Easterseals Crossroads’ INDATA Project was “designed to increase access and awareness of assistive technology.” What many people may not realize is that it ends up educating the Easterseals team as much as those it serves. One of the many ways it does this is through INDATA’s three podcasts, in which Easterseals specialists examine AT devices, engage with innovators in the accessibility community and guide listeners to helpful resources.
“I love learning about this stuff that I don’t always think about as someone without a disability,” said Josh Anderson, director of assistive technology and the host of Assistive Technology Update.
INDATA’s Podcast Past
INDATA entered the world of podcasting more than a decade ago with its flagship show AT Update, which started as a weekly briefing of AT-related news and morphed into a more in-depth, interview-style program running 30 minutes in length.
“We invite creators, thought leaders and other folks in the world of assistive technology to come on and really dig in with us, talking about what they do and how certain assistive technology can help people with disabilities at work, school, play and other parts of their everyday lives,” Anderson said.
INDATA’s sophomore podcast effort was Accessibility Minute, which resembles the original iteration of AT Update in its fleeting (one to three minutes) focus on “a little taste of something assistive technology-based.” (This show is posted on Fridays.)
The last podcast added to INDATA’s repertoire was Assistive Technology FAQ, a monthly, hour-long panel discussion show in which Easterseals team members and other AT experts engage with listeners via email, voicemail, live calls, etc. to guide them toward AT and other resources that can make the world more accessible for them.
Even though he’s been involved with them on a regular basis for years, Anderson talks about these shows with a sense of wonder, as if he still can’t believe how much the world of assistive technology is continuing to evolve.
Memorable Moments “On the Air”
When interviewing guests on AT Update, Anderson often finds himself learning new things, especially about AT you wouldn’t expect among the more “high-tech” tools out there. As an example, he points to his interview with Erica Cole, a left below knee amputee who founded the adaptive clothing company No Limbits to help other people with disabilities find the right fit for them — whether it’s pants for wheelchair users, leggings for people with limited dexterity or tank tops for those with sensory processing disorders.
“They provide solutions I wouldn’t have thought of,” Anderson said. “For the accessible jeans tailored to people who use wheelchairs, for example, they remove the back pockets because all those really do is rub against them, causing pressure, sores and other accessibility barriers.”
Another company Anderson found particularly exciting was AccessAbility Officer.
“(AccessAbility Officer) takes individuals who are blind or visually impaired and teaches them how to perform accessibility audits, how to make sure companies’ websites are accessible, and then it helps participants find jobs in that industry,” Anderson said. “It creates an ideal level of accessibility by increasing access to jobs for people with disabilities and therefore helping companies create better products and services through their feedback.”
Easterseals shares values with these companies by hiring people with disabilities to improve their accessibility. In fact, INDATA Social Media Specialist Laura Medcalf brings insight as a wheelchair user with disabilities to her hosting duties for Accessibility Minute.
“Among other things, she shows how products at the store that most people might view as simple convenience items can be vital for people with disabilities,” Anderson said. “That’s an important perspective to have.”
With AT FAQ, Anderson finds himself and his co-hosts discussing similar everyday issues of convenience and how solving them can make a massive difference for people with disabilities. For example, in the December episode, they fielded a question from a listener about preventative solutions for snow and ice on wheelchair ramps. They ended up talking about heated mats and non-slip treads, among other solutions.
Obviously, this was a fitting topic for Hoosiers dealing with the harsh winter conditions associated with our state. But INDATA’s podcasts strike a chord with people across the globe. That’s especially evident in a voicemail played in the aforementioned AT FAQ episode. The listener said: “Hey, blind guy down in Florida here. I just felt compelled to tell you how great the show is. It’s really been awesome lately and on point and interesting to me specifically. Congratulations on another year and thank you for all you do. I’m not in Indiana, never been to Indiana, no intention of going to Indiana, and I just want you to know that this show means the world to me.”
To listen to all three podcasts or to read transcripts from each, visit this page.