MILFORD — What was once a gift shop for hospital patients is now providing the gift of technology.
The University of Delaware’s Center for Disabilities Studies celebrated the grand opening of its Kent/Sussex Assistive Technology Resource Center at the Milford Wellness Village last week.
The facility — part of the Delaware Assistive Technology Initiative — can be found in the gift shop of the former Bayhealth-Milford Memorial Hospital.
Beth Mineo, director of CDS, said the resource center houses equipment, software and toys for those with disabilities. Everything from communication devices to support people with vision or hearing loss to modified eating utensils and textured playthings are available.
“There is literally something in there for anybody with a disability,” Ms. Mineo said, adding that the center anticipates working with clients of other Wellness Village patients, like a new ventilator unit and PACE Your LIFE.
“We looked at lots of different locations, but this was really perfect because there are so many other organizations located in this space that support the same group of people that we do,” she said. “So when someone is visiting another organization, and someone there suggests something they should try, they can just walk over here, borrow it and try it. So we’ll be cross-referring people back and forth.”
Emmanuel Jenkins, a self-advocate who works for the Delaware Developmental Disabilities Council, was on hand at the grand opening to explain how technology has aided him throughout his life. He also owns a nonprofit organization and is a motivational speaker.
“It is because of technology that I’m able to write contracts negotiated through email,” he said. “Also, without technology, I would not be married for the last 15 years of my life. Why would that be? The technology allowed me to write secret notes to her.”
The resource center will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. every day and will serve residents of Kent and Sussex counties. Visitors can come in to try out a piece of equipment, and if they like what they sample, they can take the device home — on loan for free — to try it before they buy it.
“This a critical addition to our network of partners that service our communities in Kent and Sussex counties,” said Jody Roberts, director of external relations and strategic partnerships for Delaware’s Division of Developmental Disability Services.
“But it’s more than just an addition to our network of services; it is a reminder that assistive technologies play a crucial role in the health and wellness of the individuals that we serve and that access to those technologies is not something that should be seen as optional but essential to agency and autonomy.”
He added, “These technologies provide access to otherwise inaccessible employment opportunities, so that an individual can live and work in their community. These technologies support living with minimal human supporters in homes and apartments, wherever that individual chooses. These technologies literally provide voices for individuals who otherwise would be rendered mute — or worse, presumed incapable of communication — so that they can live lives of self-expression, community participation and dignity.”