By Emily Flynn, Program Coordinator for Ability Tools
This month, I had the pleasure of interviewing Patrick Tran for our “Get to Know Your AT Advocate!” blog series. Patrick has been an AT Advocate at Service Center for Independent Life for two years. He was recently voted “AT Advocate of the Year” by his peers in the southern region of California.
1. What is your background and / or interest in Assistive Technology (AT)?
I actually started working in accounting and management; I received my BA degree from Baker College in Michigan. I tutored students in basic/principle accounting at the college campus for a couple of years, and I also worked for a construction company as an accounting clerk. After I graduated, I relocated to the state of California and I worked for an ILC, Community Rehabilitation Service, Inc., for over 10 years as an ILS. I have no formal background in AT except some basic computer skills, CCTVs and utilizing the AT for low vision. I also assisted consumers in locating Durable Medical Equipment (DME) through the Convalescent Aide Society. After I got laid off from CRS, I faxed and emailed my resume to all the different ILCs in Southern California. And, on one fortunate day, I received a call from SCIL for an interview and was hired as their AT Advocate.
2. What is your favorite part of being an AT Advocate?
My favorite part of being an AT Advocate is having the opportunity to really get out there and learn about the many various assistive technologies available. I particularly enjoy learning about the new and available assistive technologies showcased at the Abilities Expo, CSUN, on the AT Exchange, and at our Regional Ability Tools In-person meetings. I like to take the information/materials back to the center in order to provide resources to the consumers that may benefit them, enhancing their ability to live independent lives.
3. What is your favorite AT and why?
My favorite Assistive Technology devices are my electronic magnifier, my Daisy, my scanner, and the screen reader I use. These are my AT “toys”, but these toys have been making my life much easier. They all really allow me to be able to perform my daily tasks and accomplish my work.
4. If you run a Device Lending Library (DLL), what are the most popular items that you loan out?
We do not run a DLL in our office, but we do have some digital talking books from the Braille Institute and some handheld video magnifiers donated by Enhance Vision that we lend out to our consumers frequently. We also have the programs Zoomtext, Jaws, C desk and NVDA on most of the computers in our computer lab, and we have a volunteer that teaches computer classes on how to use software for individuals that are low vision and/or blind. I have quite a few of my AT consumers that have a vision disability. However, most of them have their own iPhones and already use AT apps such as money identifiers, BARD mobile, KNFB reader, and color readers. We also utilize Rolling Start’s DLL and the Ability Tools website in assisting consumers with finding the AT device and/or DME that they need. The items that we have requested the most from the DLL are the iPads and portable ramps.
5. How have you seen AT really make a difference in someone’s life?
Having your own DLL at the center would definitely be very useful and helpful for our consumers. If we had DME or more high-tech AT or both available to our consumers for loan, it would benefit them greatly. For example, many of our consumers could use this equipment while they wait for their new AT from their health insurance, or to have them try it out before they buy it, so they don’t waste their money if it doesn’t work our for them. It gives consumers opportunity to explore what is AT is available out there that they might not know about. I would like to thank Rolling Start, who loaned out a portable ramp for one of our consumers. Thanks to their DLL, he now has access to a be able to get in and out of his house, and this makes his life and his caretakers’ lives easier. Without this ramp, it took two people to push and then carry him with his wheelchair up and down the stepped entrance.
5. What AT item is on your wish list?
The Prodigi Duo 2-in-1 twenty inch electronic magnifier. It is both a table-top magnifier and a hand-held magnifier in one that has a touch screen and docks into a table-top unit. It has high quality images that can be magnified exponentially and the user also can switch from reading them to listening to them be read aloud with the tap of a finer. You can also store photos and documents on it to take with you to go. This is a great piece of AT for those individuals with vision loss.