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ATU577 – Employment Pathfinder and CreateAbility Updates 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.

Special Guest:
Steve Sutter – CreateAbility
Website: www.createabilityinc.com
Email: info@createabilityinc.com

Phone: 317-798-4101

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—– Transcript Starts Here —–

Steve Sutter:
Hi, this is Steve Sutter, 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 welcomed episode 577 of Assistive Technology Update. It’s scheduled to be released on June 17th, 2022.0.

Josh Anderson:
On today’s show, we’re very excited to welcome back Steve Sutter from Create Ability to talk about some of the great new things they have, including the Employment Pathfinder.

Josh Anderson:
Folks, don’t forget, we want to make sure that this show is a great service to the community and to our listeners. And the best way to do that is to get feedback from you. So, please reach out. You can send us an email at tech@eastersealscrossroads.org. Or call our listener line at 317-721-7124. Or drop us a line on Twitter @indataproject, your questions, your comments, your complaints, or your ideas for guests we should have on the show are all welcome, and help us to make this show a great resource for you and the rest of our listeners. Thank you so much for listening. Now, let’s go ahead and get on with the show.

Josh Anderson:
Maybe you’re looking for some new podcast to listen to, well make sure to check out our sister podcast Accessibility Minute and AT FAQ 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, the show comes out weekly. Our other show is Assistive Technology Frequently Asked Questions or AT FAQ. On Assistive Technology Frequently Asked Questions, Brian Norton leads our panel of experts, including myself, Velva 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.

Josh Anderson:
So remember, if you’re looking for more assistive technology podcasts to check out, you can check out our sister shows: Accessibility Minute, and AT FAQ, wherever you get your podcasts now, including Spotify and Amazon Music.

Josh Anderson:
Today, listeners, I am pleased to welcome back Steve Sutter to Assistive Technology Update. For long time listeners of the show. You’ll recognize Steve as the voice of CreateAbility, and he’s been a long time friend of the show. And has been nice enough to come on quite a few times and talk about the great solutions that they have for individuals with disabilities. Well, he’s back today to tell us about the new and exciting things coming out of CreateAbility. Steve, welcome back to the show.

Steve Sutter:
Oh, thank you. It’s so great to be here again. Our office is in [inaudible 00:03:16] too.

Josh Anderson:
Yeah. Steve is right down the road and is nice enough to actually be here in the studio, which is a rarity. In fact, I think he was the last person I actually had in the studio. So, I’m very excited to have him here in the flesh to be able to talk to us.

Josh Anderson:
Well, Steve, for our new listeners can you tell us just a little bit about yourself?

Steve Sutter:
Sure. Well, I always dreamed of helping people using technology. And 20 years ago I had this divine intervention moment to just go do it. So I left my career at Hewlett Packard, HP, and started CreateAbility.

Josh Anderson:
And we’re very, very glad that you did. And I hear that CreateAbility is having its 20 year anniversary this year, which is awesome. So can you give us an overview of just what is CreateAbility?

Steve Sutter:
Sure. Well, real simple, our mission is to create innovative products that can help a person, not only to be in more independent, but to really have the best life possible.

Josh Anderson:
Awesome.

Josh Anderson:
Now, we’ve got you on the show today to talk about some new things that you have out there. So, let’s start by talking about the Employment Pathfinder. Now, what is this?

Steve Sutter:
Well, this is a career exploration, or career discovery tool that helps match the individual with intellectual disabilities to the different job opportunities that are out there. Basically, what it does is it tries to fulfill that goal of the community integrated employment of real jobs with real wages. So, it consists of an app for the individual. And it has a built in screen reader to lower that cognitive load. And then, it connects to a cloud service, a dashboard for the staff where they can weigh in on the individual themselves as well, and run reports, and get an actionable plan on how to better find the real match opportunities for that individual.

Steve Sutter:
We hear a lot about people that they say, “Well, I’ll take anything.” Well, that’s not really true. And three months in, it might be a very different story. So, let’s try to not put that square peg in a round hole. Let’s try to find what the actual opportunity is that matches their interests, and their skills, and so on.

Josh Anderson:
Oh, most definitely. And make ’em happy, make ’em something they can actually stay at, and want to be at. I know when I was a job coach, I would get that a lot too. “I just want to work. I just want to work.” And I’ve had a whole lot of jobs, Steve, and I can tell you I like workin’, but not all those jobs and not for a long time.

Josh Anderson:
So, tell me, how does Employment Pathfinder work kind of for the job seeker?

Steve Sutter:
Well, it’s an app that talks to them, reads to them. The question, answers, as well as the answer options. They can go back and forward. They can always put it down if they get tired, or bored, and pick it up later. And always remembers where they left off. But it’s something that they could independently answer assessments about their onboarding, such as their job readiness. In other words, we want to find out, are they sitting at home playing video games all day, or do they have a routine? Do they have chores? Do they have a schedule? Do they know how to pick out clothing for appropriate dress for the next day? Can they stand more than three hours at a time, that’s required by many jobs. And these different categories of job readiness, their work history, maybe as a volunteer, what are some transferable skills that we could leverage into a new position? What they’re interviewing skills are at? And do they have any comfort with technology?

Steve Sutter:
Even if they answer that they don’t have any, by the time they experience going through the Employment Pathfinder app, they really gain confidence on their ability to use technology. Now, we just need to help ’em keep the unit charged, and not drop it off the refrigerator, and things like that.

Josh Anderson:
Oh, definitely. Well, I’m sure through that might even figure out maybe what some of their interests are, or kind of what they’re really truly looking for. ‘Cause it is hard, especially if you’ve never worked to even know what’s out there. I mean, did you know that anything like CreateAbility could possibly be out there? I know you built it, so that’s not really a very good example, but, but you know what I mean. I didn’t know assistive technology existed before I kind of worked in this field. Had I known that maybe that would’ve been a goal I would’ve went for much younger but…

Steve Sutter:
Yeah, when I started this, this was Ask Jeeves, there was no Google. And on my 1200 baud AOL account, I dialed up and looked for assistive and technology, and people with disabilities, and it came up with nothing, no matches. So, yeah, you’re right.

Josh Anderson:
And it probably took a while to come up with those no matches back in those days.

Steve Sutter:
It did, yeah. At 1200 baud, you bet, yeah.

Steve Sutter:
So, to that point, this app then takes them into an area where they get to look at little video snippets of various jobs. So, they select a category, and then they look at different aspects of that job, up to 45 different videos are in the system, in the app, built in. And they get to then, weigh in on I would really like to learn more about that job, or I’d really like this job, or no, no, no I do not want this kind of job. And that helps really narrow the options of where the exploration could go next.

Steve Sutter:
Like you say, it could be a door to a door. And it also then gets ’em through this. With their consent, all the data of course is uploaded to the cloud. But for those areas of interest, it actual actually goes through and actually interviews them on do you have the skills it might take to be a rockstar? Or to be a ninja warrior at this kind of a job? So, it’ll give them different questions that you need to be able to be good at. And they self-rate where they’re at.

Josh Anderson:
Okay.

Steve Sutter:
And then after that’s uploaded to the cloud, staff can then see their answers, weigh in on behalf of that individual, how they would rate that individual. And then, they click a button and it produces a job report, which lists here’s the gaps between where you rated them, where they rated themselves. Also, for the job skill areas where we want them to be, and where they are, or where you weighted them at and shows the different strategies, and tactics, and enabling technology that are out there that might help bridge that gap for them.

Josh Anderson:
Nice. That’s great. And you kind of mentioned this a little bit, kind of in your answer there, but what are all the benefits of using the Employment Pathfinder for like the employment services staff? So, the job coach and the other folks involved?

Steve Sutter:
Well, the big overriding spirit is sanity only exists if you match people correctly. If you don’t have a good match, then you’re forever supporting them in that role to try to make up for previous issues.

Josh Anderson:
Sure.

Steve Sutter:
And let’s avoid that from the get go. So, you never have to say to Johnny, the Johnny, or Betty, or Nancys of the world, “No, no, no, you can’t have that kind of job.” But what you can say is, “Okay, Johnny, if you want that job area, we got some work to do. And now we have an actual report on how to bridge those gaps. Let’s work on that together.”

Josh Anderson:
And that makes it so much easier Because I know that’s always been… And, again, this is just kind of going back to my time as a job coach, but when you have that, I don’t want to use the word bad placement. But when you have that placement where it’s just not that good of a fit independence, I mean is the overarching goal. That’s what you want to do at the end, but yet you’re always having to support the person. And there is supportive employment and folks that always just need that little bit. But if it’s a good match, it’s just kind of once a week, once a month, “Hey, how’s everything going?” “Hey,” to them, to the employer and that’s it you check the box, everything’s going well. So awesome, that’s great to have that little bit of help. So you’re not having to be there weekend week out and have face time with everybody.

Josh Anderson:
So Steve, why do you think that this is important, and whom all can it help?

Steve Sutter:
Well, the employment service providers, they’re experiencing this record staff shortage area in each of the steps in the employment process. Now, we’ve heard about employment shortages, and staff shortages for years, but it’s really severe now. So, Employment Pathfinder presents a standardized process that’s been leveraged off of best practices over 20 years, or more of our experience in this field of making good placements, learning from bad placements, and trying to figure out how to identify those areas that might be a problem downstream. Not to eliminate them from the step, but just to say, “This might be an issue. Let’s highlight it, put it into the plan so we can bridge it and be aware of it as we go.”

Steve Sutter:
So this means that newer staff, when they come on board, they can hop right into a standard process. They can come up to speed more quickly. And it integrates into the whole process as well. For example, job shadowing is a really powerful, and a frequently used method. But it can drive you insane if you don’t first have an idea of help me pinpoint the areas that we really should be shadowing. Coordinating that, it’s expensive, it’s a big impact on everyone that they’re shadowing on the employer in that job category. And then, we’ve also heard that from employers that they love knowing that the job seeker, their job candidate has been through this process. They know that there’s a reason why they’re here now that they have some aptitude, or interest in this area. And they have a plan on how to bridge anything that might exist.

Steve Sutter:
So, the app sign’s free. And quickly and easy to download by the individual all by themselves off the App Store. Many people have done that. And then, the provider pays just $49 for whenever they run a report, they can use all the other aspects of the system up until then. Or they could get a $2500 annual subscription and use it unlimited. And this option really enables the Employment Pathfinder to be used at multiple times through the employment process.

Josh Anderson:
Sure.

Steve Sutter:
Kind of feed into the performance evaluation phase at the 3 month, or 6 month, or 12 month interval and to find out, are we conversing on the plan? No, let’s do a check-in.

Josh Anderson:
That’s really great. And you brought up a couple of good points there. We actually had a VR counselor in an area here in Indiana, reach out to us and just say, “Hey, do you know any job coaches in this area?” ‘Cause all the job coaches in that area they covered are gone. They all left so there’s no one to provide that kind of service. And it’s always been, I don’t want to say a high turnover job ’cause you have folks that have been doing it for a long time and are really, really great at it. But you’re right, I mean, there’s a staffing shortage in it as there is pretty much everything these days, which is, oh, I guess a double edged sword. It’s bad because you’re short on job coaches, but it’s great for the job seekers because there’s jobs to be had. There’s many more to really, and truly have.

Josh Anderson:
But I do love the way that it helps. And I love that you brought up the job shadowing because, from an employer standpoint, if I have someone coming in who already has some of those skills I already kind of know what they’re coming in with I can almost use that job shadow, not that this is how an employer should use a job shadow, but almost as a job application. As far as well, let’s see what they can do also. And then, what we can work with. And I mean, I can see the job shadows turning into more employment opportunities, as opposed to just seeing what the job looked like. So just by having that tool in their hands, and having that little bit.

Josh Anderson:
So Steve, tell me a story about someone that’s been assisted by Employment Pathfinder.

Steve Sutter:
You bet. Well, one example is the state of Tennessee. They ran a large pilot study for one year that included Employment Pathfinder with 14 different providers in the state. The results were really so positive that the state will now plan to include this as part of their offerings for those in their Medicaid waiver programs, for those in their DIDD programs down in Tennessee.

Steve Sutter:
For example, one of the providers there, Madison-Haywood Developmental Services, they had two job seekers that were using Employment Pathfinder, and they loved taking an active role in the whole process. They could really feel like they were more involved and really more person centered in the whole process. It also offloaded a lot of work by other people in the process now, that the individual was more empowered to do that themselves.

Steve Sutter:
One seeker even downloaded the app all by themselves, answered all the questions, and then said, “So, when can we start?” And then, staff loved it, that the report saved so much time. It really helped give them that standard process. And now, they had standard actionable steps to know what are the areas of interest that there’s some aptitude? What are the areas of interest that maybe we’re gonna need more support so let’s build that into the plan to see if that’s possible? And really come up with that really good match. We all have to put some efforts sometimes in getting that square peg in that round hole. But we just don’t want to shave off a whole lot of those corners. And this really helps us understand where are those gap areas? So it’s really one of the suite of things that I know you were talking about.

Steve Sutter:
What’s coming up next? One of those areas is Employment Pathfinder is part of a suite of offering we call the Employment Suite. So, MeMinder has been on the show a couple times and thank you for that. And it helps in those placement after the placement. Helps ’em in that task prompting, knowing what to do next in the video modeling, or just talking pictures view, or talking pictures to do list mode, whatever is needed by that individual in that task.

Steve Sutter:
And then, Evalu8Now is also part of that suite. That’s what monitors how the individual’s feeling physically, emotionally, mentally as they go throughout the job.

Josh Anderson:
Nice. And I like that you’re packaging all those together. And I really like, and one thing that kind of struck me when you first started talking about Employment Pathfinder was the person being at the center of, well, doing everything. And a lot of times it’s hard as a job coach, as an employment consultant, as really even I guess, an AT specialist sometimes to make sure that you kind of help, but pull back. Make sure that it’s always, how do they say it, with not for. That you’re always working with the individual. Because, at the end if it’s done correctly, as a job coach, an AT specialist, you should fade in the background, and be gone. That person should be independent, doing it all on their own. And including them from the very beginning is the best way to get there. So I do like that you’re giving ’em the tools to be able to do that.

Josh Anderson:
Steve, you mentioned MeMinder and Evalu8Now. You kind of touched on them just a little bit. But tell our listeners that haven’t heard you on the show before maybe just, I guess, the elevator speech of what those tools are. And maybe some of the other tools available from CreateAbility. Don’t go too in depth, we’ll be here all day long. And I know I don’t want to keep you too long, but go ahead.

Steve Sutter:
Sure. Lead with Evalu8Now. Basically, we found that many times individuals has fears, phobias, anxieties that may not surface in the initial job placement, job interview, career exploration processes. But as they get into the stresses of the job, working with people, they’re not familiar with, maybe a boss in a role that they’ve never had that kind of relationship with anyone before these things can emerge.

Steve Sutter:
And if we don’t keep our finger on the pulse of what’s happening between their ears, they can emerge in a very unfriendly way, and sometimes freak out the employer, the coworkers, the other coworkers that don’t have disabilities in that area. And what we don’t want to do is have that individual get blackballed by the process. So, let’s keep tabs on what’s going for those individuals. Because we found that in Indiana and throughout the Midwest, it’s common that 50 to 60% of individuals with intellectual disabilities also have challenging behaviors, or behavioral health issues. And they need tools to help measure those, and know what to do. So, another product called OnTracker is for those individuals that have been identified as having self emotional management issues, we give them a tool called an OnTracker, another app that helps them with those steps.

Steve Sutter:
It gives them nine different tools that they could use in any situation like, okay, I had a blow out with my roommate before I went off to work. But when I got to the bus, I got soaked because the bus was late, but I forgot my lunch. And now, the day is not going real well. And I’m talking about me. But for the individual, it could be really serious, and it really helps them get those, “Now what do I do again to kind of beacon, to mend that relationship that I messed up before I went off to work this morning? What can I do to help distract my brain from thinking the wrong things that are not in alignment with my goals and my objectives?” It’s kind of this on track thinking philosophy.

Steve Sutter:
Other tools would help people in their home called avatalk where I’m getting ready to swing by to pick you up Johnny, are you ready? Answer options are yes. Oops, can you give me 15 minutes? I just get out the shower. Or I’m not feeling well, can we reschedule? Those kind of things. And you text ’em to Johnny’s device. It gets rendered as a talking avatar. Asks those questions of Johnny. He taps on the answer that best reflects his answer. And then it comes back to the staff as text. And it resumes kind of a slideshow of their favorite memories, people, events in their life. So, that’s avatalk.

Steve Sutter:
And then, another one is in the area of person-centered planning. Many people use a variety of tools, actually templates in Word doc, or PDF documents are the number one technique and approach. This is a $10 app, break the bank kind of app that really helps individuals be able to have a person-centered plan based on positive psychology.

Steve Sutter:
So, we found that you can be in a bad situation that’s also getting better. And that’s what we’re trying to do is come up with a plan that helps them transition step to step. And, like in a task prompting way, gives them tasks they could do each day that are in alignment with those goals, with those objectives that they listed. So, if they want to someday go to Disney world, let’s practice by let’s practice waiting in line, let’s practice being polite to a vendor when we’re getting a Coke, let’s practice taking our turn when using the restroom, those kind of things. Let’s practice at a county fair, or one of those parking lot shopping mall-

Josh Anderson:
And just kind of work up to the big things so that it doesn’t have all the surprises or the negative surprises just as the good and the positive ones.

Steve Sutter:
Yeah. So you could build this plan slowly, taking baby steps as the individual needs. And then, check them off. And then, they’re ready for another goal. So, as we talked earlier, it’s amazing how when you help people, undergird them with the right support, the right natural supports using technology when it’s appropriate, it really builds their confidence. And it’s been amazing to see what’s happened over the last 20 years that, well, even 19 years ago, there was this three Fs that people are with intellectual disabilities are limited by either being in the food industry, the filth industry, or some kind of flowers, or landscaping kind of roles.

Steve Sutter:
We don’t see that anymore. We see the more mobile worker, the worker that’s gonna be moving around so we need mobile technology. And much of our stuff can be used in a bicep jogging strap. And they don’t look any different. They’re just using a Bluetooth headset hear what to do next. They look just like anyone. And allows them to be mobile, allows them to be able to be flexible in their job.

Steve Sutter:
Everybody’s seen a big box store where there’s oops, clean up on Aisle 3. Now, I know we tell Nancy or Juanita do this, then this, then this, but we’re gonna need to modify that plan. So, our stuff allows you to on the fly, make a change to the tasks that are prompting Nancy, and Juanita, and so on to help them know, oops, change of plan. Here’s what we’re going to do next.

Josh Anderson:
Nice, very nice. And I love the way that it can be, oh, just completely different for each individual. And can really help them all in different ways. So, you guys got a bunch of great things.

Josh Anderson:
But I’ve taken up enough of your time today. Steve, if our listeners want to find out more about CreateAbility, about Employment Pathfinder, about you, and about all the amazing things you guys offer, what’s the best way for ’em to do that?

Steve Sutter:
Well, our name, CreateAbility Inc is our website. So info@createabilityinc.com or our support line at 317-798-4101.

Josh Anderson:
Well, we will put links to those down in the show notes so that folks can easily find ’em. Steve, always a pleasure. Thank you so much for coming back on the show to tell us about the great new things you guys have.

Steve Sutter:
Thank you.

Josh Anderson:
Do you have a question about assistive technology? Do you have a suggestion for someone we should interview on an 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 Prietto for scheduling our amazing guests, and making a mess of my schedule.

Josh Anderson:
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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