A Trip to PACER’s Simon Technology Center
Tablets and keyboards and toys, oh my!
For people looking for assistive technology resources to help them, or those they care for, live more independently, Pacer Simon Technology Center (STC) is one great place to start.
The STC houses 2,000+ pieces of low to high tech items for people of all ages and disabilities and provides individuals, families, and organizations service options including free technology consultations, hands-on training, and in-services or workshops. This allows individuals to experiment with devices/resources to get a feel for which options might be best for them, and families and professionals the option to see what might benefit those they care for.
Devices can be expensive, trying out several to see what works is not always feasible—that’s where the STC and their staff members come in.
How it works
To set up a consultation, free to those living in Minnesota, a consultation application is filled out and a meeting date is set. There is a $50 refundable deposit that will be held and returned to individuals at their appointment to discourage no-shows.
For the consultation, individuals are paired with a staff member whose knowledge and background best matches their needs. The individual’s new guide will walk them through options they believe could benefit them/their family member based on responses in the application and give a demonstration on each. Individuals are then given the opportunity to try the items themselves.
If you are interested in becoming a member of the STC Lending Library, you can decide which devices/resources make the most sense to borrow. Members may check-out items for 30 days, including apps that may be sent directly to individual devices. This “trial period” allows individuals and organizations time to utilize the resource in all aspects of a person’s daily life (school, work, or home) and have time to make an informed decision before making a purchase.
Trainings and Workshops
For organizations looking to expand their knowledge on current available technology, the STC offers free workshops and for fee customized in-service trainings to help navigate options and explore solutions.
There are a number of awesome “gadgets” located in the STC such as modified keyboards, tablets, and text-to-speech technology. One piece of technology opens up a world of options for assistive technology devices—a 3D printer. The printer can print items like pencil grips, playing card holders, raised book pages, braille cards, customized wheelchair joysticks, and even prosthetic hands! With the right instructions, this machine can be used to create an unimaginable array of assistive devices.
A backroom in the STC housed several “toy” cars—some propped up like you might find in an auto shop. And, just like at an auto shop, these special vehicles were being fixed-up and modified for their owners.
There was a bright pink off-roading giant and a green jeep just waiting to be customized. Parents are able to purchase vehicles for their children and bring them in to the STC to have them modified by a staff member to fit their needs—for free. Modifications may include creating higher seat backs, adjusting seats, moving the controls from foot pedals to buttons that hands can reach, etc. And, because children will be children, all cars are equipped with a “kill” switch that parents can use if their child gets a little too adventurous.
With the customization help of the staff at STC, a child with Spina Bifida is now able to cruise around her yard independently—go when she wants to go and stop when she wants to stop. This is just one example of how easy it is to customize readily available technology to increase independence for people with disabilities (young and old).
Check out the PACER’s Simon Technology Center website to learn more about the Pacer STC and their array of services.