…. Lisa Marie Clinton, CEO, Avail: Assisted Visuals Achieving Independent Living
1. What does avail do?
avail is an educational platform that promotes independence for children and adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Down Syndrome, Intellectual Disabilities and Developmental Coordination Disorder. avail provides personal step-by-step instructions of tasks through the use of videos, pictures, audios and text prompts. These are delivered on our avail app, while our avail web portal tracks and reports progress.
2. Why did you choose to create this kind of support / product?
I have worked within the disability sector for the past 10 years, the majority as an ABA Tutor in a school for children with Autism. I witnessed many teenagers transition into adulthood and seen a need to provide an approach that can promotes lifelong learning and opportunities within and outside of the educational system. At the time I was completing my Masters and questioned using the advances in technology “How can I help people be independent?”
3. Where did you train and how long did it take?
I completed a 4-year Honours degree in Social Studies in 2008. After many years of supporting people with disabilities, I wanted to take a step back and study the research conducted in the field. In 2014, I returned to college and completed a Masters in Child, Family and Community Studies with DIT. I loved the variations of modules and the broad experience of the lectures and fellow classmates. Adamant to make the most of the opportunity, since I had taken a career break from school and made financial sacrifices, l completed my dissertation on the use of assisted technology for people with disabilities. I knew l could use the research in my work and raise awareness on the use of assisted technology, an area l always had a keen interest in. Although, l wasn’t expecting to development avail from it, that just happened as a result of seeing an opportunity!
4. What qualities and skills did you bring to this initiative?
There are real benefits to gain form building a product from the ground up. From my experiences l obtained valuable insight into all of life’s transition: home support, education, day services, employment and residential/independent living.
Having worked 1:1 with students and adults, l developed the motivation and courage to want to do more for the fantastic people and family that l work with but also for the others who also have dreams and personal goals. Other skills l bring to avail, l would like to think a positive attitude and open mind. I started avail with student load and a big dream!
5. Have you always worked in the area of disability?
Mostly yes, when l was completing my Master’s l worked part time with teenagers in care. I found this area challenging and alien to me, within my other roles l could witness the progress and impact l was making on an individual’s life although it was difficult to make such an impact within this role. It was a valuable experience, but l knew my passion was working in the disabilities sector.
6. How can avail support college students and / or school leavers?
avail can support in many different ways, and this is based on the person’s goals. We actually have one student using it to support him in travelling to his college, he is now travelling independently! He receives instructions on the task e.g Picture and audio prompt of his bus, video of how to hand over his ticket, picture of his stop is, video of how to cross at the traffic lights and then a picture of his class.
School leavers can use avail for independent living e.g cooking, cleaning or community skill e.g purchasing items, going to the gym etc. It is built around the person, so there are no limits on the skills that can be learned.
7. What do you like most about your job?
Ok, well that’s an easy one. I love that l have changed and will continue change many people’s lives! As l say this l am cringing but that is what avail has done for the people who are already using it, and we haven’t launched yet. From travelling independently, cooking your own dinner, living independently. These may seem like small things to a lot of people, but for a person and their family this could be like winning the lotto! I love presenting avail to people, as afterwards l hear about all the possibilities that are an option now as a result of avail. I am so fortunate and thankful l didn’t give up, these stories are my motivation that got me to this point.
8. Are you working on any projects at the moment?
Yes, at the moment we have various Day Services and Parents trialling avail ahead of our launch at the end of October. We are also speaking to Employability Services who have also seen the potential of avail as an aid to support people in employment. While I am building our avail library to include a variety of tasks and social studies that can be downloaded.
9. What is your top tip for students starting college or entering employment?
I know it can be a major adjustment for many young people, so familiarise yourself with the building, course content, classrooms, canteen, community if the student is staying up or the bus route if traveling. This will hopefully reduce anxiety or sleepless nights, and help you settle in. Also, choose a course that you are interested in!
10. How can parents help?
I believe preparation is key, and this is probably related to my background. So start talking about college early and explore what is needed for a successful transition. If you have any questions, don’t be afraid to contact the college, they are there to help.
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