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Embracing New Technology to Enhance Communication

The inability to communicate is as frustrating for the person who wishes to be understood as it is for the person who seeks to understand. Fortunately, we have seen firsthand how technology helps to improve communication of those who live with cognitive and physical disabilities.

We’re familiar with communication devices that can verbalize for people via artificial voice or text. In the past these devices have been bulky, hard to use, somewhat awkward, heavy, and expensive. Another downside is that they scream, “I am disabled! I am different!”

Thankfully, the trend of smaller, lighter, faster has found its way into the communication devices market. Today there are affordable, more intelligent, user-friendly tools available to replace the heavy, clunky, conspicuous ones of the past. These modern devices allow a user to fit in with the rest of the world who carries around smart phones and tablets.

Two years ago, Skagit County, through a Human Services grant, donated two iPads and specialized training assistance to help Chinook staff explore the benefits of iPad portability combined with App technology.

video resume class-5Since adopting these iPads (and investing in a few more) our staff has used and tested many Apps. We feel there is great potential in Apps being developed today that will help people overcome communication barriers due to hearing, vision, verbal and comprehension difficulties.

Still, many rely on clunky, outdated technology, because the cost to obtain an iPad is simply out of reach.

Chinook Enterprises IPad TechnologyTwo currently available Apps that we’ve found useful in helping people find good job matches are ‘Numbers’ and ‘iMovie’. Both are free App for Apple devices.

With Numbers, we use several built-in templates for the purpose of creating spreadsheets and graphs that demonstrate the cost vs. savings of hiring a person with a disability over one, two and five-year time periods. These graphs enable CES staff to present a clear visual to potential employers of how it can make good business sense to hire a person with a disability.

Using the iMovie App, the CES staff successfully produces video resumes for their clients. These resumes showcase client’s skills, abilities and experience, making it easier for potential employers to understand a candidate’s full capabilities.

Video Resume Chinook Enterprises

The staff has found that the ability to show a potential employer what a candidate is able to do is far more valuable than providing a written or verbal description.

Video resumes are customized to each client. Some include a short interview while others focus more intently on showcasing specific sets of skills and abilities.

Another application we’ve found for the iMovie App is to create videos that assist people with communication barriers. For example, by producing a video for an employee who uses sign language, others better understand what he is trying to convey.

We are committed to learning and using available technology to advance each client’s opportunity for employment, community involvement, and independence.

Angela Pratt

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