‘A-Team’ tackles accommodations issues with cross-divisional approach

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The ADRS A-Team — that’s the accommodations team — isn’t taking pity or prisoners when it comes to helping all consumers achieve their maximum potential.

The team’s innovative approach targets consumers with the most-significant disabilities, and cleverly uses creative solutions through rehabilitation technology to better prepare individuals for life at home, school, work, and in the community.

If the concept sounds similar to many different programs at ADRS, that’s because it is. But what makes the A-Team  unique is how it goes about accomplishing this goal.

Each A-Team is comprised of 10 to 12 ADRS staff from across the department’s many programs working in sync to solve various problems for consumers with significant disabilities. Staff involved in A-Teams may include case managers, physical therapists, speech/language therapists, rehabilitation technology specialists, audiologists, occupational therapists, vocational rehabilitation counselors, low-vision technology specialists, independent living specialists, and business relations consultants.

“We are tearing down the walls between divisions with respect to accommodations,” said ADRS Rehabilitation Technology Specialist Bynum Duren, who is spearheading the initiative. “I tell the team members at every meeting, ‘You are not CRS, VR, or Independent Living staff when you enter this room. We are ADRS. “Together, Success.” ‘  That slogan is on the front of our annual report every year, and that’s the goal of this group – to work together to help our consumers live more independent lives.”

The wealth of resources that comprise each A-Team address multiple issues that affect employability or living independently, Duren said. Examples of issues already addressed by the A-Team include: the ability to get out of bed without attendant care, properly transferring to and from a wheelchair independently, and using bathroom facilities independently.

“For people with the most-significant disabilities, the magic time frame is 8 to 10 hours of self-sufficiency,” said Duren. “If you can be independent for that amount of time, you can work. Or, your loved-one who cares for you at home is free to work. Either way, we are clearly benefiting that family.”

While the group of consumers targeted by the A-Team have the most-significant disabilities, the target age of the program is birth to 16. The idea is to focus on things that can be done now to better prepare that individual for taking the next step in life – whether it is at school, work, or living independently at home.

“When I first became commissioner,” said Cary Boswell, “I made it a priority to develop more and better services for persons with the most-significant disabilities, and the A-Team is doing just that. This approach is a more coordinated way of serving people with the most-significant disabilities, and I fully support the A-Team and the work they’re doing.”

Accommodations teams are currently operating in Homewood and Gadsden, with Montgomery to kick off in three to four months. Future teams in Tuscaloosa, Huntsville, Mobile, and Dothan are in preliminary planning stages.

“Motivation is the key,” said Duren. “If we have a consumer who is motivated to work, no matter the severity of the disability, we can make it happen. RT (rehabilitation technology) makes it happen; technology is the great enabler.”

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