Advocating for Technology Supports
Recently, we were able to sit down for an interview with Lauren Ireland to discuss technology and how it plays a role in her daily life. Lauren lives in Minneapolis, MN and her home is licensed for supportive community-based services. At 30 years old, Lauren has had access to and has used technology all her life, though it wasn’t until she moved into her current home nearly 10 years ago that she became aware of remote monitoring technology and the benefits it provided her and other individuals with disabilities.
As an advocate for technology supports, Lauren has been featured in a recent TRC video success story “Technology Delivering Independence and Staff Efficiency,” and will be a panel member at the upcoming session going behind the video at the ARRM Annual Conference, held June 6 and 7, 2018, to discuss her feelings towards the move to technology and answer questions from the audience.
TRC: When did you start using technology supports?
Lauren: I started the [remote support technology] a couple of years ago when I moved into this home, but I have been using technology pretty much all my life.
TRC: What types of technology do you use?
Lauren: In general, I’ve used Dragon NaturallySpeaking before where it types for you on a computer. It’s a speaking software. I loved it. I wish I could, you know, find other ways to use it. I want to get a job in the community, so hopefully soon I’ll be able to use more technology like that.
TRC: When did you start using the speaking software?
Lauren: My high school had it there, so I’ve been using it since school off and on. It takes a lot of training, so it’s hard. Maybe I’m not going to be able to use it. But it will always be helpful if it came up again. I’m hoping it is something I can use. It does take quite a bit of training to get it used to your voice and things like that.
TRC: What additional technology do you use?
Lauren: I use the pendant [for remote monitoring]. I have a dog at my house and went outside with her one day and I accidentally got her leash wrapped around my wheel of my wheelchair and so she almost died. But I had the pendant on me and rang it and the assistant came to help me. And without that I wouldn’t have been able to save her.
Hear Lauren tell her and Jinger Jo’s story in the 60 second video:
My dog is like a therapy dog for everyone. Thank goodness that I had that light to press, because otherwise I don’t think she’d be alive. We did a video for ARRM and presented the video to a lot of the people and they all wanted to see the dog, they asked where she was.
Whenever anyone asks me questions about this I bring this up. It really shows me that when I was first introduced to it, I was thinking, “There’s no staff in the house 24-7”, because they rotate between the different houses. There used to be staff there and they switched to this technology and we were all a little bit nervous about how it was going to work. But it actually works quite well.
I forgot to say there are sensors at the house as well. In front of the door, or above the door, so if someone has come in your room, it tracks if the staff is actually doing what they’re supposed to.
TRC: What types of activities or tasks does the technology help you with?
Lauren: Typing on the computer. I work in Bloomington, actually, so I use the computer there. But I use [remote monitoring] when I’m at home. At night, if I need something, you press a button and it goes to this place and they call the phone at my group home and the staff will come and help me with whatever I need.
TRC: Overall have these devices been helpful to you? Do you like how they work?
Lauren: Oh yes. The [remote monitoring] pendant definitely helps. It makes me feel like if I need something I can press it. So I’m more safe, you know? Every once in a while I get nervous about “Gosh, I hope I don’t fall,” but I know if anything were to happen, I have that light there to ring.
I usually get rolled over one time a night. I don’t use [the pendant] often, unless I need something. I get rolled over and I’m pretty much good. Even though I may not use it as much as other people, it’s there.
I like the sensors because even if I don’t realize if people are coming in my room, and I don’t know if so and so checked me last night, the staff know, hey, they did. Usually I don’t question stuff like that but I know they look into those things, so that’s important.
TRC: Do you feel like using the technology has allowed you to live more independently?
Lauren: Oh yes. Definitely. I mean I only wish it would work further out into the community, you know? If you’re going to be late or whatever and you could just press it and it would automatically call someone. I wish it would do that. But obviously it can’t. If there was ever a chance that something like that would happen, I would totally jump for that, because I’m usually gone. I’m usually not at home. So if something could do that it would be really great. I would love that.
TRC: Are you looking at adding any additional devices or technology pieces?
Lauren: Yeah. My best friend has an [Amazon] Echo at her house and she uses it for her own use and she and I love that thing. She uses it mostly for fun, but I think you can turn things on or off or get information about the world or the weather, or you know, whatever. But, you know, I’ve always thought of getting one to help with things like turn off lights and stuff, so that’s always something I thought about.
TRC: What’s holding you back from getting one?
Lauren: More information [on what it does] and the money. The money is a big deal. I’m not sure what it costs. It varies so much on what you get, and I want to make sure I’m going to be able to utilize it the most I can. I’m hoping I can get one though, sometime here.
TRC: How was life different before moving to this location and using technology?
Lauren: When I was living at home without the [remote monitoring] technology I was asking people (my parents) if I needed something. I really wish I had had that there honestly. It would have been much calmer and nicer to have that. But also I want to encourage families if they have a person with a disability to look into getting something like this. It makes it a lot easier to sleep at night.
TRC: How has using these technologies changed the way you live your life?
Lauren: Oh my God. Well, it makes me a lot more comfortable to like be outside and go around to different places to like buy books and stuff, to visit people, you know? As long as I remember to take it with me. It’s pretty easy; I can bring it and it will alert someone to “Hey, I need help here.”
TRC: Would you recommend using technology to others?
Lauren: Definitely yes. And I wish it was more in the houses – like I had no idea that it existed. I have had a disability all my life and had no idea there was anything available like [remote monitoring].
Visit the ARRM Technology Resource Center to learn about more success stories and case studies showing how technology is changing the lives of those living with disabilities or learn more about how to start the conversation.