Tag Archives: Ability First Australia

Last Day in Australia

by Sandy Masayko

This is the final post from Australia and Sandy’s exploration and sharing of assistive technology

1332 stairs! That’s how many stairs my son and I climbed today on the Harbour Bridge Climb. It was a wonderful way to end my study tour in Australia: I now have the broad view of Australian services for people with disabilities! I treasure my many new acquaintances and I’ve seen a wide range of programs that have made me think about how we can adapt some of our programs in Pennsylvania.

  • Thank you to the National Office of Easterseals for selecting me for the study tour.
  • Thank you to Easterseals of SEPA for supporting my trip.
  • And thanks most of all to the hosts during my trip: Northcott, Rocky Bay and Ability Centre, affiliates of Ability First Australia.
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Special thanks to Northcott for the gift of the Bridge Climb passes.

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The Harbour Bridge is 134 meters (440 feet) high. We climbed through intermittent rain today for beautiful views of Sydney.

Sandy has shared her journey through a series of blog posts. You can read the first one here, the second here, the third here, the fourth here, the fifth here, the sixth here, the seventh here, the eighth here, the ninth here and the tenth here.

Ability Centre in Perth

by Sandy Masayko

This is Sandy’s ninth post in a series about assistive technology in Australia

Ability Centre in North Perth is the last site on my study tour of Ability First Australia affiliates. I continue to be warmly welcomed by my Australian colleagues. Each center that I have visited has had a broad range of programs and each has had some unique programs. At Ability Center, as with Rocky Bay and Northcott, accommodation for people with disabilities is a focus. The living arrangements vary but the old fashioned nursing home for people with disabilities is thing of the past here, having been replaced by small apartments and shared housing with support.

The unique programs at Ability Centre include access to an early mobility device call a Wizzybug. This is a powerchair designed for 1-4 year old children. Not available in the US, the Wizzy comes from the U.K. Ability Centre imports the mini powerchairs for Australians and maintains a fleet that children can trial and borrow. Here is what they look like:

Another unique program developed by Ability Centre therapists is a program to address sleep issues including temperature regulation and positioning during sleep. Using custom-designed bolsters and temperature control fabrics, the Sleep Solution teams can help their clients achieve restful sleep.

OT Maria White was very interested in Easterseals of SEPA’s work with eye gaze technology with young children. She invited a group of therapists from Ability Centre and from community agencies including the Independent Living Center in Perth and Edith Cowan University to hear my presentation of our AT Department study of eye gaze technology with young children. Some therapists participated from remote sites. The therapists asked many pertinent questions and shared their own experiences with implementing eye gaze technology.

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Maria White, in dark blue shirt on the right, organized a group to hear my presentation on eye gaze technology with young children.

I was very pleased to complete the day with therapists at Ability Centre by carrying out client observation and visits. We considered issues around teaching eye gaze technology to a child, adapting access for an adult eye gaze user, and adjusting environmental controls through a phone used by an adult with cerebral palsy and visual impairment. The clients were kind to let me participate in observing them work with their therapists, and all of us discussed alternatives that might make participating in their home and schools easier and more efficient for the clients.

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Speech Therapist Charlene Freedman coaching her young student in using eye gaze technology to select a song that she wants to hear.

Thank you to CEO Suzie Cowcher and Catherine Greenway, General Manager of Therapy and Health Services, for sharing with me their strategies for dealing with the changes in the marketplace, funding and customer relations through implementing prototypes of new systems. There is an Innovation Hub at Ability Centre that is providing leadership in change in the organization.

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Catherine Greenway and Suzie Cowcher

You can read Sandy’s first post in this series here, her second here, the third here, the fourth here, the fifth here, the sixth here, the seventh here and the eighth here.

Assistive Technology in the Land Down Under!

by Sandy Masayko, Director of Assistive Technology

When you think of Australia, what comes to mind? Kangaroos, perhaps? Or koalas, crocodiles or the Great Barrier Reef? Probably Assistive Technology wasn’t at the top of the list, but I am about to travel to Australia to explore how the Aussies are using and developing AT to serve people with disabilities in their country.

This afternoon I am setting out for Sydney, Australia, on the first part of my study tour of three Easter Seals affiliates in Australia.  In the fall I was delighted to be selected by the National Office of Easter Seals to visit Ability First Australia agencies: Northcott in Sydney; Rocky Bay and Ability Centre in Perth. My goals are to learn how AT is delivered in Australia, to investigate new technologies, and to share information about our programs at Easter Seals of SEPA.  And to enjoy Australia!

With about 20 hours of flying time and additional time for layovers and transportation to and from the airport, this will be a very long trip from Philly.  First I fly to Los Angeles, and then after a three-hour layover, I will board a plane for Sydney, a 14 hour flight that involves crossing the International Date Line.  I will be arriving in Sydney 8:45 am on Friday, February 10.  My strategy for adapting to the time change is to stay awake as long as I can on the flight out of Los Angeles by reading and watching films, then pull my sleep mask over my eyes to catch a few hours of sleep. When I wake up, it should be about time to land in Sydney.

Over the next three weeks I will share my journey with you by blogging at our Easter Seals of Southeastern PA website.  I look forward to your comments and questions.