Access to Telehealth and Virtual Education

Initiative Description

The INDATA Project core services were stopped in late March 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. We quickly realized there was a huge need for people to go to school remotely and those needing access to Telehealth that did not have computers or tablets available to them to do these activities. We then opened our services to anyone who needed a computer based on their need for either remote schooling or Telehealth. We began services again for everyone in the state of Indiana in July 2020. Although we are up and running for anyone to use our services, we continue to prioritize any computers, laptops, or tablets that are available through our Equipment Loan Library or those that become available through our Equipment Reutilization program based on those criteria. During the beginning of the pandemic, we also prioritized getting loaner laptops to staff in our agency that would need to provide Telehealth services and provided training for anyone who needed that support. As an agency, we went from 4 Telehealth consumers to serving over 600 in just a few weeks. The INDATA staff deployed laptops to our therapists so they could continue to provide disability services such as speech therapy. As an agency, we were already using the Zoom platform for meetings, and we increased our licensing to accommodate all our therapists so they could provide services remotely. Some of the therapist also use the free Doxy.me platform but are primarily using Zoom.

Lessons Learned/Replication

As a result of our initiatives, we were able to get much needed technology into the hands of people who had no other means of obtaining the technology. Many of our consumers have medical conditions that put them at higher risk of Covid-19 severe symptoms and needed to stay socially isolated in their homes. Having access to laptops and tablets ensured that individuals with disabilities were able to communicate with doctors and physicians and children had no gap in vital therapy services or online education. Lessons learned through our experience include the understanding that technology is not the only barrier to individuals receiving or continuing much needed services. It is also imperative for hosts and end-users to know and utilize various accessibility features associated with virtual tools to provide access and allow persons with disabilities to fully participate in online meetings. In response to this need, we developed a webinar to educate individuals with disabilities on the accessibility features of online platforms and how service providers can host accessible online meetings or trainings. Another positive outcome from this initiative was the overwhelming positive response from recipients that stated the technology helped them feel less isolated and more connected to family and friends while also helping with essential services such as ordering medications and buying groceries. The webinar can be viewed here: https://www.eastersealstech.com/fulldayarchives/

Year of Implementation

2020

State

Indiana

Initiative contact information

Nikol Prieto
nprieto@eastersealscrossroads.org