Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Victor's Story (Part 2)

Last week we told you the beginning of Victor’s story -his injury that left him a “para” and shared his letter of appreciation to Driving To Independence (D2I) . This week, I thought it would be fun to speak with Victor about not only his experience with Driving To Independence but also his experience with the Disability Community and Resources in Albuquerque.

While D2I completed his training months ago Victor has remained a presence to us as he is active in the disability community and a strong supporter of our program. When Victor talks about the importance of being involved with the disability community he makes a point to acknowledge his appreciation for programs who staff professional people and whom are interested in the honest and fair distribution or resources for the disability community.

As written in last week’s letter and in conversation with Victor he talks specifically of the professionalism of D2I staff and also appreciates that the Certified Driving Rehab Specialist he worked with “made it a fun experience.” When asked to describe his experience with our company, Victor explained: “The Staff at D2I has the experience to carry out the training, their knowledge and advice helps individuals choose the proper equipment for the modification of their automobile, their professionalism gave me the confidence to drive comfortably.”

Prior to pursuing Driving To Independence Victor used public transportation. While he got used to the Albuquerque Public Transit system he explains that “Public Transportation was difficult…because the limited routes, at times I need to transfer three times to get to my destination.” Prior to his injury Victor worked for the Chicago Transit Authority, but after his injury and moving to Albuquerque, his relationship with public transportation only made his pursuit of independence and employment harder.  

Victor was excited to learn of Driving To Independence’s opening in New Mexico as he had been looking for employment and being able to drive could only broaden his options for work.  Victor explains “It has been a long journey looking for a job; it seems like the minute they find out about my disability, Potential employers, turn me down. “ Surely, being able to drive and demonstrate one of the most significant symbols of independence in our society could help employers to see Victor for the independent and determined person he is.  Unfortunately, victim of the struggling economy, Victor continues to look for full time employment.

Victor would love to work in Costumer Service or Communication as he enjoys interacting with people on a personal level. His passion for helping others is exemplified in his council member position at NewMexico Seedloans . NM SeedLoans is a low interest loan program that assists disabled entrepreneurs pursue loans for small businesses. He is enrolled with New Mexico’sDivision of Vocational Rehab (DVR) and works with a job developer from Good Will to assist him in pursuing full time work. Victor was grateful DVR assisted in the funding of his Drivers Training at Driving To Independence as well as the costs related to purchasing and installing his hand controls.

Victor appreciates the opportunities D2I, DVR and other local disability resources has given him. He acknowledges that there are many programs in New Mexico that can assist those with disabilities but feels some may “fall short to accomplish the goals of those that seek their help.” Through it all Victors attitude about his disability, his independence and his employment remains inspirational; “I have been Independent for 30 years, I can say that the challenges I had to face, made me the person that I’m today,” says Victor.

If you would like to share your story, offer your thoughts on public resources ask Victor any questions- or even offer him a job :)  Feel free to comment below!

Friday, September 14, 2012

A letter from our Client (Victor's Story: Part 1)

A few weeks ago we received kind words from a former client. Victor Torrado was one of our first successful hand control drivers in Albuquerque.

Victor’s appreciation of us means a lot and we are grateful he has allowed us to share his letter as well as his story. Victor explains that at age 18 he was living in Chicago where he was shot and left for dead. He survived the traumatic ordeal but was left paralyzed. Thirty years later he now lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico where he describes himself as independent. Below you will find Victors letter… but stay tuned as next week we will share the details of Victor’s Story as well as his thoughts on Job Opportunities for those with disabilities and New Mexico’s Public Resources for this community.  

August 7, 2012

While on a Job Training Program, I thought about the need of my driving license. And looking for a Driving School that would accommodate my disability, I was referred to (DTI) Driving to Independence, a program that is newly here in Albuquerque for the disable. While training for an Office Assistant / Receptionist, I was also being trained to use auto hand controls for driving, with the good training that I received from Kristy (DTI) instructor and with her experience and knowledge I was able to get my license.
This is why I’m writing, to share my experience with individuals and programs that help people with disabilities. Driving to Independence is a local program their staff is very professional and caring and I recommend (DTI) to all those in need of obtaining more Independence.
Today one year later I have finish my (OJT) and I purchased a car, and I’m driving around looking and assisting at Job Fairs trying to find a job where I can be productive.
With this few words I’ll like to express my gratitude to Kristy, Molly, and Jenny the staff at (DTI) for playing a good role in helping me with driving lessons, well done girls I’ll never forget the experience we shared, Thank you all for making me feel like one of the family.

Victor Torrado

Council Member at NM Seedloan
(505) 489-7123

Monday, July 16, 2012

Review of Assistive Technology: The Future is Now

This week I went to the 14th Annual AT summer Institute. What an amazing event! The event was sold out in registration with over 300 RSA counselors, techs, teachers and therapists to name a few. The event took place at the Glendale Civic Center and took place over two days. 
The event kicked off on Wednesday with a continental breakfast and Keynote speaker Dr. James Nuttall. Dr. Nutall was legally blind as an infant and was later diagnosed with dyslexia. IN his adult years he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). In his presentation he discussed how technology both low and high tech, throughout has life has allowed him an independence that as a child he couldn’t dream of.
After the keynote participants took a break to meet the exhibitors including, yours truly. Other exhibitors included the Ability Center (Vehicle Modifications), ADL Solutions (Home Modifications), AzTAP (funding resource), ViewFinder Low Vision Resource Center, Arizona Center for Disability Law and many others.
Throughout the rest of the day presentations were given in the many rooms of the Civic Center. Presentation topics included Workplace Accessibility and Assistive Technology, iPad Applications to Support Reading, Writing and Note Taking,  and Social Media and the Disabilities Community.
Day two (which happened to be my birthday!) included a second Keynote Presentation from Edward Myers III, Esp of the Center for Disability Law. What an amazing presentation! He invited the audience to play a game of Jeopardy addressing the many laws related to disability and technology. The audience was truly engaged and I found myself thinking.. “If law school was like this, it would be more tempting.”
Day two also included more presentations on technology and tech resources such as “Live Long and Prosper with Arizona Rehab Services,” “Low Cost AT for the Classroom” and “How Modifications and adaptive Equipment can Impact One’s Life.”
The end of the day included door prizes for all the vendors, participants and presenters. Door prizes included low vision aids, tote bags, water bottles ect. Now, I am a fairly unlucky person (when it comes to "winning things"). If you buy a scratch ticket, I should not be the one to scratch it. I don’t think I have ever one a prize via raffle tickets, unless everybody wins a prize and in that case, I’m sure my prize broke before I got it home- because that is just how unlucky I am.  So of course I put my raffle ticket in the biggest prize. My theory is, if the lottery Gods are ever in my favor- I want it to be for the biggest jackpot.
ADL Solutions of Tempe Arizona got Best Bath Solutions to donate a $2500 gift certificate for a bathroom modification.  And guess who won?! I am so thrilled and determined to make good use of such a generous prize! 

When the day was over (and I headed home to my birthday dinner!),  I felt pleased to have been given the opportunity to learn more about Assistive Technology and to meet some of the great RSA Counselors whom I have spoken to 100 times but never known what they look like! 

Written by: Molly Hennessy, Patient Care Coordinator/Office Manager

Friday, May 11, 2012

How to prepare for "Driving Retirement"

                     How to Prepare for Driving Retirement

When Driving To Independence was started in 2001 the mission was set to facilitate mobility and independence in the community through safe driver skills. Our desire is to help people maintain or pursue their independence. Agreeably amongst our team one of the hardest parts of working at Driving To Independence is helping Senior’s accept Driving Retirement. It is an extremely emotional and personal process and when we are taking away one of these last freedoms, it is a tough to pill to swallow for everyone involved. Several times a week we talk to families about how to prepare their loved ones for driving retirement, we talk to doctors about how they can help their patients and their families decide when to give up the keys and we talk to seniors about how aging effect driving.

Seniors are not statistically the most likely to cause an accident, that title stays with our teenagers. However, because of the frailty of seniors they are the most likely to die or be seriously injured in car accidents. There are more than 5 million people in the U.S. with dementia and Alzheimer’s is the most common form. Even those without dementia will inevitably have changes that could affect their driving including vision, reaction time, slower decision making or reduced range of motion in the neck, shoulders or ankles or any combination of these medical issues.

Many seniors or their families begin to negotiate their own driving retirement by imposing self-restrictions such as no night time driving, freeway driving or avoiding unfamiliar areas. These are all restrictions we endorse and the Motor Vehicle Department allows for official restrictions. Often, seniors will describe that their families over react to “one little mistake” and after evaluation this sometimes proves to be true.

So how do we find the balance of preserving our senior’s dignity and independence while ensuring their safety and the safety of others on the road? Starting the conversation early in the senior years is important to allow everyone time to prepare and adjust to the changes that will need to be made when the senior does stop driving. Encouraging seniors to reduce the need for driving by living in areas that allow for public transportation, local social or religious gatherings and a close medical team that don’t require long commutes are important to have around the senior’s home. Family members should start to observe their driving earlier so that you can tell the difference between “bad habits” and changes in behavior. 
Molly & Her Nana

For us, we treat the Senior as if they were our own parents or grandparents. We consider their needs and options for transportation and consider if we would want them driving in our neighborhood or with our children. We consider what steps we would take to protect the safety and independence of our favorite senior.

When a diagnosis of dementia is given or obvious medical changes are being observed – there are things the family can do to help make the right choice of “when.” Look closely at how these medical changes could affect specifically driving. Forgetting if they took their medicine or how to work the TV remote are not necessarily signs that they will be unsafe on the road. Look for patterns of change in their driving behavior and if accidents or dents in their car are observed consider the frequency and severity of the incidents, after all, accidents happen to everyone. Consider how the person prioritizes information, synchronizes movements and their ability to multi-task. If and when you have concerns- take notes and sit to discuss it with them and/or their doctor calmly. Often, seniors will challenge both the doctors and family by minimizing the complexity of driving or the extent of their own degeneration. If there is disagreement on whether the senior is safe, it is important to air on the side of caution or at the very least have the senior participate in a Driving Evaluation. The decision for someone to continue or stop driving needs to be a priority as the consequences can be immediate and procrastination can be life threatening.