Tuesday, December 21, 2010

An AT Advocate's Perspective

All 29 Independent Living Centers in California receive funding for at least one staff member to work on AT advocacy and services coordination. Below is one AT Advocate's perspective on his role.

By Jorge Ruiz, AT Coordinator at the Central Coast Center for Independent Living in Salinas

Working at Central Coast Center for Independent Living has given me the opportunity to meet many different and interesting people. Often I am asked what it is like to be Assistive Technology Coordinator. People want to know the duties of my job. Fortunately, my duties vary from day to day.

In a nutshell, as the assistive technology coordinator my job is to increase public awareness of the broad range of assistive technology available to people with disabilities and to provide case coordination for those consumers that need a particular item or service.

Most people think that AT is only electric and manual wheelchairs. That might be because many people associate disability with wheelchairs. Little do they know that mobility is just one category of AT. So how does an AT Coordinator educate the public? The answer is very simple—by attending resource fairs as well as doing presentations and informing the audiences about AT. On any given weekend I might be setting up a booth at a health and resource fair, giving a disability awareness training that includes using tools of daily living during the hands on section, or providing an in-service presentation to one of our TBI Support groups.  After meeting someone at a presentation or an outreach event, I am often asked they can find funding sources to pay for AT. This is probably the most challenging part of the job.

Sometimes consumers need AT and their insurance covers it, but they have no idea that it would. The hardest cases are when consumers need AT and have no medical coverage of any kind, as was the case with one of my most recent consumers. She has difficulty walking and was in need of a scooter or power chair. In this case the consumer received a scooter that was donated to our ILC. If she had not taken this equipment, it might have ended up in storage taking up space or, even worse, in a landfill. As you can see, Assistive Technology is not a one-size-fits-all tool. The job of the Assistive Technology Coordinator is not the same week in and week out.

 Have you received services at an Independent Living Center? If you are an AT Advocate, what are the challenges and rewards of your position?  

1 comment:

  1. AT is a rewarding facet of disability services. If your resources and information can help just one person make their life a little easier, all the hard work is worth it. As an AT Advocate we do wear many hats, from resource specialist, to grant writer, to peer counselor. It is difficult when there are consumers who it's hard to get the resources for, especially funding. You have to "think outside the box" a lot of times, and face rejection along the way.

    One of the parts of this article I really liked was the terminology Jorge used regarding how we as AT Adovocates manage cases. Since we don't really do "case manangement", I have always kind of struggled to come up with a better term that describes the same type of process. Case coordination is exactly what I was looking for, so this article has helped me better define exactly what it is I do as an advocate.