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Blake Dowling: Check into tech to help win your battle

What is your battle? Getting legislation passed? Trying to close a deal? This piece will explore different kinds of battles. Buckle up.

I just watched a story on ESPN about the California School for the Deaf that focused on its football team. It detailed the most recent season as its team competed against hearing players and their guts and teamwork. It reminded me of the importance of the question: “How can technology help you win battles?” For example, imagine how powerful texting is for a deaf person.

The story reminded me of my first writing gig. It was 2011 and my editor emailed that he needed my column the next day. I was watching Tim Tebow and the Broncos beat Miami in a wild NFL game. I had been married the previous day, and my father in law and my wife, Jeanne, and I sat down to watch the sun set. We were set to knock back some Pinot Noir, tear into some stone crab claws from Goat Feathers and watch “60 Minutes.” I still had no topic in mind.

The first story on “60 Minutes” grabbed me by the heart and I wrote that column about it. It reported on autistic kids unable to communicate well through traditional means. Using paper technology to test them, they didn’t respond well. However, when iPads were used to test them, scientists realized they were extremely bright.

When technology was brought into the mix, test results were off the charts. The end result boosted these kids’s quality of life. When I got back to town I worked with our CEO at Aegis, Pam Butler, to give iPads to local groups working with challenged kids. It was our turn to help and we answered the call.

I lunched recently with the Tree House board of directors to plan how we’ll help the youngsters in our care in the coming year. Tree House shelters kids in need, and technology was involved in most conversations. New computers at the house for homework, a mobile app for bidding at a fundraiser, updating the website to be more informative, you name it. We are going to make sure those kids have cutting edge technology that helps them succeed while our guests.

Do you know about the Gretchen Everhart School in Tallahassee? It’s part of the Leon County School System and serves students with physical and intellectual disabilities ages from 3 to 22 years old. My first introduction was at my daughter’s cheerleading competition at Montford two years ago. The GE squad came out and gave their all, and the whole place cheered them on, with few dry eyes in the house.

I was having lunch with real estate pro Brett Ketcham recently and he mentioned his child goes there. Brett arranged a campus tour, where I met Principal Jane Floyd Bullen and several faculty members. I would describe the student body as heroes. I would describe the teachers as champions. These teachers showed much attention, love, patience and commitment for their students.

The youngsters interacted with iPads, Smart Boards, recordable technology, custom monitors and keyboards. Teachers and students customized them to find a way to teach and to find a way to let the students learn.

Another team member, Joy Delaney, created an extremely innovative blog that’s become a national place for sharing ideas about occupational therapy. It’s at groupbygroup.wordpress.com.

Lorrie Corry, literary coach, said this about technology: “Technology tools for our students bring possibilities that aren’t there without … possibilities to access something … possibilities to learn something new … possibilities to connect with others in more meaningful ways. Assistive technologies are tools that increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of the individual.”

She also said,” Many of our students just can’t do things without it. For example, the child that cannot use fingers to touch type on a keyboard might use an alternative keyboard. A child that can focus and attend to a computer screen, may be able to do it if it is a touch screen.

“An iPad can give a child like ours the abilities to talk and tell others what they are thinking. Most individuals take technology for granted. We never do here at Everhart … it is at the base of everything we do with our children.

“There’s an old saying. For typical people, technology makes things fun. For people with disabilities, technology makes things possible.”

I don’t know what your battle is but I do know there’s a good chance some form of technology can help you win it. So fight the good fight, embrace tech, and don’t forget to help others with their battle. And check out Gretchen Everhart School: Its mission is a noble one.

This column is dedicated to my father in law, Bill Yoste. Thanks for literally saving my life this year.

Blake Dowling is chief business development officer for Aegis Business Technologies located in Tallahassee, Florida. He writes for several organizations and can be reached at dowlingb@aegisbiztech.com.

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