Eugene Tech Company Awarded Almost $700,000 in New Grant Funding to Further Community Participation and Meaningful Employment for Individuals with Cognitive Disabilities
EUGENE, OR: OCT 25, 2018: Assistech Systems, LLC, a small business focused on research and development of technology to support employment, education, and community living for youth and adults with cognitive disabilities, together with its commercialization partner, Cognitopia, announce two new grant projects that have been funded through the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR), which is housed in the Administration on Community Living within the Department of Health and Human Services. The new funding will support the development of digital technology that augments the company’s existing platform of web apps designed for individuals with intellectual disabilities and autism.
The first award is a NIDILRR Field-Initiated Development grant, Getting Out (Award # 90IFDV0008, October 2018 – September 2021), funded for a total of $599,862. Getting Out is a three-year project to develop an innovative web application that helps individuals with cognitive disabilities more effectively build and maintain social relationships, turning virtual social networks of people with and without disabilities into real-world relationships around activities of common interest and mutual support.
According to Project Director Dr. Tom Keating, “The ultimate goal is to enhance the ability of users with developmental disabilities to build and maintain friendships through self-initiated social activities. We’ve already created some useful and innovative tools to help people manage daily life more independently and help caregivers provide support. But social connection is the ultimate goal for all of us, including people with disabilities who face extra challenges in that regard. And when I talk to parents, what they really want for their children is friendships, a sense of belonging, and meaningful work. Building the social capital and connections that lead to those things is the focus of this new project.”
The second grant, Person-Centered Planning (PCP) ToolKit, is also directed by Keating and is funded by the NIDILRR Small Business Innovation Research Program. During this six-month project (Award # 90BISA0019, October 2018 – March 2019) that is funded for a total of $99,986, Keating and his employees will create two web application prototypes designed to improve employment prospects for transition-aged youth and young adults with disabilities.
Person-Centered Planning is a common process employed by agencies that provide supported living and employment services to individuals with disabilities. Its purpose is to identify self-directed life goals that shape the care services that individuals receive. PCP ToolKit will help those individuals actively direct their own goal development and track follow-through by PCP team members through a Team Assignments, Collaboration, and Task Tracking (TACT) tool. For employment goals specifically, the project will also produce a Community Assets Map (CAM) tool used to streamline job development and placement by employment support professionals and their agencies.
Keating explained, “In essence, the apps within the PCP Toolkit will help users with disabilities drive the services they receive while enhancing the efforts of job developers to identify untapped employment opportunities in local communities across the nation.”
Keating and his companies have been focused for over twenty years on research and development of self-management and community living applications for individuals with cognitive disabilities including autism, intellectual disabilities, TBI, and cognitive decline due to aging. He holds a Ph.D. in Special Education and Rehabilitation from the University of Oregon, where he also serves as a Courtesy Research Associate in the Department of Computer and Information Sciences.
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Contact: Julie Henning
Marketing Manager, Cognitopia/Assistech Systems, LLC
Images and Interviews Available Upon Request
Julie Henning has been with Cognitopia since 2015. In that time, she has been involved in customer support, training, marketing, documentation, social media, and data collection. Some of her favorite projects have been mentoring our videographer intern, Nate, and weekly classroom testing and curriculum development for the many students in the 4J Connections Transition program. She works closely with Eugene-based SLLEA (Smart Living, Learning & Earning with Autism) to integrate Cognitopia’s self-management tools into the organization and structure design input and support platform implementation. Professionally, Julie has over twenty years’ experience working in engineering, technology, software development, and journalism; a path made possible with two degrees in Technical Communication: a BS from the Milwaukee School of Engineering and a MS from Colorado State University. A single mom of three high schoolers (grades 9, 10, and 11), Julie has introduced Cognitopia to terms such as “sick” and “yeet,” while overseeing the office coffee consumption. In her free time, she enjoys playing recreational soccer, improv comedy, and traveling.