With Apple’s release of the iPad tablet in 2010, disability providers began to notice the affinity that individuals with developmental disabilities had for this new technology. They were quite adept at the navigation and use of these devices and were able to understand, learn, and communicate in new ways. Parents, teachers and other professionals working with these individuals began to see how much their child, student or client was able to comprehend about the world around them, now that they could express what they knew more effectively with this new technology. Capitalizing on the capabilities of smart devices is a significant opportunity for supporting and building independence, and overcoming functional challenges, at all levels for individuals in their schools, jobs and communities.
About the Program
The Tech for Independent Living Team creates free fully customized virtual lessons that support people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to create full inclusion and participation in the community. They create lessons that help with traveling, employment, safety as well as daily living skills through our software partnership. The individual gains a support system where our team creates the lessons and will have continued follow ups with the individual.
History of the Program
In 2014, we created TravelMate with our software partner, ONEder, as an innovative online curriculum utilizing this technology to change the landscape of “Disability World” by leveling the playing field for all involved. Since 2014, we have been continually funded by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, Department of Transportation, and the Consolidated Community Funding Pool grant from Fairfax County.
Flash forward to current times, our ‘Mates program has evolved and combined into one, all-encompassing web-based application. Now, lessons are available from all categories in one easy to access catalog within the (free!) web-based application.
Independent Living Lessons from the Catalog Include:
Travel Lessons Being Used in Real Life
Employment Lessons Being Used on the Job
Benefits of our Virtual Lessons
● You receive personal support from our team of dedicated professionals with a combined 50 years of experience working for people with disabilities.
● Our web-based platform can be considered a virtual support, such as travel trainer or job coach, that can be customized to each individual’s functional needs.
● You receive lessons that are easily personalized to an individual’s functional needs using images, videos, and sounds from the person’s surroundings.
● There is no need to learn symbols to represent real life objects, because you can take a picture of exactly what you need.
● You hava a consistent tool that is always available.
ONEder is the company that developed and manages the software platform on which our independent living lessons reside. It is their mission to provide effective solutions that aid people with learning difficulties, physical disability, or emotional and behavioral difficulties through the use of modern technology. ONEder was founded in 2011 by Jonathan Izak out of a need to develop a way to communicate with his non- verbal brother. Since then, the company has grown in size and vision. In 2014, The Arc of Northern Virginia partnered with ONEder to deliver personalized lessons and see real-time progress tied to an individual’s own, unique goals. ONEder provides the technology to institutions and organizations, that then facilitate the deployment of the program to their constituents.
By the end of the first two years of using TravelMate, twenty-two travel trainers reported on the nature and level of the travel training competence achieved by 104 of their trainees, of whom:
• 96% of individuals decreased the need for assistance in using public transportation and could travel more independently than before the training, and
• 43% of individuals were able to travel completely independently using public transportation after the training.
Our curriculums won several innovative technology awards and recognition in the metropolitan Washington area. In 2015 we received the 501cTech Technology Innovation Award in the Skills to Succeed and Workforce Development categories. Presented by the Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce, The Greater Washington Innovation Awards celebrate the people and organizations who introduce new methods, ideas and products to improve our lives and challenge the status quo. In April of 2016 The Arc of Northern Virginia was honored as Public Sector Innovator of the Year. In September of 2016 The Arc of Northern Virginia was named an Innovation Award winner by the Washington Business Journal. And in November of 2016 we were awarded one of three 21st Century Solutions grants by NBC4 WRC-TV in Washington DC. Our independent living apps have also been mentioned in the 2015 and 2016 Report for The President’s Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities.
In the Community
In March of 2018, project founder Kymberly DeLoatche was invited to be a featured presenter at a TEDxTysons salon. The theme of the evening was Casting a Wider <dot> Net. Watch Kymberly’s presentation entitled ‘How Technology Can Level the Playing Field in the Workplace.’
“The moment we saw TravelMate using ONEder we knew that the possibilities were endless. This platform is going to rock our disabilities community in such a positive way. We saw a ‘Coach in Your Pocket’ instantly. The best part of the training is that it’s informative, customized to our needs, and hands-on. We felt engaged from day one.” – Donna Goldbranson, SPARC
“The Mason LIFE Program enjoyed the interaction between all the presenters, the time each presenter took to make sure each individual felt confident in creating all the different activities, and the hands-on homework/field trip that gave us the opportunity to demonstrate our ability to use ONEder.” – Robin E Moyher, Ph. D., BCBA, MASON LIFE
“The training served as a great on-boarding for the program by asking staff to engage directly with TravelMate and ONEder and solve problems as a team. I also realized through the training that ONEder fosters collaboration between staff, participants, their families and other supports.” – Ross Kerr, formerly of Meaningful Opportunities for Successful Transitions (MOST)