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Technology: Advancing Capability!

Daniel Pinsonneault brought out his guitar for participation in the original research project

Professor Ann-Louise Davidson of Concordia University has published a paper in the journal of Social Inclusion “A Collaborative Action Research about Making Self-Advocacy Videos with People with Intellectual Disabilities.” In a February 23 article, Davidson talks about her research in the Concordia University News.

The original project involved eight LiveWorkPlay members. Using iPads, participants wrote and directed short videos that highlighted important aspects of their lives. They then shared rough cuts of the videos with a focus group prior to uploading the videos to a shared YouTube channel, accessible to the public.

“The collective message we see in these videos is clearly one of people with intellectual disabilities being able to lead satisfying lives and feel good about living, working and playing on a daily basis,” says Davidson. “And when people with intellectual disabilities see their peers succeed, it inspires them.” Davidson notes that stories of successful individuals with intellectual disabilities as portrayed in popular culture are not only very limited, but that many of these stories can be criticized as “tokenization.”

Professor Davidson

Davidson’s research took the approach that the individuals would decide what strengths they wanted to share, rather than having their strengths identified and represented by others. “That’s a fundamental freedom that researchers should focus on in future studies on disability,” said Davidson.

It’s not a surprise that the use of technology by LiveWorkPlay members (and clearly all persons including those with intellectual disabilities) is increasing at a rapid pace. In addition to being a source of entertainment, it is also being utilized to enhance capabilities and to reduce the necessity of direct interventions by paid and unpaid supporters in daily living.

For example, Phil Landreville asked for support from LiveWorkPlay staff to set up a tablet that helps him with reminders, which is much less of an intervention than phone call reminders or requiring direct support. Phil also uses Skype to keep in touch with family, which has become very important with key family members living in a different part of the country. Phil and his family have both remarked on the benefits of this increased autonomy.

Caroline expresses her appreciation of Jenn Cunningham

Caroline Matte uses her tablet for photography and video, and has a huge following on Facebook where she posts samples of  her art. “I do everything from abstract to still life,” says Caroline. “Sometimes I just do art to show my appreciation for other people in my life.” Caroline is a prolific artist who may post several photos of her work in a single day, inspiring conversations between family, friends, and other members of her network.

Sometimes member are not sure that they can be successful with technology, but the almost universal theme is that with the right support and time to learn, it usually works out and a positive in people’s lives. This includes everything from online banking to an online trip planner for getting around by bus.

“I enjoy using these tools in my own life for practical reasons and also for connecting with others and having fun,” says Anthony Stratton, a member of the Living Supports team at LiveWorkPlay.

“At times it’s been a challenge supporting the adoption of technology for our members, but the outcomes can be very meaningful and it’s very worthwhile,” says Anthony. “I really enjoy listening to a member explain a problem they want to solve and together we explore a solution. We have all been through the experience of a new technology that we think might be too difficult for us to use, but we’ve also experienced the joy of getting it to work. I’ve seen a lot of that from our members in all aspects of their lives. In a given day they might organize a trip with the online travel planner, use an online recipe or cooking video to help prepare a meal, watch the news on their tablet, and play a game online with a friend who is in another part of Canada.”

Anthony has helped Ian and Warren Murphy pursue a variety of technology interests

LiveWorkPlay was an early adopter of social media and this continues to pay dividends, particularly as a means of engaging and benefiting from the interest of people and organizations who are not in the Ottawa area. “Just today I received a nice note from a parent who commented on how much they benefit from following our social media stories, and how they have used some of what they have learned within their own family,” says Keenan Wellar, Co-Leader and Director of Communications. “At the same time we benefit from having this huge network of helpful people who share news and ideas with me every day.”

Going forward LiveWorkPlay will continue working closely with our members to evaluate emerging technologies and pursue new opportunities to enhance their capabilities!