The Bridge2Work app provides assistance for people with disabilities, on the job!
There’s an app for that? Imagine this:
‘Janet’ is an autistic person who recently got a job as a designer. Her supervisor, Bob, is happy to have hired Janet for her remarkable graphic design skills.
On Monday Bob gave Janet a new design assignment and asked her to have it completed by Wednesday. Janet works on it very hard Monday… Tuesday… Wednesday… Thursday… and on Friday, Bob stops by Janet’s workstation to ask her where her work is. He can see that she has worked on it and that the project is looking great but is still unfinished. Janet is unable to explain why it is not done and Bob can’t understand why she doesn’t understand.
Janet taps the Help button in the Bridge2Work app on her phone. Based on her pre-established preference, a video chat opens up with a case worker who knows Janet and who then facilitates a conversation between the employer, Bob, and employee, Janet.
At the end of the call, Bob understands that Janet is stressed about not turning her work in but she feels that it is not good enough yet. The case worker spends some time with Janet and explains to her that she must turn in her work by the deadline but can continue to work to refine it on her own time if she feels that she needs to. A guide to handling deadlines specific to her job is added to Janet’s personalized information portal within the Bridge2Work app.
(The above example was based on a real situation with a CTP student)
Better yet, in the future the case manager can review the Janet’s Bridge2Work logs to see if there is a pattern to what she needs help with on the job. If there is a recurring need this may be something that can be better addressed with training or a workplace accommodation. If there is a regular need for help that goes beyond what can be realistically done remotely this can be a justification for supported employment (in-person job coach).
This app breaks new ground by using technology to improve case management!
At CTP we have always leveraged our understanding of technology to improve employment opportunities for people with disabilities. Way back in the 1970’s our founders realized that computers could be adapted for use by just about anyone, regardless of physical ability. Simple solutions such as height adjustable desks, specialized mice and keyboards, and large monitors as well as some not-so-simple solutions like screen readers and speech-to-text software opened up a new world of independence.
The success of programs like CTP and the disability rights movement in general means that just about anyone with a physical disability now has the ability to go to a traditional educational institution. But CTP’s work is not finished.
Today those most in need have invisible disabilities such as autism, learning differences, mental illness and complex combinations of conditions that leave these would be job seekers unready for employment.
The solution to some of these problems is case management and supported employment – a helping hand to get started in a career, and maintain and develop it over time.
However, there are problems with these solutions:
- Expensive. Given the lack of available resources it is very difficult to sustainably staff these types of services. Typically counselors who work for the state have greater than 100 concurrent cases. Nonprofits that provide additional support are often chronically under-funded or rely on grants that come and go (and the service with it).
- Inefficient. In the case of in-person job coaching, support staff attends the employee at the job site and assists when needed. Most of this person’s time is spent waiting to handle problems if they arise.
- Difficult to staff. The double-edge sword of insufficient funding. These types of social service positions do not pay well and have a high turnover rate.
- Social stigma for the recipient. An employee who goes to work with a regular job coach may not be seen as an equal on the job.
In 1974 many believed that people with physical disabilities could not lead productive and independent lives. Today many feel the same way about autistic people and others with invisible disabilities. Technology gives us the opportunity to increase the efficiency of our work and focus resources where they can have the most impact.