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The Tech-Aid Institute and People with Intellectual Disabilities

  • Published: 2010-01-07 (Rev. 2010-07-13) - Contact: Disabled World
  • Synopsis: The Tech-Aid Institute focuses on promotion and development of computer-based learning tools for persons with intellectual disabilities.

Main Document

The Tech-Aid Institute is an award winning corporation, established in 2002, that focuses on the promotion and development of computer-based learning tools for persons with intellectual disabilities.

The company specializes in the development of interactive, multimedia software programs that are designed to both challenge and positively affect the lives and experiences of people who have intellectual disabilities. Tech-Aid is a leader in their field and was one of the first companies in the world to develop interactive CD-ROM's with a focus on the prevention of respiratory illnesses for people with intellectual disabilities. They have received national recognition and acclaim for their work, which includes three recent and prestigious Bronze Telly Awards for their project, 'Live Smart, Live Safe: Preventing Respiratory Illness,' in the categories of Health and Wellness, Use of Graphics, and Multimedia.

The primary goal of the Tech-Aid Institute is the development and dissemination of innovative and functionally relevant training programs that promote individual well-being and independence in people who experience intellectual and/or other developmental, cognitive, and mental disabilities. The company's working values emphasize the importance of harm reduction and avoidance, quality of life, human rights, personal responsibility and accountability. The Tech-Aid Institute's current work efforts include efforts related to:

HIV/AIDS Prevention
Healthy Relationships
Emergency and Disaster Preparedness
Substance Abuse and Crime Prevention
Preventing Sexual Misconduct and Opportunistic Sex Offending

Dr. Jennifer Wells, Founder and President of Tech-Aid

Dr. Jennifer Wells, Tech-Aid's Founder and President, is leading the company is they continue to expand their efforts in various research areas. Tech-Aid is approaching critical areas related to public health issues that face people with intellectual disabilities. Dr. Wells saw a need for the development of these forms of interactive software after years of working with people who experience intellectual disabilities, types of chronic mental disabilities, and autism. She understood at an early time that people who experience intellectual disabilities had far more potential than was commonly acknowledged. Upon receipt of her Ph.D. from the University of Oregon in 1994, Dr. Wells began working in the realm of research and software development related to people with intellectual disabilities.

Immediately, Dr. Wells recognized that with independence comes increased autonomy, risks and responsibility; the very same things facing non-disabled persons. She established Tech-Aid in 2002 to assist people with intellectual disabilities to prepare and deal with potential emergencies, to include public health emergencies. Dr. Wells knows that they are a part of the requirements of living in this century, and that people with intellectual disabilities, like everyone, needs to understand these kinds of emergencies. Since then, Tech-Aid has received grant funding to perform work in the areas of sexual misconduct prevention and opportunistic sex offending, crime and substance abuse prevention, emergency preparedness, and HIV/AIDS prevention.

Tech-Aid Staff Members

The staff at the Tech-Aid Institute includes a small group of people with extensive, direct service experience related to working with people who experience intellectual, cognitive, and/or learning disabilities, developmental disabilities, autism, chronic mental health disabilities, challenging behaviors, and traumatic brain injury. Tech-Aid's professional staff members share clinical experience through a wide-range of service settings, to include vocational programs, special education programs, rehabilitative programs that range from institutional to supported independent living settings, and socialization and recreational programs.

The working group at Tech-Aid is exceptionally unique due to their parallel experiences in the areas of not only software development, but graphic design, video production, behavioral research, and curriculum design as well. They have been working as a group for the past eleven years on a number of interactive CD-ROM programs that are designed specifically for people who experience intellectual disabilities. The working group as been successful in designing an award winning, interactive interface that people with intellectual disabilities with needs that range from moderate to mild, are able to use both competently and independently.

Tech-Aid Institute Products

The Tech-Aid Institute is aware that people with intellectual disabilities need products that are easy-to-use, readily available, and based on effective instructional design and technologies. Their resources and materials are structured in a manner that promotes the acquisition of skills and learning. In order to meet the unique learning needs of people with intellectual disabilities, each of the content areas of their products is broken into component concepts or skills.

The interactive computer programs created by Tech-Aid are founded on behavioral-based instruction. Starting with examples, each of the concepts is defined. Once a concept has been taught, the person with an intellectual disability is presented with a series of examples and non-examples to test their understand. The examples and non-examples serve as interactive test items, or quizzes. Based upon the person's performance, the computer program provides them with immediate on-screen error correction and remediation, and presents them with additional opportunities to practice or apply new information or skills. The combination represents something that has been referred to in educational literature as, 'Direct Instruction,' and mastery-based learning. Using this method of instruction allows the person to develop a problem solving approach to the identification of risks and reduction of those risks, instead of simply memorizing separate skills.

The computer programs produced by Tech-Aid use an interactive interface that is proven and easy-to-use, one that people with intellectual disabilities with needs ranging from moderate to mild are able to use both competently and independently. The company's programs use straightforward language to teach and communicate content, taking advantage of current technology in order to deliver content in a format that does not require reading. The content is taught to the person using a multimedia approach that includes the use of graphics, animation, video-based materials, and digital still photography.

Tech-Aid's computer and video DVD programs are divided into chapters, making it easy for either individuals with intellectual disabilities or groups to navigate the program at a pace that is comfortable for them. People who are using the program have the ability to stop it as needed and resume it at a later time. Groups using the DVD programs chapters find that this allows them time for discussion - www.techaidinstitute.com



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