Maryland Department of Disabilities Newsletter written in white over Maryland flag
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Gearing Up for Direct Support Professional Week 2016!
Collage of Direct Support Professionals and Governor's Proclamation and words Direct Support Professional Week 2016 September 12th-16th in white
Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) are vital to the life experiences of many people with disabilities in Maryland.  From employment support to community living assistance, DSPs are often the difference between community participation and isolation for many with disabilities. 

As a small token of appreciation we set aside one week in September (9/12 through 9/16) when the Department of Disabilities and the Developmental Disabilities Administration will travel the state thanking DSPs for their dedication and expertise. We will also be highlighting employers who have gone above and beyond to successfully utilize the talents of those with disabilities in the workforce.

Join us in our celebration by nominating an outstanding DSP, advocate, or employer for recognition. See the link for details. Nomination Form
Haben Girma addresses audience behind podium with ADA 26 logo
Intersect: The 26th Anniversary of the ADA Celebration a Success

With over 300 attendees from across Maryland, Intersect exceeded expectations as a day for community learning and idea sharing for the residents of our state. The technology fair exhibitors showcased the innovative opportunities currently available for those with disabilities and their families right here in Maryland.   We saw the power of 3D printing; the use of technology for artistic self expression; and the impact of assistive technology on communication parity. 

Secretary Beatty and Lt. Governor Rutherford hold ADA 26 proclamation
We heard from state leaders during the Intersect program pushing Maryland forward as a leader in universally designed technology.  Haben Girma, the keynote speaker, challenged us all to consider accessibility at every step of innovation allowing differing needs to drive creativity and lasting change.  During lunch, Marian Vessels reminded us how far we have come as a community and to never stop evolving as we continue to break down both physical and virtual barriers for the disability community.  Our day ended with a free community workshop brought to us by the Maryland Technology Assistance Program (MDTAP).  Lori Markland, Director of Communications for MDTAP, provided tips and advice to ensure social media is an accessible communication tool for all users. 

The Maryland Department of Disabilities wishes to thank the speakers, attendees,
Lt. Governor Rutherford and NFB President Riccobono enjoy Intersect speakers
exhibitors, and sponsors who made this day possible.  Thank you to the National Federation of the Blind for hosting the event and providing tours of their International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind.  We are grateful to Governor Hogan for his support and Lieutenant Governor Rutherford for attending and presenting the Governor's Proclamation in honor of the anniversary. 

If you were not able to join us or would like further information on the event, there are many ways to access materials from the celebration or learn more. See our captioned photo album on Facebook HERE .  You can still share your thoughts and photos from the day with the hashtag #ADA26MD on social media.  To continue to follow Haben Girma, see her website HERE.  A full text transcript from the event along with the text agenda and social media accessibility PowerPoint presentation can be found on our event webpage before next week HERE.
Man who is blind works at desk with computer using assistive technology
Transition Corner: Assistive Technology Loan Program

Maurice Peret, an employee of Blind Industries and Services of Maryland, uses assistive technology daily to readily access print materials at work, read and compose documents, facilitate sales, and more. These daily activities are a requirement of his job and seamlessly made possible through devices which convert information into accessible formats.  Mr. Peret recently utilized the Assistive Technology Financial Loan Program to finance a VarioUltra 20 Braille display, a device that can cost $2500 and upward.  This piece of equipment is imperative to Mr. Peret's work, but the cost of the equipment was a barrier to its use. 

Assistive technologies (AT) are devices which enable people with disabilities to live, work, learn, and play independently. While these devices can be a road to freedom for many with disabilities, their costs can often be out of reach for a significant number of Marylanders.  With limited private grant options and most agency funding stretched to capacity, many people who use assistive technology need to find ways to fund part, if not all, of the various technologies themselves. Because of this very real need to support independence by facilitating access to devices required for employment and other activities, the Assistive Technology Financial Loan Program was established in 1999.
A program of the Maryland Department of Disabilities, the Assistive Technology Financial Loan Program offers low interest financial loans for a range of assistive technologies. The program enables applicants to purchase technology at a lower-than-prime interest rate, often between 3 and 4 percent.  It also provides longer repayment terms in order to make monthly payments manageable for all applicants.  Whether the loans are for equipment to increase independence or equipment to start a business, the Assistive Technology Financial Loan Program is aligned with Governor Hogan's statewide focus to strengthen businesses and ensure the availability of a vibrant and prepared workforce which reflects the diversity of our state.
For Maurice, access to assistive technology is fundamental to employment and his independence, "I would and have recommended the AT Loan option through the Maryland Technology Assistance Program because the adaptive AT which exists is far too often priced out of range for most people with disabilities. This critical avenue of acquisition can make it possible to earn and learn through accessible technology that can make the difference between productivity and dependence."