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ATU538 – AVAIL with Lisa Marie Clinton

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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.

Special Guest:
Lisa Marie Clinton – Managing Director of Avail Support
For Additional information about AVAIL: https://availsupport.com/contact
Katrina’s Story:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5AXG3_0IH3Y

Stories:
Accessible Kiosk Story: https://bit.ly/3hoJZSL
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If you have an AT question, leave us a voice mail at: 317-721-7124 or email tech@eastersealscrossroads.org
Check out our web site: http://www.eastersealstech.com
Follow us on Twitter: @INDATAproject
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——- Transcript Starts Here ——-

Lisa Marie Clinton:
Hi, my name is Lisa Marie Clinton, and I’m the founder and managing director of Avail Support by CentralReach, 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. I’m your host, Josh Anderson, with the INDATA Project at Easterseals Crossroads in beautiful Indianapolis, Indiana. Welcome to Episode 538 of Assistive Technology Update. It’s scheduled to be released on September 17th, 2021. On today’s show, we’re super excited to be joined by Lisa Marie Clinton. She’s the managing director of Avail Support, and she’s here to tell us about Avail, and how it can help individuals with different disabilities, become more independent at home, school, and in their jobs. We also have a story about McDonald’s, working to make their self-serve kiosks more accessible for individuals with visual impairments.

Josh Anderson:
Listeners, don’t forget you can always reach out to us if you have someone that might make a good guest, a question, a comment, really anything. We always do love to hear from you. You help us make this show great, and without you it’s just me sitting in a room talking to myself. So please reach out. You can send us an email at tech@eastersealscrossroads.org, call our listener line at (317) 721-7124, or drop us a line on Twitter @INDATAproject. We look very forward to hearing from you, and now let’s go ahead and get on with the show.

Josh Anderson:
After all these months of lockdown, maybe you’re looking for some new podcasts to listen to. Well make sure to check out our sister podcast, Accessibility Minute, and ATFAQ, or Assistive Technology Frequently Asked Questions. If you’re super busy and don’t have time to listen to a full podcast, be sure to check out Accessibility Minute, our one-minute-long podcast, that gives you just a little taste of something assistive technology based, so that you’re able to get your assistive technology fix without taking up the whole day. Hosted by Tracy Castillo, this show comes out weekly.

Josh Anderson:
Our other show is Assistive Technology Frequently Asked Questions, or ATFAQ. On Assistive Technology Frequently Asked Questions, Brian Norton leads our panel of experts, including myself, Belva Smith, and our own Tracy Castillo, as we try to answer your assistive technology questions. This show does rely on you, so we’re always looking for new questions, comments, or even your answers on assistive technology questions. So remember, if you’re looking for more assistive technology podcasts to check out, you can check out our sister shows, Accessibility Minute and ATFAQ, wherever you get your podcasts, now including Spotify and Amazon music.

Josh Anderson:
Story over at QSRweb titled, McDonald’s Installs Vispero Technology in Kiosk for Blind and Low-vision Customers. It says here that some McDonald’s, be them company-owned restaurants, as well as some different franchise locations, are going to be using something called a JAWS Kiosk. So, if you’ve been to McDonald’s lately, or here in the last, I don’t know, five or so years, some of them actually have these big kiosks when you first walk in. And you use these for your order, so you actually sit there and do all your ordering on there. It’s mostly touchscreen, and it’s pretty much all picture-based. There are some words, but most of it’s just kind of pictures of the food and things like that, and you order everything from your meal, your combo, your drink, your dessert, anything that you want is all ordered right there. At the end, you actually pay there at the machine, then you take a little number, and take it to your seat, and/or it gives you a number, and you wait on your food at the counter. Some of them do it a little bit differently.

Josh Anderson:
Of course this would be very inaccessible for an individual with a visual impairment, or who may be blind. But it looks like they’re partnering with Vispero, who is the company that makes JAWS, in order to make a kiosk that is completely accessible. It says the JAWS Kiosk will allow blind and low-vision users the ability to interact with a self-order kiosk, by inserting headphones into the headphone jack. And this headphone jack is on the navigation pad, and then it will actually let them navigate the kiosk screen with this navigation pad, and it will read all the content as they move through the application. So if you think about it, it’s kind of like using a keyboard with a tablet kind of thing. So instead of having to touch the screen, you can use different keystrokes and things like that, in order to be able to access it.

Josh Anderson:
So I hope to definitely see more of this from other companies. I know definitely here in the United States, and probably around the world, there’s a huge staffing shortage. I know most of the places, if you drive down the road out here in front of Easterseals Crossroads, every single restaurant, fast food, sit down, any which one, has now hiring signs. Some of them have many, many, many now hiring signs out front, just to try to get your attention. One way around that, of course, would be to use this kiosk. That kind of gets rid of that frontline worker having to work the register. And in doing that, that really cuts down on accessibility, because the person behind the counter can usually maybe recognize a need, and be able to help the individual, whereas a kiosk is not going to be able to figure that out.

Josh Anderson:
But if these shortages continue, I’m pretty sure a lot of businesses may go this way, of kind of that, order your food from a giant kiosk, which are mostly touchscreen… I mean, they do try to make them pretty and look good… which aren’t always the most accessible. So it’s good to know that there is something out there that can accommodate low-vision and blind individuals, when they want to order from one of these self-order kiosks. We’ll put a link to the story over in our show notes, but just remember, next time you go out for fast food, if you see one of those kiosks, there just might be a way to access it, even with a visual impairment.

Josh Anderson:
On today’s show, we’re very excited to talk about Assisted Visuals Achieving Independent Living, or Avail. Our guest is Lisa Marie Clinton, the founder and managing director of Avail Support, and she’s here to tell us all about how Avail can assist individuals to be more independent at home, at school, at their jobs, and really anywhere else. Lisa Marie, welcome to the show.

Lisa Marie Clinton:
Hi, Joshua. Thank you for having me on.

Josh Anderson:
I am really excited to start talking about the technology, but before we do that, can you tell our listeners a little bit about yourself and your background?

Lisa Marie Clinton:
Sure. Well, I started my teaching career, working with children and autism in one of the first ADA schools here in Ireland, if you didn’t get the accent. And while working in education, and employment, and [inaudible 00:06:44] families, I was quite frustrated with the lack of follow-on support into adulthood, and from witnessing firsthand how the individuals I was supporting, were not reaching their full potential. I [inaudible 00:06:59] frustration into a solution, then maybe an opportunity, and then [inaudible 00:07:06] developing a platform that would enhance and increase independence across the lifespan. So that’s really where it started and a bit of my background.

Josh Anderson:
Excellent, and you kind of led right into, what is Avail?

Lisa Marie Clinton:
Well, you said in your introduction, it stands for Assisted Visuals Achieving Independent Living. And what it is, it’s a digital platform and program, that teachers and empowers individuals with a cognitive-related disability, to achieve independence. And this might be through functional life skills, and employment skills. And what we did through my background in best practice using applied behavioral analysis, and task analysis, and [inaudible 00:07:46] hierarchy, we built this into a digital platform, that enables service providers to deliver high-quality program, that is both personalized to the individual and their goals, and their learning styles. So just to give an example, an employment agency, it’s [inaudible 00:08:00] some of them are offering. And they create a digital employment coaching program for that individual, that is like a job coach, when the job coach cannot be there. So they replicate [inaudible 00:08:20] prompts, to enable that individual to be successful at completing it by themselves.

Lisa Marie Clinton:
And the results from that, is that you have higher productivity, increased confidence, less one-to-one support, and you’re building a stronger relationship with the employee, and the individual’s [inaudible 00:08:39]. So that’s kind of an example of… Well, in addition to providing prompts, we also have stats and models, then we have reporting. So really we’re providing best practice for each of the stakeholders, from the individual, to the staff member, to management, to funders, and state providers. So that’s really unique, that it is quite a comprehensive enterprise solution.

Josh Anderson:
No, definitely. It really is. I want to dig just a little bit deeper into kind of how this is beneficial to all those different folks? So you’ve touched on this a little bit, if we can dig in a little bit deeper? How is it beneficial to the user, the employee, the individual who kind of needs the services?

Lisa Marie Clinton:
Well, who wants a one-to-one person looking over the shoulder all the time, or a job coach checking up on them continuously? None of us want that, and it’s the same for an individual that has a disability. They’re striving to be independent. So Avail is self-directed, it’s engaging, it’s socially acceptable, and we’ve kind of all been aware of… Well, COVID has pushed us to look at digital solution. This is really just [inaudible 00:09:50] how we support individuals. So one, you can create content on the system, and the second option is that we… because of our passion and our expertise… we create content that will support someone to be employment ready, to address some of the concerns or challenges they may have in getting a job, and then on-site support.

Lisa Marie Clinton:
So content relating to interview skills, address the customer, [inaudible 00:10:18] payslips, and then the expectation that the employer has [inaudible 00:10:24], so if it’s using some sort of machinery, or [inaudible 00:10:28], or [inaudible 00:10:29], or some kind of [inaudible 00:10:31], whatever it may be, it is a turnkey program that can be with the individual on-site, but also at home. So here, we’re enabling service delivery outside of the four walls that it was traditionally provided in, so that individual can have the support and the confidence to recognize and to learn the skills that is expected of them when they go into the employment setting.

Josh Anderson:
Very nice. And besides just not having to be there looking over the individual’s shoulder, what are some of the benefits to the job coach, or the employer, or the person actually helping the individual?

Lisa Marie Clinton:
Well look, we’re extending what they can do. So job coaches, they are under pressure. They are supporting a number of clients who may need support at busy times, which we’ve heard from job coaches to say, 12:00 to 4:00 is commonly time in the day that their individuals need help with. So it means a long waiting list. So what Avail can do, is offer an extended program to support individuals 24/7. So an employment provider in Colorado, who can now support… Well, I think it’s 2.5 additional clients, because Avail’s acting like a job coach, because it can monitor remotely. And in return, we’ve talked some pilots and programs with the vocational rehabilitation through DVR, and they have also supported under assistive technology. So really it’s support [inaudible 00:12:12] job coaches and for service providers. It’s enabling them to expand their service delivery, and to address [inaudible 00:12:20], and service more individuals. And in quite a cost-effective manner as well.

Josh Anderson:
Oh, definitely. And I was a job coach before I did this. I know that’s kind of the hardest thing, when everybody has to work at the same time. And some individuals work a whole lot better without that person looking over their shoulder, so that’s great that they can still have that support, without actually having to have the physical body there, kind of single them out, making them look different than everyone else.

Lisa Marie Clinton:
Exactly.

Josh Anderson:
It’s a little bit easier if you can use something you already have. When reading about Avail, I found something about the five steps to independence, can you tell me what those are?

Lisa Marie Clinton:
Oh, very good. You’ve been during your research. This was basically a best practice model that we do quite manually, but again we want to ensure that we’re building a best practice kind of system, that you may not have a degree or a master’s in ADA, but by default, by using this system, you’re following the guidelines in creating personalized programs. So this is the five steps that we go through as part of our training, but also that the system will guide you through. So step one… Well, where we start off with any individual, we look back, or walk back, what do they need? What environment do they work within? What are their goals? And what tasks are we going to add? So this would typically be done maybe within an assessment, which you would have with any kind of service delivery.

Lisa Marie Clinton:
So you may have this already available, and again, we’re just checking that we truly know what this individual needs. So what tasks are we going to work on, and what prompts do they need? So some it might be a new skill, so it’s, use the photocopier. And some, they may not understand this photocopier, and they need other steps. So some, they may know half of the steps to use the photocopier and photocopy the necessary requirements of documentations. So step one, understand the tasks that’s needed. Step two, create the content that’s needed to teach that individual to do it by themselves. So the system asks you, “What’s step one?” If you’re going through your task analysis, you would identify video, audio, text, or pictorial prompts to teach it. Again, think of your job coach. How are they doing it? What prompts is currently provided, and how we can digitalize it. So that’s step two. We create the content.

Lisa Marie Clinton:
Step three, you will enable repetition. So you will prompt through [inaudible 00:15:03] that the individuals are engaged in within the system, and practicing these steps and prompts. Step four, then reassess, “Is this successful? Is someone progressive in learning this task through Avail?” And we can actually analyze that through repetition, and usage, and views on the system, that, “How efficient are they at completing the task?” So we’d say, “Six views now equate to 60% independence,” because of this built-in assessment. Which is really, really valuable, quantifiable data to have, which is not available within the ADA service at the moment. And the final step, is that we just review this. So we continuously assess, we create new skills, and we build up that individual to reach their full potentiation, and to get as independent as possible.

Josh Anderson:
Excellent. And that’s where the goal of everything that I know we do in assistive technology, is that independence, getting those folks to do those kinds of steps, and it sounds like a great way to help get them there. Well, I know you guys also have some information and trainings kind of available through Avail, what are some of those?

Lisa Marie Clinton:
Well, really that they’re personalized to each kind of market, and each service provider that we work with. So it’s quite interactive, so it’s online. We have done some on-site training as well. And we do it within two sessions. So the first session is around kind of the background, creating content. Then we allow a week in between, where all our staff member will create content on the system. We then can assess and provide some feedback on how to create the content, and also by creating your own organization library.

Lisa Marie Clinton:
So one of the unique offerings, is that… Well say a school, can create content and share that scale… Again, for us it’s about sustainability and scalability. So the content that was created, let’s say around fire drill, or some academic skills, or functional skills, that one teacher creates, can be shared with others. So we work with the organization to build up their library, that they have a turnkey content available that they’ve created, but also that we can create. So that’s what we do within that week, and the final session, we review the content, we look at assessments, and we do reporting. So it’s all done, obviously kind of virtually, but again, it could be on-site as well. So really, at the end of the training, we ensure that everyone understands all the features, and can, the following day, start implementing a digital program with their clients.

Josh Anderson:
Excellent. Excellent. That answered about my next three questions. So darn it, we’re almost done. No, I’m just kidding. I’m just kidding. Lisa Marie, as we kind of talk about this, and everything… We’ve talked about the users using it, and all those kinds of things, what kind of devices would a user be using this on, say at the job, or where they would need it?

Lisa Marie Clinton:
Really we want it to be… And we kind of recognize that it needs to be available on the mainstream devices that our individuals would be familiar with. So this system, it’s not just an application, it’s a full kind of comprehensive system with a web portal, and we are on multiple different servers, based in countries that we offer this in. And then with the application, it’s on IOS, Android, and [inaudible 00:18:36] on a smart device. So that could be a phone or a tablet. So really, you are kind of reaching most of the range of where our users would be operating on, and that’s kind of from feedback and research that we’ve done, that they are the three most common devices. And that [inaudible 00:18:56] usable on an iPad and phone, because again, we want to it accessible to the individual, whether they’re in school with an iPad, or an older individual who has their smartphone, where their prompts should be available as and when they need them, and obviously that would be on a mobile device.

Josh Anderson:
Excellent. Can you tell me a story about someone that’s been assisted by Avail?

Lisa Marie Clinton:
Oh, I have loads of stories. And that’s our motivation, when we hear these stories back, because we’re [inaudible 00:19:26], and I don’t see myself as [inaudible 00:19:30]. I’m still an educator. I’m just teaching more individuals that I could when I was doing it one-to-one. But there’s a great story… I’m going to tell this story, because it’s on our website, and the video probably portrays it a lot more than I can kind of share with you. But it’s a [inaudible 00:19:48] called Katrina. She’s from Colorado, and [inaudible 00:19:54] employment agency [inaudible 00:19:56] started a job [inaudible 00:19:58] employment setting, and she wanted to be independent. She had some previous placements that broke down. She needed a lot of support, and on the system we created all of the employer’s duties that she was expected to [inaudible 00:20:15]. So it was about how to groom, and use [inaudible 00:20:18], and greet customers, and whatever, and just a full range of [inaudible 00:20:23]. And she was really successful in completing that.

Lisa Marie Clinton:
But because we have technology, this easily transferred to home, because she was coming home with this device. And her parents wanted… like any young lady… want her to be as independent as possible doing certain activities at home. So they created different hygiene, using the dishwasher and washing machine, like what you’d want any kind of teenager or young adults to be doing at home, on her device. And it was just incredible. It really [inaudible 00:21:02]. Well it was implemented [inaudible 00:21:02] employment, we’re seeing a serious impact felt at homes, and in addition to that, in the community. So her mother in the video will speak about how she goes and gets your nails done. And they reported just how confident she was when she went into the salon, and questioned it for medications changed. And the mother will say that it was down to Avail, and how it was prompting her, and how she was now going to request additional goals to put on the system, because she felt that this was a way that she could learn, and that she could achieve goals that before she didn’t think was imaginable.

Josh Anderson:
And those are always my [inaudible 00:21:56], when you set out to learn one thing, and then you always get to the point where those things you never thought would be possible, suddenly there’s a way to get there.

Lisa Marie Clinton:
Oh, we’re shocked. And I think that’s why you need to be close to the individuals that you work with, because you might think a certain outcome, or when you’re developing, a certain feature might be useful, but really is that you have to work with your market too, with the individuals that we’re hoping to serve, to truly understand what they need, and what outcome does this have, and that was just a great example of that. We taught one thing, and we just heard so much other feedback. It was just incredible for us and the team to recognize our true development as a software that, that’s the impact that it has.

Josh Anderson:
And I even want to go back to kind of how you started talking about everything, talking about kind of the breakdown after individuals get out of school, and we have that here in the states as well. It’s kind of the same thing. You have a whole team of folks helping you get through school, but as soon as that’s done, you’re kind of on your own if you don’t know where to go. So having extra tools in place can really help folks just be a whole lot more independent, be able to live their own lives in the way that they want to. And it sounds like Avail is a great tool to do that.

Lisa Marie Clinton:
So one example that we’ve just completed. So this is new stats out. It was with our organization in California, and they implemented Avail, and we assessed what the outcomes were for both the individuals that they serve, but also within organization-level. And some of the outcomes that was reported, one was on savings. So they noted that net savings of $240 per month on direct one-to-one staff time, which is incredible and enabled them to work with more individuals. One other outcome that they noted from the [inaudible 00:23:58], was 70% reduction in data collection, and that’s because the system itself automatically collects data that is relevant to… let’s say… federal requirements, funders, or just best practice to show how someone is achieving skills. So 70% is an incredible achievement for both the individuals working… The staff member that’s working with the individuals, because they now obviously can get through an appointment a lot quicker, and can spend maybe more direct time.

Lisa Marie Clinton:
And the final increase, which motivates me the most, is how successful the solution was with the end user. And they again recorded 76% increase in mastering skills. So if you had an individual within an organization, and they were working on [inaudible 00:24:56], they could increase and learn those skills at such a fast pace. We’ll look at what else we can offer them, or how we can, I suppose, challenge them to learn more, to up-skill in employment, or more integration into community, or be closer to living independently. So we, of course, are highly motivated by some of those results, and we want to offer this to as many organizations and individuals as possible, and continue to research to understand the successes in our company.

Josh Anderson:
Well, Lisa Marie, if our listeners want to find out more, what’s the best way for them to do that?

Lisa Marie Clinton:
They can contact us on our website. We have a contact page there. And our website is availsupport.com. And you can go to the contact page, and you can write us a note, or whatever question you may have, or even just if you want to set up a call and speak to the team.

Josh Anderson:
Lisa Marie Clinton, thank you so much for coming on today, telling us all about Avail and how it can help individuals really just become a whole lot more independent.

Lisa Marie Clinton:
Thank you very much.

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 so, call our listener line at (317) 721-7124, send us an email at tech@eastersealscrossroads.org, or shoot us a note on Twitter @INDATAproject. Our captions and transcripts for the show are sponsored by the Indiana Telephone Relay Access Corporation, or InTRAC. You can find out more about InTRAC at relayindiana.com. A special thanks to Nicole Prieto for scheduling our amazing guests, and making a mess of my schedule. Today’s show was produced, edited, hosted, and fraught over by yours truly. The opinions expressed by our guests are their own, and may or may not reflect those of the INDATA Project Easterseals Crossroads, our supporting partners, or this host. This was your Assistive Technology Update, and I’m Josh Anderson with the INDATA Project at Easterseals Crossroads in beautiful Indianapolis, Indiana. We look forward to seeing you next time. Bye-bye.

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