When you care about someone with a disability, you soon learn the things we often take for granted are not as simple as they seem. We really get that at Gompers because the people we serve through our programs and services are very important to us.
Every day our staff works with our students and members to find simple, inexpensive solutions to overcome barriers and solve physical challenges. Increasing independence for the individuals we serve is deeply rewarding to everyone at Gompers. In fact, it has become a passion.
On Friday, October, 23rd, the “Macgyvette” of Assistive Technology (AT), Therese Wilkomm, showed us a how to create a myriad of items using common materials in five minutes or less. She demonstrated this as she was eating lunch with one of our members, Mattie Matlock who relies on someone to hold his soda can for him to have a drink. Therese immediately provided a solution to give this young man the ability to drink his soda independently! She clamped down a quick release grip on the table, and faceted a holder out of Velcro, rug gripper tape and lock line and behold, a drink holder for Mattie!
With a huge smile on his face, Mattie added, “The whole workshop was very interesting.”
Therese has a unique view on how she approaches assistive technology. During her workshop, she expressed how solutions should cost less than $5 and take five minutes or less to create. We live in a fast-paced world and individuals who need and should have access to everyday items like Mattie’s soda, need quick remedies instead of lengthy discussions and weeks of trial and error using a fancy product that may not work in the long run.
In attendance at the DIY AT Solutions in Minutes Workshop were teachers from our school, staff from our Day Training for Adults (DTA) and Employment Services programs, professionals from outside agencies and of course our Gompers DTA members. Everyone was able to take away a new perspective with ideas to apply to their lives and work. One Gompers member in attendance, Drew Bolender, is using one of the tasks we created to make an adaptable silverware holder for his girlfriend who has Cerebral Palsy.
“The workshop was great! The tasks were cool!” exclaims Drew.
Making assistive technology solutions in minutes really embraces the quote by Benjamin Franklin “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.”
“It was such an honor to finally come to Gompers and to involve everyone in creating assistive technology solutions through hands-on learning and making assistive technology solutions,” Therese Willkomm concluded at the end of the day.
Our team is geared up now and rethinking everyday items one would have never considered helpful before, because we now know that we can use them in unique ways to improve the independence of people important to us – our students and members.