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avail®’s philosophy is about helping those individuals with learning and developmental disabilities to unlock their potential, by achieving a new level of independence and skills for succeeding in everyday life. After working for over a decade in the field of disabilities, ranging from education, day services, home support and residential services, I’ve witnessed first-hand the major shift from a learning focussed support system to a more care focussed plan once an individual turns 18. But why, when these vulnerable individuals are on the threshold of adulthood are they effectively shut out from a shot at continued learning?
I was committed to finding a way to provide a tailored, supportive and adaptive lifelong learning environment for these individuals as they entered adulthood. Drawing on my academic background including a BA (HONS) in Applied Social Studies from Athlone Institute of Technology, working for over seven years as an Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) Tutor in a school setting for children with Autism and in many adult services and finally after completing a Masters in Child, Family and Community Studies, I came up with an idea I knew had massive potential.
The current system was clearly not addressing the needs of individuals in the 21st century. At present it involves taking pictures of a task and/or object, which is then printed, laminated and has velcro stuck on the back. The process is completely out of step with modern technology, as well as being time consuming, cumbersome, not portable or sustainable to the person going forward when looking at learning across all environments and life domains.
Why couldn’t there be a modern, technological solution that was accessible, easy-to-use and completely adaptable to the individual? As a creative person and one that enjoys a challenge, l began channelling the ideas about using technology, as well as my professional practice and research as part of my Masters where l explored the use and benefits of video modelling and systematic instructions in teaching.
One of my key tenets was that avail® should be flexible to adapt to different abilities and to stretch across the lifespan of the user. In addition, being fully aware of the need for data collection, reporting, evidence of learning and HIQA’s guidelines l wanted to build this into avail® also.
So where does a person that doesn’t understand code, graphics or setting up a business start? Well I knew I had to streamline my ideas with concise sketches and oodles of passion.
Then 11 months ago, I found the creative development team who I felt could bring my vision to life. I surrounded myself with advisors who have supported and guided me along the way. We’ve recently completed a hugely successful pilot study with a wonderful group in employment and I’ve even presented avail® at the European Union of Supported Employment in Lisbon and have gained valuable endorsements from organisations in the field. I then went on to win Monaghan’s best start up business in Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur competition.
I’m now so excited for the official launch of avail® and the change it’s going to have on the lives of so many individuals.
I hope you have enjoyed my story as much as l have. We’d love to hear from you about your experiences and how you’d like to use avail®.
If you want to hear more about how we can help you, or an individual or group, please get in touch and sign up to our newsletter, at the bottom of this page. Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter for all the latest news and debate.
Thanks for reading,
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