Technology has the potential to make lives a lot easier, but when you have a disability, it can be difficult to know what tech will support your needs. Disability Cocoon finds and promotes disability technology solutions to inspire and foster increased independence. We chatted with their founder, Dustin Wright, to find out a bit more about what they do.
What is Disability Cocoon?
Disability Cocoon is an enabling technology catalyst organization. “What the heck is that?” you might ask. Well, it basically means that we source the best tech that’s out there and pull it all together in one platform to make it easy to discover.
Why did you decide to start Disability Cocoon?
Having spent 20 years in the Intellectual/Developmental Disabilities (I/DD) industry, 13 of those running a disability technology company, I realized that the “industry” was in desperate need of innovative ways to provide support and increase independence. The people working in this industry want change and know they need to find new and innovative approaches, but despite this, they are somewhat slow to change. People are scared to step out and do something new and different. Someone needed to take a leadership role in the area and I felt a responsibility to do this.
What are some of the ways you help educate people about technology for those with disabilities?
By far the best way for people to learn is by seeing and hearing what their colleagues are doing. I am pulling together these success stories in weekly Tech:Huddles (webinars), and in regional Tech:Festivals (conferences). I’m also sharing all this content through email and social media. Stories and use-case examples are the best way for people to see that it’s alright to step out and do some new things.
What is a Tech:Fest?
A Tech:Fest is a one day, conference-like event that has an intentionally different feel to your typical conference. We source leaders in disability technology and the newest ideas and solutions and blend this into a festival-type environment. This makes it fun to learn and explore new possibilities for how you can increase independence. Tech:Fests are held regionally around the United States so people can network with leaders in this space. We also broadcast live online so people can choose to attend remotely if they can’t make it in person for whatever reason.
What resources are people finding most useful?
People seem to really like the Tech:Fest environment. In one day they are able to take a break from the typical conference or work environment and open their eyes to possibilities.
In what areas are people asking for more help or technology?
People seem to be very interested in remote support technologies and “cognitive support tech.” Cognitive support technology is a pretty wide topic that includes apps and platforms that provide prompting through ADLs. People also seem to really need solutions for medication management and health and safety (seizure sensors, GPS for wandering, etc).
You’ve probably seen some pretty inventive technology. What’s the most interesting tech discovery you’ve made?
Wow, that’s a very tough question to answer. Honestly, I would probably have a different response every day you ask this question. Right now I’m most excited about Voiceitt. They have created a way to “teach” Amazon Alexa’s voice recognition to understand non-typical speech patterns. This has been a big barrier to using smart assistant platforms for people with various disabilities. Voiceitt’s technology should open up unlimited possibilities in using IoT (Internet of Things) to increase autonomy. This is a great example of universal design in action.
Why is the Declaration of Rights of People with Cognitive Disabilities to Technology and Information Access necessary?
This is used to help shape the understanding that people with disabilities are being “left behind” in our technological age. This Declaration is a statement that as our society shifts towards tech, we have to be aware of people with disabilities’ right to be included in all aspects of our modern culture. The Declaration is used to show consensus around this fundamental right, and it is used to affect policy and legislative change across the United States.
What’s next for Disability Cocoon?
Well, we’ve only been in business for five months, so I am staying fairly focused on creating great content for people to learn and discover. I am pulling together a national funding and resource library and will also make tech available for purchase. My ultimate goal is to create a “one-stop-resource” center where people can learn/discover, figure out how to fund it, find the solution they want, make the purchase (even using Waiver funds), and get implementation support — all in one place.
When you’re not starting technology education organizations, what do you like to do in your spare time?
I honestly do this. I’m lucky that I get to live my passion and do this for fun in my “down time.” It really gets me excited. When I’m not doing Disability Cocoon work, I do typical family things and always try to make time to workout each day. I love going out to eat with my wife and kids and love finding great “hole in the wall” places to eat something new. I guess I’m addicted to change. I have to do new things and have new experiences….I get bored easily.
Find out more about Disability Cocoon and their Tech:Fests’s and Tech:Huddle’s by going to their website.