2018 TASH Conference has ended
Each year, the TASH Conference brings together a diverse community of stakeholders who gain information, learn about resources, and connect with others across the country to strengthen the disability field. This year’s conference theme, “Be Creative - Innovative Solutions for an Inclusive Life,” reminds us to think outside the box during times of uncertainty. Creativity, innovation, and determination can pave the way for meaningful and inclusive lives for people with disabilities.
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Friday, November 30 • 2:15pm - 3:05pm
Technology Changed by Destiny Seating Available

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Limited Capacity seats available

Access to my community is directly connected to my access to technology. I'm presenting today based on my rich life experiences, using a combination of film and story telling. Film is best for me, because reading a PowerPoint takes too much work. Working with Jennifer and Amelia ahead of time to get my story organized on film allows me to stay focused on my message and include important details. Without this accommodation, I can be like pinball machine, with ideas bouncing from one to another! (in the program) First let me tell you a little about myself. My family didn't know what to do with a child born with CP. To this day, we have a strained relationship. I now have a chosen family that totally gets me! My teachers also didn't know how to accommodate me. I'll be blunt, Special Ed sucked. I had challenges learning to read, I tried many times with no success. As I got older, I felt worse and worse about myself. It's hard to feel good, when you feel less than. As you can see I have a pretty positive attitude and cheerful outlook. But my circumstances depressed me. Entering the work world had its own challenges. I used to frequent a baseball card shop. The owner ran a magazine shop next door and gave me my first job... at 18 years old I was paid to make sure the centerfold in each Playboy magazine was inserted correctly. Seriously. What drove that job offer? Were they giving the poor handicapped guy access to naked women because they thought I'd never be intimate with someone? My 2nd job was ticketing clothing at Sears. Then I landed a dream job with the State of WA, where I've worked for 21 years! This is where technology started to change my options: I was trained on my desktop computer to use voice activated software called Dragon Naturally Speaking, a screen reader called Jaws and connecting software called JSay. I only used these tools at work, I didn't have an accommodated home computer. Scanning tickets at sporting events was my dream job. I got a job working at the Safeco stadium in Seattle. I was elated. I started scanning tickets but didn't have the right accommodations. I called Jennifer White who helped me create a jig. I used the jig for a couple of weeks and then learned how to scan independently without the jig. I got really good. I had wanted that job from an early age, since I was a little boy when I met Alvin Davis, my favorite 1st baseman. That year I was awarded MVP. IA rep from the Seahawks saw me taking tickets for the Mariners and asked me to come work for him, so I added a schedule at the Seahawks stadium. I was working the elevator but was getting lost every time I had to go to the bathroom. I called Jennifer and told her I couldn't do the job because working a shift for 8 hours without a bathroom wasn't going to work. She scheduled her staff, Amelia to come in. Amelia helped create a visual reference tool. Then I added soccer games- whew I was busy! But the point is I felt confident unlocking my locker, managing the elevator and finding my way around. Most job coaches I worked with in the past assumed I didn't know and had to be taught. Instead, Amelia assumed I knew it all, asked where I felt stuck and offered ways for me to remember or access tools that helped me. Living with the inability to read limited my access to people, community and options to move upward at work. Suicide crossed my mind several times, I felt so stupid because I couldn't read. Then I saw the movie, Freedom Writers, it touched me to the core. I remembered the best teacher I'd ever met, Carol Carrothers, and bawling my eyes out, I called her and asked if she'd teach me how to read. At 40 years old, I started a 10 year journey meeting with Carol over the phone and Skype, learning to read. She helped me write a letter to Erin, the teacher who inspired the Freedom Writers. This is a cool story! Erin flew us to LA, where I got onstage with her! Learning to read changed my perception of myself. But it was still a struggle, my reading level hits about 3rd grade. In 2015, I learned what a mobile device could do for me! My old teacher and friend Carol introduced me to Jennifer White. We met at a conference in Ellensburg where she was presenting on her new app, Work Autonomy. I was so stoked, I grabbed my boss to show her what is possible! Technology could raise me to equality. Jennifer gave me an iPad Mini, then trained me on how to use some cool apps: Voice Dream (screen reading so I can listen to news, weather, everything!) and Work Autonomy (so I could learn how to cook). Then about 6 months later my wife and I bought new iPhones. My wife Emily wasn't sure I'd be able to use all the features...was it worth spending all that money?? YES! Jennifer gave me lessons on talking to the phone, using the microphone on the keyboard to write email & texts. I was flipping out! The keyboard mic let me use Voice Activation for everything. Now I feel like "what disability"? LIVE DEMO, using Siri, which my wife calls "my mistress". FaceTime call to Jennifer. Amelia sending and Michael reading texts. When I look back over my life I see that our service systems, like the rest of the world, are uneducated about the best accommodations for people with disabilities, they are stuck in old ideas. This meant people set the bar too low for me. I believed that bar was true, I thought I was stupid and considered suicide several times because of it! Learning to use technology to accommodate my challenges with reading and working with people who believe in me has changed my life, my belief in myself and my dreams for the future. Like presenting here today. I've spoken at several places over the years, but I'm hoping to become a national speaker, to help set the bar higher for all of us!! I'm also inventing my own app, check out the campaign "Because I Know What I Need" at www.ableopps.com You can donate to people with disabilities who are inventing their own accommodation apps! We have work to do to get more people with intellectual disabilities leading the discussion about how to raise the bar, raise expectations, increase access to better opportunities using accommodations to present like I'm doing today. Contact me, I'm for hire! Question and answer period.

avatar for Michael Rogers

Michael Rogers

Receptionist, WA State DDA
Michael Rogers has dyslexia and cerebral palsy, yet he doesn't let this stop him from doing the things he wants to do in life. He served on the President's Committee on People with Intellectual Disabilities (formerly named the President's Committee on Mental Retardation), where he... Read More →

Friday November 30, 2018 2:15pm - 3:05pm PST
Salon G - Lower Level 1401 SW Naito Parkway, Portland, OR 97201