By Gabe Ryan, School Health Blog Writer and Contributor
The 2018 Northern Arizona University, Institute for Human Development (IHD) hosted their annual Assistive Technology conference in Scottsdale/Fountain Hills, AZ in early July. This was the second year IHD combined their Arizona Technology Access Program (AzTAP) conference, with their Evidence-Based Practice (EBP) conference, and the American Indian Vocational Rehabilitation Training & Technical Assistance Center (AIVRTTAC). This mega event was called the “Evidence for Success- Combined Disability Conference”. With three conference tracks to choose from, there were over 80 breakout sessions and an Exhibit Hall showcasing over 50 Exhibitors.
This was my first time representing School Health as an exhibitor, teaming with my colleagues, Scott Cormack, CFO, and Dr. Ray Heipp, Senior Sales Specialist for Special Education. It was great to interact with conference attendees and with the products we were sharing at the School Health table. The Bluebee Pal Pro Interactive Plush Learning Tool, a Bluetooth enabled talking plush companion was a big hit. People were holding it, singing with it, and dancing with it.
The amazing TAPit Interactive Platform inspired young artists to create masterpieces, and piqued the interest of caregivers and service providers to learn about the possibilities for individuals with varying abilities.
The exhibitors at this conference were informative. Here are a few of my highlights from the Exhibit Hall:
- Meeting Northern Arizona University, Disabilities Studies Professor, Matthew Wangeman and previewing his new short film “My Dad Matthew”.
- Learning about the TBO Mount from CJT Enterprises. It features five rotation points, a grip clamp, hassle free mounting, and the ability to position your device easily.
- Rolling my powerchair up the ramp into the new VMI Northstar E Conversion Honda Pilot. This manual 32” wide, in-floor ramp, converted SUV was spacious and stylish. The representatives shared information on all the latest features of this vehicle.
A session of interest I attended was on the Assistive Technology and the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) presented by Janet Estervig, Director of Curriculum and Training, Attainment Company. Ms. Estervig shared that “WIOA is landmark legislation that is designed to strengthen and improve the workforce system and assist youth and adults with significant barriers.” Learn more about WIOA and your state plan from the U.S. Department of Education website.
Dr. Ray and School Health invited me to co-present during his session on Addressing Sensory Needs in the Classroom and Workplace. I was excited and honored to team with him and to share my experience of using adaptive equipment with the 65+ session attendees. We even pulled in Scott Cormack to share his perspective as a business leader. He highlighted the importance of “focusing on the strengths of individuals”.
The conference was a great time. I gained experience and contributed to my professional learning. My personal highlight was the encouragement from my team and their openness to incorporate my strengths into School Health's activities. Trekking across the desert from Northern California to Arizona in sizzling 118° degree weather was worth every mile!
“ROLL FORWARD, YOU NEVER KNOW WHAT OPPORTUNITIES YOU’RE GOING TO ENCOUNTER, THEY COULD BE GRAND… OR THEY COULD BE UNPLANNED” - GABRIEL RYAN