Assistive Tech Offers Something for Everybody - Penn-Mar

Assistive Tech Offers Something for Everybody

Posted on December 6, 2023

By Allis Kensing, Enabling Technology Coordinator
Allis with some devices from the lending library.

Allis showcasing devices from the Penn-Mar Lending Library.

Before I joined Penn-Mar in 2021, I worked with another provider in the supported employment area and had the opportunity to see how different technologies helped job seekers find leads and prepare for their interviews. These included a variety of tools like reminder prompts, visual lists, iPhone alarms and video resumes to better leverage their skills to employers.

I saw firsthand how these different assets changed the lives of people with disabilities. So, when I learned that Penn-Mar was hiring an Enabling Technology Coordinator, I knew that was the career I wanted to pursue.

My job is to educate our team members about the benefits of Assistive Tech and acquaint them with the many high- and low-tech tools and devices that are available to increase the independence of the people they support.

It often begins with a conversation to explore what enabling technology they are already using, or not, and many are surprised to learn how a simple device can make a huge difference in a person’s day-to-day living challenges.

By definition, Assistive Technology is any item, piece of equipment, software program, or product system that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of persons with disabilities.

It promotes autonomy, self-direction and community engagement and can help address direct care workforce shortages with different types of remote supports.

With its new “Empowering Technology” service, Penn-Mar is positioning itself to be the leading provider of enabling technology for people with disabilities.

To attain that goal, we have partnered with SHIFT Training to provide e-learning solutions for our DSPs and supervisors to help them infuse Assistive Technology into our culture and person-centered mission.

With the support of Grants, we have been able to enroll 113 team members in the online, self-paced education training program to earn their Enabling Tech credentials. We also used these funds to purchase a large variety of Assistive Tech tools and establish an in-house Assistive Technology Lending Library at our Far Hills location.

The most instantly recognized and understood technology tools are, of course, iPads and computer cell phones. There are also Siri and Alexa voice assists, Google and virtual date planners. And you might be surprised to learn that low-tech items and devices like Post-It notes, highlighters, picture boards, and TV remote controls also fall into this category.

Assistive Tech also applies to medical durable equipment, like wheelchairs, canes, and walkers. And we recently launched a video series to highlight some other cool new “items in action” that can help with dressing, cutting, non-verbal communication, meal planning and dining, to name a few.

All of these items are now available in our Lending Library where team members can check out a few to try and see what’s the right fit for the people they support.

Many of the people we support are already using some of them, but they don’t always understand how it makes them more independent. We are working to better educate them about the advantages and encourage team members to take risks with their application.

Introducing new ways to deliver services can sometimes be daunting to team members who don’t feel they are “tech savvy” or may rely on traditional hand-over-hand techniques. But COVID certainly showed us how to adapt to ever-changing circumstances and technology began to play a bigger part of our service delivery then, and now.

Assistive Tech offers something for everybody. I am always available to help team members explore our Lending Library and can work with them to make selections that will best fit the needs and abilities of the people they support. If you would like to learn more about our Enabling Technology program and how it can achieve your person-centered goals, please contact me at

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