I
Presenter: Patricia Cymbala, DDS Director of Assistive Technology
Director of Assistive Technology for the Department of Developmental Services (DDS)
Patricia has 35 dedicated years of experience working at DDS in various capacities. She is the Assistive Technology ARPA lead and has developed and begun the implementation of numerous initiatives to assist individuals supported by the Department to lead full, productive, and inclusive lives in their communities through the use Assistive Technology (AT). Patricia has a Master’s degree in Assistive Technology and Human Services from California State University, along with her ATACP and Certified Living in Place Professional certifications
Accessibility features for your Smartphones and Tablets
Bridging the Digital Divide is a new program in CT, a collaboration between the CT State Unit on Aging, the CT Tech Act Project, UCP of Eastern CT and the NEAT Center at Oakhill. Our two Digital Divide Coordinators will provide an overview of the Accessibility features built into tablets and smart phones to help individuals with disabilities and aging adults have greater access to their devices and to use them as effectively as possible. They will also provide a general overview of the Bridging the Digital Divide program.
Times: 11:30a – 12:15p and 1:30p – 2:15p
Location: Grand Ballroom- Salon II
Presenters: Miriam Johnson, UCP and Will Seaman, NEAT
Miriam joined UCP two years ago as an advocate for people with disabilities. During her time as an advocate, Miriam was introduced to Assistive Technology Services. She completed her Assistive Technology Specialist Certification through California State University at Northridge in early 2022. Miriam enjoys making technology accessible for everyone including our senior population. She hopes to continue to bring awareness of the need for technology training through programs such as Bridging the Digital Divide. As the Manager of Inclusion & Accessibility Services, she oversees the Assistive Technology Lending Center staff. Her focus is independent living with a secondary focus on Smart Home technology. She is a fierce advocate for all people with disabilities and strives to remove barriers to ensure that every person can live a life without limits..
Will first learned about the accessibility field while participating in the Digital Accessibility Specialist Training Program, a collaborative initiative with the CT State College & Universities, Western Connecticut State University, the CT Department of Aging and Disability Services, and NEAT. After successfully finishing the training program, he went on to complete the International Association of Accessibility Professionals requirements to become a Certified Professional in Accessibility Core Competencies (CPACC). He immediately put his credentials to work as a Digital Accessibility Specialist Assistant intern at Oak Hill before moving on to his current role within the agency at NEAT. Will is passionate about technology and making the world more accessible for everyone, and approaches this vision with both personal and professional experiences in the disability community. As NEAT’s Digital Divide Coordinator, he strives to combine these two passions by getting people the technology they need to access the world, and helping them perfect their usage of it. Will works directly with the Bridging the Digital Divide program through the CT Tech Act Project and the CT Department of Aging & Disability Services State Unit on Aging.
Assistive Technology Evaluations for Determining Technology Needs
Learn more about why an Assistive Technology Evaluation is a critical component for any individual with a disability to live and work independently. Today’s technology can be used to enhance home and workplace environments by removing barriers to independence, offering vocational opportunities, and improving accessibility.
The Assistive Technology Evaluation identifies adaptations, modifications, technology, and resources for the environment and the individual.
Time: 11:30a – 12:15p and 2:45p – 3:30p
Location: Grand Ballroom- Salon III
Presenter: Shannon Taber, United Cerebral Palsy (UCP)
Assistive Technology Specialist, Certified Living In Place Professional
Shannon started with UCP in 2012 in the Residential Program before moving into the Inclusion & Accessibility Services Program. With over 10 years of experience working with individuals with developmental and acquired disabilities, Shannon provides Assistive Technology evaluations, device trials and loans, device demonstrations and modifications for all individuals with disabilities. She is currently a member of the Connecticut Assistive Technology Advisory Council where she collaborates with others to provide input and perspectives regarding the AT Act federal grant and resulting statewide and comprehensive activities implemented by the Connecticut Tech Act Project. Shannon is an experienced professional with experience working with all ages and all stages. She has a passion for helping individuals with a diverse set of needs find solutions for increased independence, as well as supporting their families and loved ones. Shannon is an advocate, technology geek, and passionate about equality for all.
Assistive Technology for Employment
Learn about commonly used Assistive Technology devices that can help people with disabilities to effectively perform job functions from office settings to retail to teleworking from home. A variety of AT devices will be shared and discussed, that can be used for a variety of disabilities and barriers one may experience in the workplace. CT programs and services will be provided and helpful resources will be shared.
Time: 1:30p – 2:15p
Location: Grand Ballroom- Salon III
Presenters: Arlene Lugo, CT Tech Act Project and Amy Norton, EASTCONN
Ms. Lugo received Degrees in Deaf Studies and Interpreting from Northwestern Connecticut Community College, a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English from the University of Albany, NY and received her Master of Science in Professional Counseling, Vocational Rehabilitation from Central Connecticut State University in 2003.
Ms. Lugo began her career at BRS over 20 years ago as a sign language interpreter prior to becoming a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor. In 2006, she was promoted to Education Consultant for the Bureau and became the Program Director for the Connecticut Tech Act Project, where she helps individuals with disabilities access Assistive Technology (AT) for all areas of life — education, employment, home and the community. As a certified Assistive Technology Practitioner, since 2007, Ms. Lugo offers training, technical assistance and consultation on Assistive Technology devices and services. She oversees several grants, in addition to providing direct services to individuals with disabilities and older adults.
Amy Norton is the Coordinator of Assistive Technology as well as an Assistive Technology Professional and Transition Coordinator at EASTCONN. She works with individuals with disabilities across the lifespan providing assessment, consultation, coaching and training. She assists districts with integrating the use of assistive technology into the general education classroom, curriculum and transition planning. Additionally, she works with the CT Tech Act (CTTAP) and the Bureau of Rehabilitation Services (BRS) to assess the assistive technology needs of adults with disabilities in preparing for work and in accomplishing tasks in the work settings. She assists in meeting the telecommunications needs of individuals who are deaf/blind through the Access through Technology Program coordinated by the CTTAP. She provides training on the creation and remediation of accessible documents as part of the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Accessibility initiative of the CTTAP. Amy received a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Stonehill College and a master’s degree in special education from Boston College. She is a RESNA certified Assistive Technology Professional (ATP), a Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS) and a Charting the LifeCourse Ambassador. She has presented on a wide variety of assistive technology topics at the regional, state and national level.
Remote Supports to foster independent and supportive living: Pilot on Remote Supports and future direction
Join us for an exciting overview of a pilot to introduce remote supports into independent and supportive living. Gain insights from two providers involved in the project and get answers to your questions about remote supports.
Time: 1:30p – 2:15p
Location: Grand Ballroom- Salon III
Presenters: Pam Fields Midstate ARC and ARC of Eastern CT
Founder/CEO, The Assistive Technology Training Center (ATECH) & CEO, MidState Arc
Pamela Fields is a leader in the field of assistive technology for independence, especially in devising new approaches to independence as it relates to people with intellectual disabilities (I/DD). Her pioneering efforts are grounded in a 40-year career in leading agencies that provide services for people with I/DD and other complex disabilities and medical needs.
With an undergraduate degree in human services and an MBA with a concentration in non-profits, Pam has the foundation and the vision needed to move the field of assistive technology forward in new and exciting ways. Pam also holds Enabling Technology Leadership Certification from Tech First SHIFT. As a passionate advocate for the rights of people with developmental disabilities and their services, Pam founded the Assistive Technology Training Center to assure service providers have a place to gain knowledge and build capacity in cutting edge assistive technologies and families can benefit from best practices in how to support their loved ones with disabilities.
Pam envisions a world where each person can be as independent as possible, fully connected to and autonomous in their communities, regardless of their barrier issues.
Assistive Technology for the Home
Join us for an enlightening presentation as we delve into the world of assistive technology, uncovering its profound impact on individuals with disabilities and aging populations within their homes. Discover a multitude of devices, including smart buttons, smart lights, and virtual assistants, designed to enhance independence and support daily living. We will showcase the versatility of smart lights, highlighting their role in fall prevention and alert systems. Moreover, we will explore the remarkable capabilities of virtual assistants like Alexa and Google, illuminating how they simplify both simple and complex tasks. Be inspired as we provide practical insights on implementing assistive technology in your own home, enabling a more accessible and empowered lifestyle. Don’t miss this opportunity to unlock the potential of assistive technology and revolutionize your living space.
Time: 2:45p – 3:30p
Location: Grand Ballroom- Salon II
Presenters: Ramon Hernandez & Kristen Gilfeather
Ramón Hernández is an accomplished Assistive Technology Specialist at NEAT, with a background in Communication, Information Technology, Filmmaking, Marketing, and Special Education. With almost four years of experience in the field, Ramón specializes in assisting individuals with physical and cognitive disabilities, as well as those in Transition programs. He maintains close partnerships with the Bureau of Rehabilitation Services and the Department of Development Services and also provides Smart Tech/Home Services and tours of NEAT’s Smart Home on Wheels (SHOW).
Kristen Gilfeather is an Assistive Technology Specialist at NEAT. She developed her passion for working with special education students when she became a paraprofessional for preschool students in the public schools. She soon found her way into occupational therapy and applied her skills across the lifespan, from school-aged students to adults in a nursing home. During her time in the public schools, Kristen also developed her love for assistive technology. She began training staff on various types of assistive technology across the district. Kristen is excited to combine her knowledge of strategies for improving an individual’s participation in daily activities with her love for assistive technology to help people of all ages and abilities achieve their highest levels of independence.