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Accessible, Affordable & Practical

Photo: Martin Sweeney

Welcome to Abilidez—a resource and consulting service promoting the accessible, affordable and practical use of Assistive Technology to support personal development, education, employment, communication, recreation, inclusion and activities of daily living.

First as a parent, then as community advocate and subsequently as a professional, I have over thirty years of experience working in the field of Assistive Technology (AT). I have wrestled with early communication devices for my daughter; served on boards of nonprofit AT community-based organizations; founded and directed an AT program at a local Regional Center; worked as managing director for the California AT Network; and collaborated on AT international development projects throughout India. My experience has taken me from our kitchen table to the streets of Los Angeles, Sacramento and Mumbai and into the homes of so many wonderful people and families. If I have learned one thing it is that AT must be accessible, affordable and practical. Otherwise, it’s just a waste of time and resources.

Accessible, affordable and practical lie at the center of the Abilidez vision. Over the past three decades the field of AT has become professionalized which, as in any evolving field, is both inevitable and appropriate. However, there are also inadvertent downsides: inadequate insurance and funding models; a gobbledygook of language, acronyms and taxonomies; prescriptive and non-collaborative service delivery models; competing interests from AT manufacturers and vendors; and inspired rhetoric that sounds empowering but often serves more as lip-service for potential funders, providers and annual reports. In all the "empowerment" the individual is too often lost and under-served. That’s not an opinion, that’s fact. If you are someone in need, you know only too well the obstacles and barriers to AT. This is as true today as it was thirty years ago.

My training and mostly my experience have taught me to think of AT simply as tools—simple tools, complex tools, and everyday tools designed, adapted, modified or imagined. The trick is to keep the tool matched to the task—and the individual. So after more than three decades of experience, I come back to the simple notion of tools. We all use tools. The Abilidez mission is to help people find the tools that can make a difference and help shape and support the quality of one’s life.

— Martin Sweeney