Keep the Values and Change the Approach.  

Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to welcome state government officials and elected representatives at our Smarter Living Home. The meeting’s purpose was to advocate for removing the lifetime cap on assistive/enabling technology. I thought about what I wanted to say in my welcome message and dug back into a few KenCrest experiences and personal ones.  

KenCrest took a stand in 1986, saying we would no longer operate a campus. Over the next five years, we helped the individuals who lived at Rivercrest to find the home they wanted.  

I remember visiting Rivercrest to meet one of the individuals who expressed an interest in support from Elwyn, where I was working at the time. When the campus was no longer needed, the Board sold it and created an endowment fund. The endowment is restricted to innovation, and those funds were used to develop the Smarter Living Home.  

I thought about my own experience and when I first identified technology. I was 12 when we lost our home to fire. We went to live next door with my grandparents. I have always lived my life focused on abundance. There is some good in everything and everyone, and I need to find it and recognize it. On that first night, two things came to mind when getting ready for bed. My dad could not give us the nasty-tasting fish oil he built into our bedtime routine. Second, I thought we now had access to technology, such as color TV!  

That color TV brought me Star Trek, which introduced more technology. I loved imagining the possibilities, the universal translator and communicators (cell phones?). Star Trek kept innovating; the new series brought us greater diversity of thought and appearance and phenomenal servant leadership practice. Star Trek was bringing us signals, signs of change for the good.  

When we look at today’s challenges, Star Trek was the foretaste of the practices and innovations we need for fulfilling work, self-direction, connecting with others, and respecting differences.   

Enabling technology helps those we support with IDD achieve a greater sense of independence. For example, one individual we support, Pete, uses a wheelchair, and throughout his time with KenCrest, that wheelchair has significantly improved. He started using a manual chair that he had to move himself, but as technology grew, so did he. He now has a power chair that he can move with a joystick and an arm that swings out, allowing him to get closer to tables, which is especially helpful during mealtimes. 

We must keep our minds open. We need to be committed to self-direction, equity, and inclusion.  We cannot accept limits like lifetime caps, which deny access and limit us. Being open to possibilities is the hope that inspires our best work.