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ATU584 – Night Owl Support Systems with Chris Patterson

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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:
Chris Patterson – Co-Owner – Night Owl Support Systems
https://www.nossllc.com

RHI Adaptive Sports Expo: https://bit.ly/3zkTJ90

Stories:
Inclusive Design Challenge Winners: https://bit.ly/3Jmakxy
Face Video Game Controller Story: https://wapo.st/3d0f2EY

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—– Transcript Starts Here —–

Chris Patterson:
Hi, I’m Chris Patterson, co-owner of Night Owl Support Systems, 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 584 of Assistive Technology Update. It’s scheduled to be released on August 5, 2022. On today’s show we’re super excited to welcome Chris Patterson. He is the co-owner of Night Owl Support Systems, and he’s here to talk about them as well as about remote monitoring.

Josh Anderson:
We also have the announcement of the winner of the DOT Inclusive Design Challenge, as well as a story about a new way to control video games with your face. Now let’s go ahead and get on with the show.

Josh Anderson:
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. 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:
This was a while back, we had Karen Lawrence on, and she was on to talk about adaptive sports with veterans. Well we wanted to let you know that coming up on August 13th from 9:00 AM to 2:00 PM at the Indie Fuel Tank located at 9022 East 126th Street in Fishers, Indiana, RHI is having their Adaptive Sports Expo. This is their fourth annual Adaptive Sports Expo at the Indie Fuel Tank in Fishers. While there, you can check out the second annual sled hockey camp going on with paralympic sled hockey golden medalists. There will also be adaptive yoga, beat baseball, wheelchair lacrosse, educational sessions, pickle ball, wheelchair basketball, and many other things. Many vendors will be available as well as folks to kind of talk about adaptive sports and really help you learn more and more about how these things go. We’ll put a link down in the show notes over to the Event Bright page so that you can register if you would like to go. But again, RHI is having their Adaptive Sports Expo on August 13th in Fishers, Indiana. So if you are a local here in the Indiana area and you’d like to check it out, please click on the link in our show notes to register and check out what’s going on there.

Josh Anderson:
Folks, a while back we did a whole series on the Department of Transportation’s Inclusive Design Challenge. We had a lot of the different groups that were in the finals come here to the show and just kind of tell us about their ideas as they worked through this challenge. Again, supported by the Department of Transportation or the DOT. The whole purpose of this was kind of to make sure that as we begin to develop more automated vehicles we need to make sure that they can accommodate folks who have physical and sensory disabilities.

Josh Anderson:
So just a few weeks ago on July 26th they announced the winners and Indiana’s very own Purdue University’s team won the one-million-dollar first-place prize. Their project was called Efficient, Accessible, and Safe Interaction in a Real Integrated Design Environment for Riders with disabilities, or the EASI RIDER program. This includes features such as an in-floor ramp design, an automatically deploying smart ramp, an automated wheelchair docking system, and an onboard user interface. The story from over at the DOT has a quote here from Pete Buttigieg, who’s the transportation secretary. Ad he says, “Automated vehicles have the revolutionary potential to help seniors and people with disabilities get around more easily. But we must ensure that accessibility is part of the conversation from the very beginning.” Couldn’t have said it better, Mayor Pete. That’s why DOT started the inclusive design challenge and were thrilled to award the inaugural winners funding to help advance their innovative designs and improve transportation for people with disabilities.

Josh Anderson:
The other winners was Able Link smart living technologies. They were rewarded $700,000 for their second-place-winning Wayfinder ADSS system. And the university of Maine won $300,000 for its third place, AVA, the Autonomous Vehicle Assistant project. Now, I’m pretty sure that we had all three of those different groups on to do interviews and talk about their projects. So here sometime later in August, I will go back through, try to find those interviews and get those put on here, just so those of you who hadn’t heard those interviews can check them out. So again, a big congratulations to Dr. Duerstock and his team over at Purdue University for their Efficient, Accessible, and Safe Interaction in a Real Integrated Design Environment for Riders with disabilities, or their EASI RIDER project, for winning the Department of Transportation’s Inclusive Design Challenge. Way to go.

Josh Anderson:
Our next story comes to us from the Washington Post. It’s titled, “The latest video game controller isn’t plastic. It’s your face.” It’s by Amanda Florian. This story talks about a device and a place called Enabled Play. Enable Play was created by Alex Dunn. And it said it’s able to translate a user’s head movements, facial expressions, real time speech and other non-traditional input methods into mouse clicks, keystrokes, and thumbs stick movements. Dunn is quoted in here in saying, “Enabled play is a device that learns to work with you, not a device you have to learn to work with.”` It says here that Dunn created this for his younger brother, who has a disability. And that way he could interface with technology in a natural and intuitive way. If you dig down deeper into the story, it looks like it’s very, very intuitive as far as the device goes. As we kind of go down here, it says that the AI-enabled controller takes into account a person’s natural tendencies.

Josh Anderson:
If a gamer wants to set up a jump command every time they open their mouth, Enable Play would identify that person’s individual resting mouth position and set that as a baseline. So it’s not really just kind of, “You have to do this, you have to do that.” This is actually being able to learn from the user in order to let them control their device, their gaming system, and other things using just their face and facial movements. Says that for folks who cannot speak or individuals who may be deaf, it has a vowel sound detection mode, and other things just to make sure that even if you’re not saying exactly what it thinks you should be, it will actually look at the things that you can say and try to gather what it is that you want to do from there. It says that Dunn’s AI-enabled controller, priced at $250, supports a combination of inputs and outputs.

Josh Anderson:
And this is going to be connected to a bunch of different kind of devices in order to control it. So very, very cool. If we really look, accessible gaming is something that has really taken off lately, with the Microsoft accessible controller, which of course is mentioned in here as well, as well as other things that… It’s realized that individuals with disabilities want to do, do the things that their able-bodied counterparts do as well. And gaming is one of those things that kind of levels the playing field. I mean, if you are… and I cannot say that I am. I just never really have the time to play video games anymore. It was something I used to really enjoy. But unfortunately life gets in the way a little bit, and it’s something that I do not get to really spend the time enjoying. And whenever I do have spare time… let rephrase that. If ever I did have spare time, I’m not sure that’s what I would end up doing. But I definitely see the value in it.

Josh Anderson:
And not only that, when you’re playing online against other folks, no one knows what you look like. No one knows your abilities or your disabilities. No one knows anything. You are an avatar in an online gaming environment, and that is it. They do not know anything else about you, your gender, your gender identity, your nationality, what language you speak, or if you do or do not have a disability. So it really kind of levels the playing field, and having controllers like this and different interfaces in order to access these devices really even levels that playing field even further. So I’ll put a link to this over in the show notes so that you can go check it out again. But again, I was definitely drawn in by the title, that “The latest video game controller isn’t plastic. It’s your face.” Definitely a great title and a great story. And you can go check it out for yourself.

Josh Anderson:
Listeners on today’s show, we’re very excited to welcome Chris Patterson. Chris is the co-owner of Night Owl Support Systems, and he’s here to tell us some more about remote monitoring and the service available through Night Owl. Chris, welcome to the show.

Chris Patterson:
Thank you, Josh. Thank you very much for having me.

Josh Anderson:
Yeah. I am really excited to kind of talk about this and talk about the technology. But before we do that, could you tell our listeners a little bit about yourself?

Chris Patterson:
Sure. Yeah. I grew up actually in Bloomington, Indiana and I-

Josh Anderson:
Oh, nice

Chris Patterson:
… I’m here in Indiana as well. So yeah, so being from Indiana, I’m a big basketball fan of course. Grew up with a sister with some disabilities, parents were very big advocates in the early eighties. Really got me introduced in the field when I was a very young age, actually just right from birth actually. And so I’ve always been around people with disabilities. Moved, graduated from Indiana University, moved up to Madison, Wisconsin area, pursued my master’s degree in social work at the UW here in Madison, and had a wonderful opportunity to start with this new project at the university late 2001, early 2002 called the Sound Response Program, which is kind of what Night Owl has come to be. Currently reside in Stoughton, Wisconsin with my wife and have a freshman in college and a soon-to-be senior in high school.

Josh Anderson:
Oh, wow. Wow. Wow. Oh man, I don’t envy you on those two things, but it’s always nice to meet a fellow Hoosier who was a Hoosier even in college. That’s great to hear. Well, Chris, the real reason we have you on here is to talk about Night Owl Support Systems. So let’s start with just what is Night Owl Support Systems.

Chris Patterson:
Yeah, so we are a remote support company and primarily serve people with intellectual disabilities, serve a few folks who have physical disabilities, and few folks who are aging. But we utilize different sensors, lots of different technology in people’s homes. A core of what we do, too, is we employ what we call remote support professionals in our monitoring station that are able to provide live assistance when somebody is in need of something because a piece of technology has been activated in their house.

Josh Anderson:
Chris, you mentioned the human component of the things that you guys do. It’s not just all technology and stuff. Tell me a little bit more about that.

Chris Patterson:
Yeah, sure, Josh. So not only do we have the live remote support staff that can be available, they can do proactive check-ins, they can be available to any sensor alert, whatever is set up with the protocol. We also have what we call a consumer relations team, and they are involved with our teams right from the get-go, establishing the plans for everybody that we support, but then they also follow along. So they get reports every single day. They go through data, they’re meeting with teams ongoing and providers ongoing just to ensure everything’s going as planned. And so it gives you another set of eyes on what’s going on. And sometimes people are so busy they might not have time to look at all the data coming in and they’re just going through their day-to-day. That’s why we provide that consumer relations team, to really be to liaison between us and teams. And it’s been a very, very valuable part of our service from day one. And we continue to grow that department as well, just to make sure everybody is as connected as they want to be with that human component.

Josh Anderson:
Oh, excellent. Excellent. I’m sure that also helps because yeah, I mean, sometimes you get probably so much data that maybe you thought… the provider or part of the team thought the person really needed to work on X, and you find out with all this data that no, they’re pretty good at that, but they really need to work on Y.

Chris Patterson:
Yes, that’s correct. Yes.

Josh Anderson:
Well, let’s get into how does it assist? What kinds of technology and monitoring is available?

Chris Patterson:
Sure. Yeah. For us, I would say a big piece of what we do is try trying to customize it. So there’s not a package A and a package B. So yeah, I mean, we have everything from your standard buttons that… “Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.” We do a lot of door sensors. We have smoke detectors that always are a part of our package. And we kind of build it up from there. So whether that be a bed sensor, we could actually program to… if somebody gets up to go to the bathroom, they’re back in bed within 10 minutes, for example, we won’t even know. But if they haven’t made it back to bed, that might send us an alert that we need to act on.

Chris Patterson:
Different motion sensors, different… we have flood sensors. We have a sensor for the stove. We have a sensor for the refrigerator. It’s really based on their needs. What we’ve started to get into more is there’s so much technology out there, we’ve tried to incorporate what’s kind of off-the-shelf, if you will, with our supports as well. And really what I mean by that, if somebody would prefer to reach out to us via FaceTime, for example, on their iPhone, we have the capacity to do that. If they want to reach out to us on an Alexa, they can do that as well. And we interact with them based on the device that is their preference.

Josh Anderson:
Oh, excellent. So they can kind of use maybe what they already have, what they’re comfortable with, what they’re kind of used to, to make that process a little bit easier for them.

Chris Patterson:
Correct.

Josh Anderson:
Excellent. Excellent. As we kind of talk about Night Owl, and you kind of mentioned this just a little bit, but I want to dig a little deeper, when and how was Night Owl started?

Chris Patterson:
Yeah, that’s a really good question, Josh. So it was started… the basis of it… We were, again, at the Waisman center at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Dane County has been known for innovative ideas and projects throughout the years. And so that’s where it all started. And at the time, we couldn’t find anything out there like this to support people with disabilities in the community. So myself and my two other co-owners, Dani Chilson and Duane Tempel were hired to kind of design, develop and implement this project back then. And at the time it was solely used for people who receive county funding. And since then has grown… we’re actually in 15 states now. So as we’ve grown quite a bit in the last 20 years. We just celebrated our 20 year of supporting people. We actually started with actual services July 5th of 2002. So very proud and very happy we were able to celebrate that last month.

Josh Anderson:
Oh, definitely. Well, congratulations and happy 20th anniversary on that. As we talk about this, and you already mentioned who this can assist and who it works with, can you tell me what are the benefits to the family members, maybe a provider or the individual for using remote supports and Night Owl Support Systems?

Chris Patterson:
Yeah, Josh, that’s a great question. And I think it certainly varies, but when it got started, it was solely for increasing independence. So at that time our field is faced with all these staffing challenges. At that time, they really weren’t near what they are today. So we got to really focus the program on providing independence for people with disabilities, and has remained our core focus and our mission with that. So I think the person that we support is allowed to experience that, but kind of have a safety net behind them as well, where if they need some assistance, we’re there for them. So I think that’s the biggest. I think for family members sometimes, I hate to say it, but the staffing is such at a level where they can’t find staff. So it might be a different option for them.

Chris Patterson:
The really nice thing for family members too, is if they’re guardians and they’re involved with their teams, we can give them data. So they might learn a different sleep pattern that somebody has that they… when they move out for the first time that they might not know from even a staff being there, sometimes. The technology never lies. So they’re able to gather some data and figure out like, “Oh, maybe we should add a sensor here or delete one there.” And they’re able to see that actual data of what’s going on in the person’s home or apartment.

Josh Anderson:
Oh, sure. And I’m sure it probably gives them peace of mind as well. Because kind of like you said, as a family member, I know you want individuals to be as independent as they can. You want them to be able to do as much as they can on their own, but maybe to be able to have that little bit of peace of mind to know that they’re doing some of the things you have to do. Absolutely. It maybe makes it a little easier to give them a little bit more of that independence.

Chris Patterson:
Yes, absolutely.

Josh Anderson:
Chris, kind of going a completely and totally different way. Are there any drawbacks or situations where maybe remote supports wouldn’t be recommended for an individual?

Chris Patterson:
Oh yeah, absolutely, Josh. We say often that our service was not for everybody. Now with that said, I’ve seen it work for a lot of folks who I would’ve never thought it could’ve worked for 20 years ago. But there are certainly situations that I don’t feel it’s appropriate or a safe situation. If somebody is in need of somebody right at their side if they were to get up or need assistance walking or have very significant medical issues that certainly you would not want to pull a staff out of a house and have remote support. So again, we do take it case-by-case, but we often say no. I bet 20% of the people that put in for a referral for us as we’re going through the initial planning stages, we let them know it’s not an appropriate service. We don’t feel comfortable moving forward, and try to give somebody another option that… maybe a piece of tech that we don’t have could assist in a way. But we certainly turn down a lot of folks just because we don’t feel it’s appropriate.

Josh Anderson:
Oh, sure. Sure. And yeah, safety’s always got to be kind of the first thing. So I’m definitely glad that you mentioned that. Chris, can you tell me a story about someone who was assisted by Night Owl Support Systems and how it made an impact on their life? And I’m sure you’ve probably got quite a few of these over the last 20 years, but maybe pick a couple that really kind of touched you, if you could tell us those.

Chris Patterson:
Yeah. So I’ll give you maybe two and see which one you like better, Josh. But I think one that’s just recently learned about, a gentleman we’ve supported for quite some time. He was actually what we call a responder’s home. So the staff was based out of his house and then they could respond to other houses in the area. Well, a couple years ago, he really wanted to work on being alone, not having that staff in there. He wanted his independence. Had a lot of behavioral issues with the staff, kind of power struggles. Staff’s always telling him what to do. And he just got very frustrated, actually, some physical aggression. They started at night and he now goes a couple hours a day. And the night without staff, with just our supports. He’s allowed to be on his porch swing, and we just check in, make sure he gets back inside. And his mood has been about a 180 shift. The provider and the behavioral specialist actually said, like he hasn’t exhibited these behaviors in the last two years. And the only real change was he was able to pull staff out of his house and use technology and replace of that and use our remote support.

Chris Patterson:
So that one was just really nice story to showcase because he… I think 15 years ago, he would’ve… nobody would’ve ever thought he would’ve been alone for any parts of the day. And now he’s going 12 to 14 hours with no staff at his house. And really proud of it more than anything. He’s proud and he’s happy and he’s living a much better life because of it. And then we had another gentleman we supported where it’s probably not the first person you think of when you think, “I’m going to put technology in somebody’s house and pull a staff out.”

Chris Patterson:
But he actually needed repositioning every two hours from his staff. And historically he had staff on site 24-7. They would go in, there were repositionings. And we went into this situation, pretty cautiously, knowing that gentleman needed a lot of cares. He was also able to reach out to us if he needed care in between those times. But what happened was about nine months after using our service, the nurse came by, looked at his skin and said, “I’ve never seen this gentleman’s skin looked better in the last five years.” She had been his nurse for five years, and the provider put two and two together and realized with the reports that they were receiving, and us kind of doing that oversight to ensuring that this gentleman was getting those repositionings, they were being done on a very regular basis and never being missed. So he was with us for six years. And prior to having us, he had gone into the hospital once every year or two with very significant bed sores. And in the five years we supported him, he never went once and never had any bed sores. So that was pretty amazing to me, and one that we were not expecting.

Josh Anderson:
No, that’s not something you’d think of kind of right away, but it sounds like the remote supports not only help the individual, but the provider and keep them almost doing what they’re supposed to be doing, and kind of keeping them honest as well. So yeah, that’s great. That’s not something I would’ve really, truly thought about being a good consequence of using the remote supports in the Night Owl Support Systems. Well Chris, you just celebrated your 20 years, so I’ve got to ask you, what’s next? Where do you see Night Owl Support Systems going, maybe not in the next 20 years, but let’s say here in the future.

Chris Patterson:
Yeah. That’s a great question, Josh. I think the last couple years, people have really opened up their minds and really opened up to technology because it’s everywhere. Everybody has technology, so it’s not near as big of a fear as it used to be. So as we look at other years, we’re certainly looking to get into more locations, support more people. Our biggest mission is to try to keep that… as individualized plans that we do now, we need to keep that in place moving forward. So we don’t want to grow so big where we’re not caring about each and every person that we support, and so that’ll be a challenge for, us. But I think the more people we can support the better. And then the technology has just boomed.

Chris Patterson:
For us, it’s not really the fanciest stuff where you’re going to start your car from your iPhone, that type of stuff. For us, reliability is the most important piece of the technology for us. So we put a lot of redundancies in place. So what I see is those redundancies increasing. Cell service doesn’t hardly go out, when when we started, we were nervous to even use it. And the internet is getting much better. But what’s out there is pretty incredible, looking at some potential AI stuff, looking at some infrared stuff. So it’s… I think as technology becomes more available of what’s out there, we’ll look to implement more of that in the future.

Josh Anderson:
Excellent. Excellent. Well for our listeners who want to find out more about Night Owl Support Systems and everything that they kind of have to offer, what’s the best way for them to do that?

Chris Patterson:
Yeah. The best way to find out about us is our website, for sure. There’s a lot of information on there. There’s contact us button as well. My information’s on there as well, but that is NOSS, it’s NOSSllc.com. And again, there’s a contact button. You can reach right out to us through that. There’s a lot of information. There’s some great videos on there, but that is the best way for listeners to find more out about Night Owl.

Josh Anderson:
Excellent. Well, we will definitely put a link to that down in the show notes. Well, Chris Patterson, thank you so much for coming on today, telling us about remote supports as a whole, and also about Night Owl Support Systems and everything, and all the great work that you all do.

Chris Patterson:
Well, thank you very much for having me again, Josh, and you have a wonderful day.

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 at EastersealsCrossroads.org, or shoot us a note on Twitter at INDATA project. 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 are supporting partners with this host. This was your Assistive Technology Update, and I’m Josh Anderson with the end data project at Easterseals Crossroads in beautiful Indianapolis, Indiana. We look forward to seeing you next time. Bye-bye.

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