The Arc Westchester’s Third Annual Tech Conference Promotes Innovation and Independence

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The 2018 Tech Supports for Cognition & Learning saw the event’s largest audience in history, shared everyday applications and emerging trends for individuals with autism and other cognitive disabilities

Hosts and special guest speakers at the Third Annual Tech Supports for Cognition & Learning Conference

These conversations, and this work, should not stop here. Technology is as important as all other modalities of learning, but teaching technology to special education students, for example, tends to stop at high school; it does not extend easily to adult life.

On Tues., March 27, The Arc Westchester co-hosted its third annual conference focused on helping individuals with cognitive disabilities lead a more independent life using tech. The Tech Supports for Cognition & Learning Conference saw its largest and most diverse audience ever, and the organization’s list of partners for the event grew to include Mercy College, AHRC New York City, Westchester Library System, Putnam-Northern Westchester BOCES and Vising Nurse Service of Westchester (VNS).

The Tech Supports for Cognition & Learning Conference, which was held at Mercy College’s Dobbs Ferry campus, brought together the leading minds in technology, education and learning, clinical supports and direct service supports that inspired attendees to continue to build bridges between technology and cognitive supports for people with disabilities.

The morning kicked off with opening remarks from Timothy L. Hall, JD, President of Mercy College; Joan Toglia, Dean of Mercy College School of Health and Natural Sciences; and Ric Swierat, Executive Director of The Arc Westchester.

Swierat said, “These conversations, and this work, should not stop here. Technology is as important as all other modalities of learning, but teaching technology to special education students, for example, tends to stop at high school; it does not extend easily to adult life. We have not seen anyone making that kind of effort, but this is our opportunity to make that happen. I challenge you to be part of that conversation.”

The first presentation of the day was the Keynote Address from David Banes, Director of David Banes Access and Inclusion Services and former CEO of Mada, Qatar Assistive Technology Centre. David’s engaging talk lasted over an hour, and touched upon how technology can help create a balance between autonomy, duty of care and safety for those with cognitive disabilities and their families.

“Independence has strong links to equality of choices. The challenge we face is the balance between wanting to protect our children and the desire to empower them to make their own choices,” said Banes. “Looking ahead, the challenge lies not in the technology itself, but in the dissemination and sharing of information in a format and through media which has reach.”

During his speech, Banes also spoke about tech that was not created specifically for those with disabilities (such as Uber and Text to Speech) and how they can be used in simple ways to drastically improve the lives of those with cognitive issues. He also touched upon how the ease and low cost of these technologies make them more accessible to those who can benefit most from them.

Additional guest speakers throughout the day included Dr. Andre L. Washington, Ph.D., CRC from Langston University, who spoke on Virtual Reality Uses in Vocational Rehabilitation, and Dennis Cleary, MS., OTD, OTR/L from Ohio State University, who presented two breakout sessions focused on design thinking and VocFit.com. Additional Breakout Sessions featured presenters from Apple, Microsoft, Tobii Dynavox and many others.

The Exhibitor area at Tech Supports for Cognition & Learning included some the latest products and services that make a better life possible for people with cognitive disabilities. During the lunch period, a series of fast-paced Ignite Talks ® featured inspiring stories of the use of everyday tech and its impact on the people who use it.

The day concluded with a wrap up panel with representatives from the organizing groups that focused on tech resources. During the panel, The Arc Westchester and the Westchester Library System announced the creation of the first web resource in the Hudson Valley listing information on how to contact experts that can help you explore technology solutions and learn more about this rapidly-evolving field.

The day’s sponsors included FlagHouse, Flightpath, Littman Krooks LLP, New York-Presbyterian, Tommie Cares Foundation and the Westchester Library System. For more information and to view the day’s presentations, visit https://www.arcwestchester.org/techconference2018.

About The Arc Westchester
The Arc Westchester, founded in 1949, is the largest agency in Westchester County supporting children, teens and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, including individuals on the autism spectrum, and their families. Over 800 employees provide more than 2,000 individuals throughout the county with a broad range of innovative and effective programs and services designed to foster independence, productivity and participation in community life.

The mission of The Arc Westchester is to empower children, teens and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, including individuals on the autism spectrum, to achieve their potential by strengthening families and encouraging personal choices, abilities and interests.

The Arc Westchester is a chapter of The Arc and The Arc New York.

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Kayleigh Lentz
Co-Communications, Inc.
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