ATU366 – Off the cuff with Josh Anderson, Manager of Clinical Assistive Technology at Easterseals Crossroads

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Your weekly dose of information that keeps you up to date on the latest developments in the field of technology designed to assist people with disabilities and special needs.

Off the Cuff with Josh Anderson, www.EasterSealsTech.com/staff
Leaked image reveals Microsoft’s new Xbox controller for accessibility http://bit.ly/2IDT4b9

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JOSH ANDERSON:  Hi, I’m Josh Anderson, Manager of Clinical Assistive Technology Services for Easter Seals Crossroads, and this is your Assistive Technology Update.

WADE WINGLER:  Hi, this is Wade Wingler with the INDATA Project at Easter Seals Crossroads in Indiana with your Assistive Technology Update, a weekly dose of information that keeps you up-to-date on the latest developments in the field of technology designed to assist people with disabilities and special needs. Welcome to episode number 366 of Assistive Technology Update.  It’s scheduled to be released on June 1, 2018.

Today I get to do one of my favorite kinds of interviews.  I’m going to spend our time today with Josh Anderson who is our manager of clinical assistive technology here at Easter Seals Crossroads.  Every once in a while, I grabbed one of my colleagues and say pop in the studio, and I asked him questions that haven’t had a chance to prepare for.  It’s going to be a great interview today.

Also we have a preview story about something from Microsoft and a new Xbox controller design all around accessibility.

We hope you check out our website at EasterSealsTech.com.  Sent us a note on Twitter@INDATA Project.  Or give us a buzz on our listener line.  The number is 317-721-7124.

 

 

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[1:23] Xbox controller for accessibility.

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WADE WINGLER:  We normally don’t talk about rumor stuff, but I actually saw a story on theverge.com recently talking about a leaked image billing Microsoft’s a new Xbox controller for accessibility.  I’ve actually seen this in lots of places, so I think it may be more than just a rumor.  Separately Microsoft is working on an Xbox controller for accessibility.  It’s got a couple of oversized A and B pads, a directional pad, and the usual Xbox navigational controls.  The idea is that it’s going to be unveiled at E3 next month.  We will probably get more details about this.  If you look at the article — and I’ll pop a link in the show notes so you can get a picture and more details.  If you are into accessibility and gaming, you might want to check out what people are talking about with this rumor of Microsoft’s new Xbox controller for accessibility.  Check our show notes.

 

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[2:10] Interview with Josh Anderson

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WADE WINGLER:  I’m excited about our show today.  We are going to do something that I get to do every once in a while.  It’s a fun, sneak attack interview.  In studio today I have my friend and also a personality on ATFAQ, one of our other shows, assistant technology for can asked questions.  Josh Anderson, you are here, my victim today, good morning.

JOSH ANDERSON:  Good morning.  You think I would learn not to walk past the studio.  You would normally run, but today I said you have a minute? And you said sure, I’ll sit in the studio.

Every once in a while I get to do a thing called an off-the-cuff interview.  I call them and off-the-cuff interview because I take someone who has an interesting story to tell about assistive technology, but I don’t prepare them.  I just a sit down, trust me a little bit, and answer questions at them, which is kind of like the wildcard question I do on the ATFAQshow, but instead of talking about technology, we’re talking about you.

Put those headphones on.  Don’t run away.  Don’t leave.  Josh, I want to spend some time helping our audio understand more about you and your job and your background and what you do.  You know the answer to all the questions.  You may not want to share the answers to some of the questions I have today.  But we are really going to talk about you and focus on you today, because what you do here is important and cool.  Enough of deflating your ego before we do this.

JOSH ANDERSON:  You are selling it too high.

WADE WINGLER:  Let’s start with a simple question.  Your title here at Easter Seals crossroads is?

JOSH ANDERSON:  Manager of clinical assistive technology services.

WADE WINGLER:  We are going to talk about that particular job.  Let’s rewind a little bit.  How long have you been at Easter Seals Crossroads?

JOSH ANDERSON:  Coming up soon I will be on my seventh year with the organization.

WADE WINGLER:  Seven years.  And you’ve had a couple of roles. We’re going to talk about those too. Prior to working for Easter Seals Crossroads, what are some of your interesting employment background? What did you do before your world here?

JOSH ANDERSON:  It’s funny.  When I started here at Easter Seals Crossroads, it was as a job coach.  I do believe I got that job because I had held almost every other job in the world.  I had what’s clinically known as employment attention deficit disorder.  I would have a job for about three months to two years, and I would just get absolutely tired of it and had to go to something else.

I did everything from bartending, waiting tables.  I’ve run restaurants.  I sold mattresses, which is not as fun of a job as it sounds.  When people walk into a store and you creepily rough on a mattress and say lay down and tell me what you think.  Believe it or not, it’s a little awkward.

WADE WINGLER:  It sounds like psychiatry a little bit.

JOSH ANDERSON:  I worked in a call center.  I worked as a photographer when he lived in Las Vegas as the person who put your face on the magazine covers.

WADE WINGLER:  You lived in Las Vegas?

JOSH ANDERSON:  I did.  I lived there for a little over a year.  I was the one that annoyed people as they walked by.  I worked for a package handling company.  I work as an indoor skydiving instructor when I lived in Vegas.

WADE WINGLER: Wow! In the big air tunnel thing, flying around like a squirrel?

JOSH ANDERSON:  Yes.  You flight over a jet engine and stuff.  Even though this job is pretty cool, that one is probably always going to take the cake as the coolest job I’ve ever been able to have.

WADE WINGLER:  That’s pretty cool.

JOSH ANDERSON:  And warehouses.  I worked at a grocery store for a long time in high school.  Just about a little bit of everything.

BRIAN NORTON:  In your job now, you do a little bit of everything.  That diversity in background helps a little bit.

JOSH ANDERSON:  It really does.

BRIAN NORTON:  How did you end up here at Easter Seals Crossroads? Not the interview, but what was your life transition looking like a when you decided you were going to work for someone like us?

JOSH ANDERSON:  There was one point in my life a wild back where I had been married before and had kids.  Came home, bad day at work, just had a really bad day it had to cut some employee pay because of things above.  Having a bad day at dinner.  I was asked, Josh, it looks like you had a bad day.  I said yeah, I know.  Do you like your job? No, I really don’t.  Why do you work there? Kids always ask those questions that we don’t ask ourselves enough.  I was like, you know, we need money so we can have food and a place to live and stuff like that.  To which it was replied, so money is what’s important? I was like, no, it’s not.  Though I can teach you that lesson right now.  At that time, I actually decided to go back to school.  At the time, I was going to study philanthropy.  I realized I did not want to be a fundraiser, and the other way to be a philanthropist is to be rich.  I kinda needed a job to do that.  They didn’t really work out well.  Then I went into public affairs and really loved it.  Went through the SPEA program at IUPUI, and it was a really great program.  I worked for the University for a while and then saw a job come up at Easter Seals Crossroads, had met our now CEO a long time ago, so I applied.  It was actually for an administrative assistant job.  When I applied, came and come up with everyone.  Then they called me and asked what I apply for this is a job.  That was how it all started.

WADE WINGLER:  So tell me about the first job.  It was as a job coach, right?

JOSH ANDERSON:  It was as a job coach.  I had no experience with that, but after learning that I had applied for and interviewed for all those jobs I mentioned earlier, I did have a little bit of experience with it.  It has really helped.  It was working with individuals with all different kinds of needs, helping them write resumes, helping them prepare for interviews, and then also going out into the community, actually talking with employers about the importance of hiring individuals with disabilities.  Sometimes sitting in interviews with individuals if they needed it, sometimes just as a helper.  It was very fulfilling.  It was frustrating in the way that you live and die by people’s successes.  I will say some folks that do hiring don’t really have the most couth, I guess we will say.  You can see the look on their face when you sit down of how in the world is this person going to do this job.  Every once in a while, they asked that question, which I don’t think from an HR standpoint is something you are supposed to do.  It was nice to be able to sit there and tell them this is how.  A lot of those placements are still there. Some of the folks have moved up into management positions and other things.  It’s important for employers to know that there is an untapped job market.  Being in management — and I’m sure you know that getting good folks in place, training them, and getting them up to speed is probably the hardest part of the job.

WADE WINGLER:  Yep.

JOSH ANDERSON:  If you can get somebody that wants to work, you can teach them just about everything.  If they are willing to show up, do the work, everything else is really easy by comparison.

WADE WINGLER:  Absolutely.  You did that for how long?

JOSH ANDERSON:  I did that for close to two years.  That’s how I got introduced to assistive technology.

WADE WINGLER:  Tell me about that transition.

JOSH ANDERSON:  That was through some of the folks I worked with who are blind or visually impaired.  I worked with a lot of folks who are blind or visually impaired or hearing impaired.  It seems to be how my caseload went.  I had folks all of the place, but that was a lot.  I learned about assistive technology by working with folks from your team at the time, Brian Norton, who is on our other podcast as well, and I learned how to use some of it.  As a job coach, I was there more and it was helpful if I could fix and troubleshoot some of the things.  When a job opened up here in assistive technology, my now wife talk me into applying for it.  Because at the time, I was like I don’t know, I don’t really have the experience they are asking for, I don’t know how to do all the different things.  She was like, if Brian has already talked to you, that means they probably want you to apply.  Just do it.  You are not out anything if you are wrong.  It was intimidating as could possibly be, still is some days.

WADE WINGLER:  That means you’re doing it right.

JOSH ANDERSON:  Exactly.  Having to meet with the entire team and have them ask you questions that you don’t know the answer to, like walking by a podcasting with it being called into an impromptu interview.

WADE WINGLER:  It’s funny.  I was in on the interview when we talk to you.  I remember either asked this question before or since, but I said so what do you know about assistive technology? You are like, nothing.

JOSH ANDERSON:  I know how to use one program because of one person.

WADE WINGLER:  And then I said so what do you know about technology?

JOSH ANDERSON:  You said something about like I have a home stereo or theater or something, and I said here’s a question.  If you are going to go into Best Buy and somebody give you $2000, how would you spend it? You gave me a really good, thoughtful answer about how you would solve the problem and what resources you would put in place and what technology you would put in place for a home theater or stereo.  But you are able to walk through the process of here is the thing I want to do, here is a store you know, here’s a budget, and can you figure out.  You came up with a pretty good solution.  So it’s the same process, just in a different setting and different kinds of technology.  We knew that you knew the disability stuff because you had been very successful as a job coach.  I remember asking, so let’s talk about home theater and Best Buy and what would it look like to go on a shopping spree.  That’s kind of an AT even now, maybe, I don’t know.

JOSH ANDERSON:  A little bit.  And you have to think there is an added fear.  If I bond this interview, my goodness, I help other people with interviews.  Not only am I not going to get this job, I’m probably going to get fired from my current job.  I really have to do good.

WADE WINGLER:  That’s awesome.  So you’ve been in assistive technology for a while.  You’ve been promoted.  You are currently the manager of clinical AT.  What’s a day in the life in your current role?

JOSH ANDERSON:  Let’s talk about the good ones.

WADE WINGLER:  Right? For sure.

JOSH ANDERSON:  I manage a lot of different aspects.  I still do carry a small caseload, so I actually get to meet with individuals and help them with their needs.  But also if you think about the way our program runs, there are a lot of moving parts and customers or consumers.  Not only to the folks that we see and work with one on one, but also the funding sources that bring us those folks, which is everything from vocational rehabilitation, the Veterans Administration, different grants and other programs.  I Can Connect and things.  Also try to make sure that we are providing the right services to those folks, answering their questions, outreach to them and those kinds of pieces, answering questions for teammates.

This is the kind of job that you could do for 50 straight years.  You are never going to know what you’re doing.  That’s what I try to tell everyone on my team.  There really is not a stupid question.  Call and ask me.  I’ll give you my best opinion.  It doesn’t mean it’s right.  If you think I’m wrong, let me know.  We will try to work through it so we can get to those things.  Always feel free to call and ask.  Everyone does have to make split-second decisions, but we all work together.

A normal day in the life is a lot of different phone calls, text messages, emails with everything from “someone canceled on me, do you have something else I can do;” to “I met with this person, the referral asked me for this, but they really need this, what should I do?” to “hey, I didn’t get that report, could you resend it?” Of course always, when you work in technology, “hey, everything I had just quit working and I needed by tomorrow afternoon.  What in the world can do?” Plus Wade pulls you in the podcasting.

WADE WINGLER:  Exactly.  You got a half an hour?

JOSH ANDERSON:  We also do a lot of presentations all over the state.  I can remember when I did go back to college, where I cursed myself of saying why do I have to do all these stupid presentations? I’m never going to have to do this in the working world.  As life goes, it’s funny.  This is why.

WADE WINGLER:  That was for a reason.

JOSH ANDERSON:  That was definitely for a reason.  It’s nice because we get to talk about assistive technology to folks who don’t know what’s out there, a lot of case managers, folks like that.  There are a lot of things, sometimes even free stuff that can help their folks out.  It’s nice to see their eyes light up and go like, I can use that with Charlie.  That’s really going to help him out.  That’s something that will help us communicate better, help him be a little bit more employable.  It’s really cool to get to do that.  It’s a different kind of thing.  When you think about presentations, you are standing up in front of someone, talking a lot.  You do that, but it’s really more question and answer because folks have needs they’ve never been able to meet and have never been able to help a person.  Being able to show them something free they might have on their phone already that can overcome that barrier.

WADE WINGLER:  A lot of how to.  That makes it easier to give those talks.

JOSH ANDERSON:  It does.  It makes it nice.

WADE WINGLER:  I also see you as a coach and mentor.  You spend time doing that right?

JOSH ANDERSON:  I do.  I try to spend time with team members as much as I can, just helping them grow.  The better they do, the less I have to take interest which means the more time I have to do those kinds of things.

WADE WINGLER:  And grow new stuff.

JOSH ANDERSON:  Exactly.  It’s really great.  It’s completely selfish.  It sounds like I’m helping people.  Nope.  They give me more time to be able to make sure the program is running well and we are providing the best services we can.  Really and truly, I talked about a lot and our skills, but it’s about the people we help.  That’s the reason we are here.

WADE WINGLER:  What gets under your skin at work? This is like a job interview question.  Are there for certain parts to your job?

JOSH ANDERSON:  Wade.

WADE WINGLER:  Besides me, besides Brian.

JOSH ANDERSON:  With anything, processes take too long.  Sometimes getting things done can take too long.  Trying to get in touch with folks can be really hard.  The populations we work with, sometimes it can be hard to schedule this because, A, people forget they have an appointment.  We work with folks with some pretty severe disabilities who were in and out of the hospital a lot.  Those things can be frustrating.  Probably the biggest frustration is when you sit there and come up with this great assistive technology system for somebody, and you try it out, test it out, even take stuff from the loan library.  A try it and it works great in of things going to be perfect, and the funding source buys it.  You go and set it all up to train them.  And it’s not what they need.  That is the biggest frustration.

WADE WINGLER:  Oops.

JOSH ANDERSON:  It really is.  Even the funding source is like, that looks great, this is going to help them.  The family is on board.  And just because either the technology, their skill level, the training, something isn’t there.  It feels terrible because it’s like walking back to summary with your head down between your shoulder saying essentially, I screwed up.  Even if it wasn’t any fault of your own, it still is.

WADE WINGLER:  You own that.

JOSH ANDERSON:  We are out there to help people, and you can’t.  It’s absolutely frustrating.  A break your heart.

WADE WINGLER:  You talked about a dinner conversation years ago when you were asked do you like your job, and you had a bad day at work.  What’s the most rewarding about this job? If you are having a dinner conversation and you had a really good day at work now, what made it a good day?

JOSH ANDERSON:  Going back to those things, just helping folks.  Not only that, knowing everyone on the team does it.  This job, it is the people.  Not just people we serve, but the team we have.  You don’t go into nonprofits to become rich, I miss you don’t understand.

WADE WINGLER:  Nonprofit.

JOSH ANDERSON:  A very large learning disability in math if you’re going into that.  The folks that do this, the folks we have on my team, they really and truly love what they do and do it because they want to help people.  There’s been a few days when I’ve come home and had a bad day because of some of the things we talked about earlier, and I’ll come home and talk to my wife.  Should tell me about her day.  Then she’ll look at me and say what did you want to talk about? I don’t remember what I was mad about.  Not that her job is terrible, it’s just within five minutes of talking to her, I forget the bad stuff, and all I can remember is what happened good that day.  At dinner conversations about work, I talk about it somewhat, but it — I don’t know.  I don’t really talk about my job that much outside of work just because it feels good to do it.

WADE WINGLER:  As you think about the future of the clinical assistive technology program, what external forces are you keeping your eye on? What do you look like, when you look out at the horizon and you think about the program five years from now, 10 years from now, what are those external forces that draw your attention?

JOSH ANDERSON:  There are a lot of things.  One, a lot of companies that make assistive technology are merging, coming under one umbrella.  Companies that use to compete are now all one.  That’s all happened not too long ago.  What the long-term repercussions are that, I’m not sure.  I have seen some smaller ones disappear lately, which has been a little weird.  One of the other things on that site is apps and tablets and computers and built in stuff, I’m trying to find more ways to do things that are less expensive.  A lot of kids going to college and stuff are a lot more experienced with technology.  Everyone has a Chromebooks, MacBook, or computer, probably from their school, so they already have experience on that.  So when they enter the working world, they know how to use some of that stuff.  If you can use what they already know, you cut down on the amount of training.  If you can use free things and stuff like that.

The other thing that I’d love to see happen is working with businesses and things like that, coming from employment, the importance of that entire untapped job market of individuals with disabilities, getting the bug in their ear about assistive technology.  I said earlier the frustration when you are sitting in a job interview with someone with a disability, and they give you that look of how is this person going to be able to do this job.  Assistive technology is sometimes that answer.  I’d like them to know that to be able to outreach and get the information out to them just so they know that, when we have a big hiring initiative, if we put this piece of assistive technology, that would help this whole population we could hire and help out.

That’s what I see on the horizon.  I think it’s something that could definitely happen.  I think we do have a lot more socially conscious businesses then we probably did in the past.  I think a lot of them have that community that they want to set themselves apart.  I think that something that can help them do that.

WADE WINGLER:  We’ve just talk about some industry impacts you would like to see, especially about employment and awareness.  Thinking about the technical side of assistive technology and some of the tools that you use and the challenges you had with them, if you could wave a magic wand just once and make a big impact on the that the low side of assistive technology, what would you point your wand at?

JOSH ANDERSON:  Can I get rid of Windows updates? Probably not.

WADE WINGLER:  Maybe.  Self-healing operating system.

JOSH ANDERSON:  That’s a huge question.  Some of the things are coming just because there are now things that can read handwriting.  Truth be told, that would be the one thing I would want.  Not just for folks with vision impairments, but any print disability, dyslexia, anything like that.  To be able to read that handwriting is a huge thing.  You think about turning a paper into a teacher — nowadays, they are probably marking it up in Microsoft Word or something.  But some of them are writing in that red pen.  Put more information here, do this, do that.  To be able to have a device or something where I could scan that in and have it read to me would be huge and would help out tons of people.  If you could read notes from her boss and have those read back to you and digitize anything else.  That would make it so much easier.  I think that would help a huge mass of people.

WADE WINGLER:  Ironically, good timing.  Thank you for that.  Last week in episode number 365 of assistive technology update, we interviewed Saqib Shaikh and Anirudh Koul who are the guys from Microsoft that invented seeing AI.  That’s the first tool that I’ve seen that does that.  It does it for free.  It’s an app that can do handwriting recognition and does a remarkable job.

JOSH ANDERSON:  It really does and has to be the first thing that can do it.  Now that that technology is out there, hopefully other folks will run with it and be able to make it available to anyone.  I think they really that even though app was made for folks who are blind reveal impaired, it has a lot of practical use it for folks with learning disabilities as well.

WADE WINGLER:  For sure.  Personal stuff, anything going on in terms of vacation? Any family stuff happening in your life these days?

JOSH ANDERSON:  You had to ask that, didn’t you? You knew.  My wife and I are expecting a baby in November.  Very excited.  I’ll have a 17-year-old stepdaughter.  By then my stepson will be 10 and the baby will be born.  We are going for one each decade.  We are thinking if we can get them in different generations, then it’s like our own social experiment.  You have a degree in sociology, and I have a minor in that.  It’s kind of fun.  We can sit there and see how they are all affected differently from the world.

WADE WINGLER:  We have a similarity.  I have a 21-year-old at a six-year-old and a five-year-old.

JOSH ANDERSON:  I’m really following in Wade Wingler’s footsteps.

WADE WINGLER:  Beware.  One away.

JOSH ANDERSON:  I don’t know if I can talk her into the second one.  We will see how that goes.

WADE WINGLER:  That probably means notification anytime soon.  You guys are in testing mode?

JOSH ANDERSON:  Pretty much.  To saving that all of.  We got back from going on a house boat to Dale Hollow with a friend for his fortieth birthday.  That was very nice, very good time out there.  It’s a beautiful place if you ever get to visit it.  Very few other boats.  If you want to go for a party boating place, it’s not the way to go.  But if you want to see nature and have some quiet time, it’s great.  And my cell phone didn’t work the entire time I was there.

WADE WINGLER:  I need to go there.  I know there are people listening to the show who are managing assistive technology programs that might look similar, or not so similar.  What advice would you have for someone who is managing a program like yours? If you could give them one minute of advice?

JOSH ANDERSON:  Teamwork.  That’s the only thing I can say.  You can’t do it all alone, and the more you can build up your people, the better you can make them at their job, the more you can help them out, bless you have to do.  Is that the right way? It’s my boss.  I probably shouldn’t to say it that way.  The better the team functions, let’s go with that.

WADE WINGLER:  There you go.  Teamwork makes the dream work.

JOSH ANDERSON:  There you go.  I have all kinds of “managerisms.” Does building that team.  If you are working in this field, it’s because you want to help people.  The better team you can build, the more folks you are going to help.

WADE WINGLER:  If people wanted to learn more about you, see your bio, those kinds of things, where can they go to learn more about you?

JOSH ANDERSON:  They can go to EasterSealsTech.com. I believe we have a staff page.

WADE WINGLER:  EasterSealsTech.com/staff will go there.

JOSH ANDERSON:  It has everything, a picture I’ll never change because I think it’s two years ago.  In 20 years I’ll look great.  I’ll never age and it would be wonderful.  It’s got all the information on there.  I think it’s even got my email address and stuff like that.  I’m usually on ATFAQ see you can check out that podcast couple times a month.

WADE WINGLER:  Excellent.  Josh Anderson is the manager of our clinical assistive technology program here and was my victim.  You let me grab him in the hallway and come sit down in the studio and answer questions unprompted.  Thanks for being with us today.

JOSH ANDERSON:  Think a lot, Wade.  Have a good day.

WADE WINGLER:  Do you have a question about assistive technology? Do you have a suggestion for someone we should interview on Assistive Technology Update? Call our listener line at 317-721-7124, shoot us a note on Twitter @INDATAProject, or check us out on Facebook. Looking for a transcript or show notes from today’s show? Head on over to www.EasterSealstech.com. Assistive Technology Update is a proud member of the Accessibility Channel. Find other shows like this, plus much more, at AccessibilityChannel.com. The opinions expressed by our guests are their own and may or may not reflect those of the INDATA Project, Easter Seals Crossroads, or any of our supporting partners.  That was your Assistance Technology Update. I’m Wade Wingler with the INDATA Project at Easter Seals Crossroads in Indiana.

***Transcript provided by TJ Cortopassi.  For requests and inquiries, contact tjcortopassi@gmail.com***