by Sandy Masayko
This is the eighth post in a series about assistive technology in Australia
Rocky Bay has several innovative and unique programs. Today, February 21, I spent the day learning about the Community Refurbished Equipment services, Posture Tech, Assistive Technology & Milo, a talking robot who teaches children about emotions and feelings. Expansion of awareness and access to AT through development of AT Mentors in the state is another unique program at Rocky Bay that I heard about.
Refurbished Equipment & Posture Tech
Have you ever wondered what happens with used equipment once a person no longer needs it? At Rocky Bay, wheelchairs, bath seats, walking devices and more are refurbished so that they look like new. The devices are available for purchase at about half the cost of what a new item might cost. Look at the photo above to see just a portion of the equipment that is available for people to purchase.
At another Rocky Bay program, Posture Tech, technicians and upholstery specialists can customize and repair equipment to meet individual needs as recommended by therapists. Posture Tech has a complete workshop including a robotically controlled saw that can cut out cushions to match the postural needs of individuals. Posture Tech even has a van and can make calls in the community for repairs and adaptations.
New AT in Australia
Acquiring new Assistive Technology can be challenging for Australians because some items are not released in Australia when they are released in the US. Two examples are the Google Home and the Liftware Steady spoon. At the request of Rocky Bay OT Kelvin Kong, I brought these two devices to Perth so that Kelvin could get a head start in trying them out to be prepared when they are available in the Australian market.
After presenting the items to Kelvin and the Rocky Bay therapists, I had a discussion with the therapists about the challenges of funding for equipment and services in the US. The therapists are curious about ways to manage funding requests, which may be similar to insurance proposals in the US with the implementation of the National Disability Insurance Scheme in Australia.
Milo the Talking Robot
Another unique program at Rocky Bay is the use of Milo, a talking robot who has the ability to demonstrate facial expressions and to teach children how to interpret emotions. He also can provide strategies for appropriate responses in social situations. Milo is used in conjunction with speech therapy sessions twice a week for a period of 10 weeks. Rocky Bay is researching the effectiveness of this tool. The pilot study indicates that the outcomes are positive.
An additional innovative program at Rocky Bay is a training program for community members to become AT mentors in a nationally accredited certificate programs. The eight participants are being coached by Rocky Bay AT Specialists to provide guidance to community members on the wide array of AT that is available to enhance function. Because the state of Western Australia is about a third of the size of the US, with a population about the size of Chicago, serving people in remote areas is a challenge. By establishing community liaisons who can mentor people who might benefit from technology, Rocky Bay is increasing access to AT for residents of Western Australia.
Sharing with Colleagues
One of the most important aspects of this study tour has been sharing ideas and strategies with other managers of AT Services. Cheryl Lockwood, Manager of AT, and Linda Chiu, Director of Clinical Services have been generous with their time and expertise.
Finishing Up at Rocky Bay
After two days at Rocky Bay, I will finish up in the morning by visiting community living arrangements with Kylie Murphy, Director of Leisure and Independence. Rocky Bay has a wide range of accommodation options for people with disabilities in new apartments and shared housing. It appears that people with disabilities have many more options for accommodations in Australia compared to the US.
Thank You Rocky Bay!
Thank you for the well-planned visit, tours and discussions. I am especially grateful to CEO Michael Tait, Executive Assistant Sally Connor, AT Manager Cheryl Lockwood, Clinical Services Director Linda Chiu, and Leisure and Independence Director Kylie Murphy. I will not forget your kindness and your generosity.