ATU468 – Createability and Covid 19 with Steve Sutter

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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.

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Steve Sutter:
Hi, I’m Steve Sutter, President of CreateAbility Concepts. And this is your Assistive Technology Update.

Josh Anderson:
Hello and welcome to 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 individuals with disabilities and special needs.

Josh Anderson:
I’m your host, Josh Anderson, with the INDATA Project at Easterseals Crossroads in beautiful Indianapolis, Indiana. Welcome to episode 468 of Assistive Technology Update. It’s scheduled to be released on May 15th, 2020.

Josh Anderson:
On today’s show we’re super excited to have Steve Sutter from CreateAability on, to talk about some of the COVID specific resources that they’re offering right now. We’re looking very forward to our conversation with Steve and this is actually the first episode that I have recorded since, well, since everything kind of went a little upside down back in March. Luckily I am able to get here into the studio just at certain times, still practicing social distancing, wearing a mask, making sure that I’m pretty far away from people, but there’s really not very many other people in the building, so it works out very, very well. But it is nice to get a little bit of a semblance of normalcy and actually be able to talk to someone in, and do these interviews.

Josh Anderson:
Luckily, we were pretty backed up on interviews, kind of walking into this. Many of the shows were already posted as many of our normal listeners will know. In fact, didn’t even mention the Corona virus or COVID-19 until the beginning of May, because all the other shows were already posted, and with stay-at-home orders and other things there just wasn’t time to come into the studio, do all the re edits and kind of change those things for the changing situation around us.

Josh Anderson:
Before we get into the interview, I do want to take a little bit of time to just send a huge shout out to my team. As many of you may know, I also manage our clinical assistive technology services for the [inaudible 00:02:04] six amazing individuals who provide services every day to individuals with disabilities. And they’ve all really been able to keep their focus the same while shifting the way that they provide those services. And many of them are still actually when warranted and needed, meeting with individuals in person, of course, wearing PPE and taking those precautions, but they are still getting out there and making sure that these folks get the services they need to continue to be successful.

Josh Anderson:
Many of the folks that we serve, many are in college and maybe some of the supports that they had there on campus are now gone, because they are no longer on campus and they’re taking online classes from home. A lot of the folks we work with are in the working world, so those jobs have either gone away or perhaps shifted to work from home, which presents new challenges and barriers for individuals. So, I just want to send a huge shout out and a thank you to Craig and Belva, to David, to Anna, to Jim, and to Lisa for all the amazing stuff that they do on a daily basis. And I am very, just blessed, lucky, and ecstatic to be able to work with such an amazing group of individuals.

Josh Anderson:
We hope that you’re all doing well as you shelter in place, as you take precautions to slow the spread of COVID-19. We hope that you’re staying healthy, we hope that you’re staying happy, and we hope that perhaps listening to this show gives you a little something to do to take your mind off of it for a little while. So we thank you so much for tuning in and let’s go ahead and get on with the show.

Josh Anderson:
Are you super busy? Do you feel like you don’t have the time to sit down and listen to a full 30 minute, 60 minute, 90 minute or 120 minute long podcast? Well, we have just the thing for you. Check out our sister show, Accessibility Minute. This is a one minute podcast that talks about some of the cool things in assistive technology, but gives you just a little taste of it so that you can go out and do some research and check them out on your own. So, if you’re looking to learn more about assistive technology, if you’re looking for another podcast, and if you’re looking for something that isn’t going to take up all your time, check out Accessibility Minute, available wherever you get your podcasts.

Josh Anderson:
As we all continue to deal with the challenging times, the stay-at-home orders, the closed businesses, the different way of life for really everyone in this country and further on this world, we can’t forget individuals with different disabilities and how these things might affect them. Well, our guest today is Steve Sutter from CreateAbility. Now, he’s no stranger to the show and it was just on back in December to talk about some of the great things that they offer, but I found out they were offering some specialized equipment for the COVID-19 crisis in helping individuals with different disabilities be able to cope, deal and thrive during these trying times. And I couldn’t wait to have him on to talk about all the great things that CreateAbility is doing and the different tools they have available for different individuals.

Josh Anderson:
Steve, welcome to the show.

Steve Sutter:
Thanks so much, it’s so great to be back. You guys have created this amazing podcast. Didn’t I just read that you guys have had over just under 500 podcasts?

Josh Anderson:
Yeah, yeah. Actually this is episode 468, so yeah.

Steve Sutter:
Wow.

Josh Anderson:
Yeah, coming up on that 500 milestone. And then I think the 520 milestone would be 10 years since it’s been weekly ever since it first began. So, we’re looking really forward to that, looking really forward to that and glad we can still be a resource. And really my favorite part is that I get to talk to folks like you and see kind of what you’re doing.

Steve Sutter:
I got you.

Josh Anderson:
I do appreciate that. Well, Steve, for our listeners who maybe haven’t heard you on the show before, could you tell us a little bit about yourself and about CreateAbility?

Steve Sutter:
Sure. Well, first off it’s all about people. And while we’re going to be talking about technology today, I really wanted to say a first big thank you to all the frontline workers, everyone who’s out there working with people with brain injuries, with intellectual disabilities such as Down syndrome, autism and so on. Everyone in their staff that supports them is just amazing, the work you do. You didn’t get into it for pay, and it’s really tough work, and we just wanted to say a big salute to you, and thank you.

Josh Anderson:
Thank you.

Steve Sutter:
It really helps for me personally, please don’t tell my wife, that this is my purpose and my passion. So I actually haven’t worked a day in over 20 years. Our goal and CreateAbility Concepts is to create innovative technology that eliminates barriers. It helps foster independence and really empower people to flourish beyond their capability. Luckily we didn’t know how smart we were, actually my team. But all of our products are the result of evidence based research and were developed for remote support. So that’s probably why that, even though we were just on the show in December, we now have grown to over 24 different States, even in the middle of the pandemic.

Steve Sutter:
So our customers that are the providers, the agencies, VocRehab, Medicaid waiver programs, anyone who helps people with intellectual developmental disabilities, survivors of a brain injury, or people who support those in the early stage of dementia.

Josh Anderson:
Very nice. And you started mentioning a little bit about the pandemic and everything. And really we had you on today because CreateAbility has launched some resources for folks to utilize during the COVID-19 pandemic and the stay-at-home orders, social distancing, and those things. We want to take a look and talk about each of them. So first, I want to talk about the MeMinder COVID-19 preparedness app and kind of system. But before we do that, can you just give us a quick overview of what exactly MeMinder is?

Steve Sutter:
Sure. It’s a task prompter app. So, any set of instructions that help people with initiation, execution or completion difficulties can be delivered in the way the person [inaudible 00:08:14] needs it. For example, we could present prompts using an app on a phone, tablet, any device, PC, laptop, Chromebook, whatever you need. These prompts could be in the form of audio or talking pictures, step-by-step sequences or full video modeling. And the video modeling can be of themselves performing it previously, someone modeling how to do it, like a supervisor or a jump coach, or watching someone else through it, or even from a person centered point of view. If they used a GoPro, they could actually watch their hands moving from their point of view of how to assemble things, how to do things, how to perform the duties of that job or function or chore.

Josh Anderson:
And Steve, what’s special about the COVID-19 version?

Steve Sutter:
Well, as you know, vulnerable populations such as people we’ve been talking about with intellectual disabilities, survivors of a brain injury or exhibiting early signs of dementia, they don’t do well with social distancing. So, let me tell you a story if I could?

Josh Anderson:
Yeah, definitely.

Steve Sutter:
Pat, Pat heard about the importance of social distancing, disinfecting, cleaning surfaces, not touching their face and coughing into their elbow, but Pat frequently forgot these things and how to do them. And the printed list that the direct support professional or caregiver gave them didn’t have sufficient detail on exactly how to do these things and when to do so. So, Pat’s support staff was frustrated too. Pat just wasn’t getting it and they couldn’t find the right things. So to them, to the care team, it seemed like social distancing was causing more problems than it was actually solving.

Steve Sutter:
So, Pat was luckily already using MeMinder, in their job, currently they can’t work right now, but a member of Pat’s circle of care, simply went to our free public repository for MeMinder and then they selected the pandemic version that was appropriate for Pat. There’s various different levels, simple prompts or full video modeling kind of levels of detail. So using this, Pat is still healthy, happy, confident in independently knowing how to clean their phone, how to thoroughly wash their hands or apply the right amount of sanitizer when they can’t wash their hands and they’re out of the house, how to put on a mask, how to clean surfaces, that Pat used to forget, or that I forget even, microwave handles, light switches, door knobs, those kinds of things. And your phone.

Steve Sutter:
And then at the end of each day, Pat is guided through a quick self assessment to see if they’re at risk for exposure to COVID-19. And their remote direct support professional can now track Pat’s progress every day and even get a photograph verification that the right things were cleaned in the right order.

Josh Anderson:
Oh, I think that’s great. And I think you mentioned something there at the end of the remote direct service professional. Just because then that kind of helps the individual stay socially isolated, not have to have someone there with them, which can definitely help with the spread, but still they can do everything that they need to do in order to be, like you said, safe and happy.

Steve Sutter:
Yes.

Josh Anderson:
So Steve, I noticed on you guys’ website and everything, that you can actually purchase the MeMinder COVID-19 kit. What all comes with that, if it’s purchased that way?

Steve Sutter:
Well, the app can get off the internet, any of the app stores, for 74.95. And again, runs on just about any device. If you want us to pre bundle it on an app, on a device for you, we can do that. We can set it up in the way you would like, and ought to also add in the COVID-19 related task prompting tasks and the quick screen. So we can do all that and bundle that all up for you for an extra $100, plus the device cost.

Josh Anderson:
Very nice, very nice. And you actually offer some kind of remote training and remote assistance that way too, don’t you?

Steve Sutter:
Yes, we do. With that, we bundle it with a remote support tool. We can, with your permission, literally take over control on the device and set it up if you run into a problem or a kink or just forget how to do something, we’ll hop in, give us the ability to take control and then set it up for you and help you work through whatever questions you might have.

Josh Anderson:
And Steve, I could spend the entire show just talking about MeMinder, but I know we talked about that on an earlier show and I want to get through some of the other things that you guys have set up kind of specific to the current situation. So, another one I saw in there was Evaluate Now.

Josh Anderson:
First of all, tell us what is Evaluate Now?

Steve Sutter:
Well, it is a set of assessment tools that span 20 different measures of life covering physical health, emotional health, COVID-19, what do you think about your supervisor, do you like your roommates, what do you think about your independent living or residential setting. You know, those kinds of things are all covered in different assessments, and they’re all delivered with an avatar.

Steve Sutter:
So, if I could continue with our story of Pat?

Josh Anderson:
Yeah.

Steve Sutter:
Pat, again, wasn’t doing well with social distancing and the loneliness was actually increasing Pat’s anxiety, fear, depression, and it resulted in some pretty serious ugly meltdowns with roommates. Now, Pat’s residential coach who had to maintain distance most of the time, was really exasperated too and was desperately struggling to try to find a solution.

Steve Sutter:
And then they found Evaluate Now. So now an avatar of Pat’s choosing asks Pat questions that cover the areas that previously caused Pat to have problems. And as Pat answers these questions, the tablet app reports it into the cloud. So these assessment questions, again, were selected by their staff from the over 20 different assessments available and in our cloud, being called BEAM, and they can also use BEAM to track how Pat is doing. So now the care team can head off things before they can escalate or call in the right supports if Pat is at risk for exposure to COVID-19.

Steve Sutter:
So when those new assessment tools is COVID-19 screening, these questions, by the way, are the ones suggested by the Center for Disease Control and reports in on the risk of exposure. Now we’ve softened some of the clinical language that the CDC uses in a way to present it in a softer way, but still has the same intent or meaning of the screening areas. And then an alert is sent off to whoever is on duty for Pat, if Pat’s risk scores exceed some safe limit, such as exposure to COVID-19 or suicidal ideations.

Josh Anderson:
And how much is Evaluate Now?

Steve Sutter:
Evaluate Now and the BEAM and the Avatalk app, all are $42 per person, per month for small populations, you know, 10 or so, But large populations, it’s just $8 per person, per month, for large groups.

Josh Anderson:
Oh, wow. Very nice. And then let’s talk about Avatalk Communication platform. What’s that?

Steve Sutter:
Well, and we pronounce it Avatalk.

Josh Anderson:
Oh, darn it. See, I knew I was going to mess up something today. At least I got your name right, so we did that right. [crosstalk 00:16:15] Avatalk, sorry about that.

Steve Sutter:
So, Avatalk, well, back to our story with Pat. There are many times that someone in Pat’s care team or circle of care, they want to know the answer to a quick question, like, what’s your temperature today? Or, are you ready to be picked up in a few minutes? We’re swinging by in about 15, are you ready? You know, those kinds of things. And they can text in what the possible answers are as well.

Steve Sutter:
So, they tried video cameras and conferencing, but some of them were confusing to Pat, they didn’t seem to work out well with Pat. And they thought they had a solution with some texting for a while, but Pat didn’t text well either. So that’s when they got Avatalk. And Avatalk lets everyone in the care team do a quick check-in with the resident. So, the care team communicates the way they want to, typically texting, and Pat communicates the way that Pat refers to, interacting with a talking person.

Steve Sutter:
So that’s what Avatalk does. And now when anyone in the approved care team sends a text message to Pat, our server renders that as a talking avatar, presents and talks, reads out loud, the questions and the different answer choices as Pat can select each one to hear what the answers are. And then when they select one and hit send, the answer is then re rendered back to text and sent back to the team as text.

Josh Anderson:
So just a super easy for everyone involved, but it definitely keeps it to where they’re communicating the way they’re most comfortable. And I can see how that could be really helpful. Because I know some of the folks I work with, if you’re doing things the way they’re comfortable, you’re going to get much better answers, and actually get real answers as opposed to maybe just a yes or no, or being ignored.

Steve Sutter:
You’re right. You know, with your experience in all that you do, we used to think that motivation had to be higher than the benefits that they received. It actually is like 10 or a hundred factor. It’s got to be a whole lot higher motivation than the effort to do something. So yeah, by just, like you saying, just doing something that’s in their preferred method of communication, wins. It also was a screen show of favorite memories, favorite times, places, calming events in their life, and all those pictures are simply dropped onto the channel by their care team.

Josh Anderson:
Very nice. And Steve, I think in everything that you talked about today, is something that I know we had someone on the show and they talked about when working with individuals with disabilities, the important word there is ‘with’ and not ‘for’. And I think you definitely in all of those, show that you are really working with the individual, not just kind of like, “Well, here’s the technology, please use it.” But really catering and adjusting it to their special needs and everything, which I think is really cool.

Josh Anderson:
So Avatalk, how much is that platform?

Steve Sutter:
Also 74.95 and runs on everything.

Josh Anderson:
Very good, very good. Now you guys have some other solutions available. Tell me about the SmartMed medication dispenser. And I know I pronounced that one right.

Steve Sutter:
Yes you did. well, like you say, another issue that might crop up during social distancing is medication adherence. The tough thing about medication adherence is you may not know that they’re not taking their meds at the right time or the right dose at the right time for many days or weeks. And then something happens as a result of them not taking their meds.

Steve Sutter:
So, that’s what SmartMed helps to do, is a rotating disc style medication dispenser. A previous version is in your loaner pool or in your little demo room, but we’ve upgraded it heavily and beefier, more mod, modern looking. And, as it rotates, the right slot has the right dose at the right time for this individual, it also logs when the resident takes the meds out, when they tilt the med tray to get them out into their hands, it logs that into cloud. So now they can get notification to their care team that yep, Pat took their meds at the right time.

Steve Sutter:
It can also send alerts out if a certain time elapsed that they didn’t take their meds, and someone else can get a tattletale kind of email or text message. And SmartMed then is $350, and includes, is just all of these are one time purchase, except for the Evaluate Now, of course, which is ongoing, as you need it monthly.

Josh Anderson:
Steve, I know that you’re not the kind of person who likes to sit around on his hands, I know you probably got more ideas floating around in your head than you can even get out in time, and hopefully, maybe all this pandemic gives you a little bit more time to kind of do that. But, do you have anything in the works that you can tell us about?

Steve Sutter:
Well, one really exciting thing, I wanted to give a shout out to Dustin Wright of Disability Cocoon and Holly [inaudible 00:21:41] they have been doing a great job in showing leadership and formulating this group called The Tech Coalition. Right now it consists of 35 vendors, such as CreateAbility that have all bundled different quick deployment kits for deployment of COVID situations. We can do a drop ship right to that individual, realizing that everyone still may need to have social distancing depending on where they are at. And you know, this might be a roller coaster for some time, you know, that we might be over the peak now and things are beginning to open up, but that’s really only because the capacity for people in the hospitals have opened up.

Steve Sutter:
So even the CDC is saying, “Hey, be careful with this.” There may be downstream waves that we go through, there might be, I guess, there’s a new thing called birder hornets.

Josh Anderson:
I heard about that on the news this morning. I was like, “Oh, that’s all we need.”

Steve Sutter:
You know, it seems that this might be a new way of just needing to be more careful. And so, sometimes that means being distant from those we serve or needing to find alternatives to how to serve them. And that’s what The Tech Coalition is all about is, let’s honor social distancing, but still allow everyone to give supports to that team. And so I wanted to give a big shout out to The Tech Coalition for that.

Steve Sutter:
We also have, in addition to the six new States, we have big projects and our team is busy with five different federal grant projects. And as they mature, I’d love to get an invite back and tell you in a future podcast what they do.

Josh Anderson:
No, we will definitely do that. And yeah, you kind of talked about how service delivery will probably stay different after this. I know my team, we’ve been doing a lot of training, even evaluations when possible, remotely. And it’s presented some challenges for sure. But for other folks, I swear it has worked even better. Just, especially if you’re trying to teach someone maybe how to use some assistive technology on a computer. For some of the populations that we serve, it’s a lot easier to do that via a Zoom meeting or a phone call than having somebody actually in your space or kind of hovering over you.

Josh Anderson:
And it seems that some folks are learning better and really progressing more. And then you also brought up Dustin, and we’ve had him on the show here before and talked to him and even done some events with him and everything. And I love that they’re doing that because I think, I mean, especially when I think about group homes, when I think about nursing homes and stuff like that, and all the problems they’ve had during this, that model is probably going to have to be rethought a little bit and kind of changed. So I’m glad that you guys are all getting together in order to work together, to figure out some good ways to help them all out. So, that’s excellent.

Steve Sutter:
Well, thank you. It’s just great to be a part of the whole network and, you know, all the work that you’ve done, your team has done, is just amazing and even play a small part of it, it’s really kind of humbling, so thank you.

Josh Anderson:
Hey, we’re happy to have you not just a resource, but a local resource. I mean, you’re right down the road. So whenever we can all visit each other again, we can actually see it in person, which will always be a nice thing.

Josh Anderson:
Well, Steve, if our listeners want to find out more about CreateAbility, about the apps and everything else, what’s the best way for them to do that?

Steve Sutter:
Couple of ways, email; info@createabilityinc.com, and phone number, you can call me directly, area code (317) 777-0356. My email is also steve@createabilityinc.com.

Josh Anderson:
Excellent. We will put all that in the show notes.

Josh Anderson:
Well Steve, stay well, stay away, I guess. But most of all, thank you so much for coming on the show. Thank you for the things that you guys are doing. Some of those tools were already a huge help to individuals, but then being able to shift a little bit and use them in a little bit of a new way to really help individuals during this tough time as is a great thing. So we love everything that you’re doing and thanks again for coming on the show.

Steve Sutter:
Thanks to you. See you soon.

Steve Sutter:
Most definitely, can’t wait.

Josh Anderson:
Do you have a question about assistive technology? Do you have a suggestion for someone we should interview on Assistive Technology Update? If you do, call our listener line at (317) 721-7124. Shoot us a note on Twitter at indataproject, or check us out on Facebook. Are you looking for a transcript or show notes? Head on over to our website at www.eastersealstech.com.

Josh Anderson:
Assistive Technology Update is a proud member of the Accessibility Channel. For more shows like this, plus so much more, head over to Accessibility Channel.com. The views expressed by our guests are not necessarily that of this host or the INDATA project. This has been your Assistive Technology Update.

Josh Anderson:
I’m Josh Anderson with the INDATA project at Easterseals Crossroads in Indianapolis, Indiana. Thank you so much for listening and we’ll see you next time.