In May 2020, ADAPT Community Network’s virtual programming network was born, a major change for the people supported by ADAPT, who no longer had to attend in-person programs to learn and socialize. As the world transitioned to Zoom and Teams, most people (at ADAPT and beyond) struggled with the new technology. Joining meetings, muting and unmuting—it was new to all of us. Alicia Locure, a Technical Engineer at ADAPT Community Network, noticed that while staff had a help desk dedicated to addressing their technical needs, there was no one managing tech issues for the people we support. Alicia, a former direct support professional, pointed this out and was tasked with filling that gap with “Help Us.”
Help Us is a specialized help desk just for people supported. Its team addresses technical issues by phone and email and guides individuals through the ins and outs of their tablets and laptops as well as personal devices like phones. In addition, they help the people we support set up their emails and navigate Microsoft Teams so they can participate in the vast network of virtual programming ADAPT offers. Training and tech support are offered in English and Spanish, and ASL interpretation is provided as needed.
According to Alicia, the support of Help Us has been gladly received.
“I’ve received a lot of ‘thank you’s from people we support and their families,” she said. “We are told that we are able to teach and instruct in a way that people really understand. People are happy to have a help desk to support people, and the families and staff members working with them to solve their tech issues.”
In addition to the help desk, the Help Us and Community Outreach teams attempt to address these technical difficulties at their source. They set up a webinar training series on utilizing technology to its fullest.
One of the instructors for these classes is Paul Tudisco, who is also a person supported by ADAPT. As the founder and CEO of Limitless Stylus, Paul has been making more accessible touchscreen styluses for people with limited mobility since 2012. Paul started working at ADAPT as a help desk specialist and, recently, was featured in a PIX11 Changemakers segment showcasing his accomplishments and his work as an ADAPT help desk specialist, which you can view here.
Paul, Alicia, and the rest of the team hold regular training about topics including Trumba (an online calendar software), Microsoft Teams, Google Suite, writing emails, using smart technology, and more. The ongoing series attracts dozens of individuals eager to make the most out of their devices.
Kathleen Archibald, who attended the 137th Street Adult Day Program in the Bronx before 2020, has been able to forge more connections from the comfort of her home thanks to ADAPT. She uses her ADAPT email every day, receiving alerts about activities and meetings she can participate in.
“Microsoft Teams is working out really well,” Kathleen said. “I attend Self-Advocacy Classes on my iPad, and I’m part of the Black Lives Matter group. It’s good for me to have a way to do things with friends who I don’t see any more on a daily basis.”