Tech Flexibility by Shaun Wood

Skeuomorphism (pronounced skew-a-morf-ism) is a design concept of making things look like their real-world counterparts. The most iconic example for most people of skeuomorphic design is the “trash” or “recycle” bin icon on their desktop computers. The recycle bin on your computer is  a folder that disposes of files you no longer want, but what you see resembles a trash can that could be under your kitchen sink. Designers use this strategy to help users learn and make connections between the physical world and a digital one. Skeuomorphic design has been used to teach us—especially those of us who grew up in a world not dominated by computers—how to interact with mice and keyboards, screens, and now voice commands and physical gestures. The idea is simple: Computers will be easier to use if they intuitively mimic things users already know how to use.

On September 18, 2013, iPhone users received a notification to update to Apple’s iOS 7 operating system. When your iPhone restarted, it looked very different: the iBooks app no longer simulated a pine bookshelf, the Notes app no longer looked like a yellow legal pad, your clock app didn’t resemble an analog clock, and your voice recorder didn’t look like an old radio microphone. Apple (a long-time proponent of skeuomorphic design) had radically changed the way that users interacted with their devices. The faux wood, leather, and green-felt textures were gone, replaced by “flat design” menus and boxes. In contrast with the “rich design” of skeuomorphism, flat design is characterized by minimalist layers of colors, lines, and dynamic information that stacked on top of and behind each other. Google and Microsoft immediately followed with their own versions of flat design: for example, Microsoft replaced the Windows “Start” menu icons with colored blocks of adaptive information. By several design standards, these were welcome and forward-looking changes. However, many users who had relied on those on-screen cues to navigate the personal digital revolution felt lost: they didn’t know how to use their devices anymore!

For people who used their devices to communicate (through augmentative communication apps) or navigate their communities (with wayfinding and executive functioning apps), this problem was more serious than being unable to  update a social-media account or play a favorite song. For many of these users, no longer recognizing their devices meant no longer being independent. For a few with very specific accommodations, this change was a life-or-death problem. What users lacked at the time, and to some extent lack today, was the ability to be flexible in using our technology.

Get ready for something big! We are in the beginning stages of a shift in technological interfaces that is far more extensive than what began a decade ago in the move away from skeuomorphism. We are moving away from the screen itself. Voice interfaces such as Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Microsoft’s Cortana, and Apple’s Siri are already here, and all sorts of people are using them! While virtual reality systems seek to shut out the outside world and replace it with an immersive video or game, augmented reality systems are intended to present and add information to the real world. Products like Google Glass and an upcoming glasses product from Apple show the world around you, but have the potential to add relevant information like directions on complicated tasks and names over the faces of acquaintances. Researchers are even looking at ways to use these glasses to help people who struggle to read emotions on faces understand how someone else is feeling. Microsoft’s HoloLens is looking to eventually replace your computer entirely with a pair of glasses that will let you see and interact with virtual windows running, naturally, Windows OS anywhere you go. Google is starting to release products with its Project Soli technology, a new radar-based technology that will let you control computers and devices through blinking, snapping fingers, shaking your head or flicking your wrist.

New forms of interaction offer new ways for people to access technology.  While these are exciting times in the field of personal technology, it can be easy to feel lost or insecure about your knowledge or ability to explore accommodation options. When people start feeling overwhelmed with technology, they sometimes choose to cut it out of their lives as much as possible. If you dislike modern technology and can manage without it, great! That is your right and you may very well experience some benefits from it. Balance is key in determining the role of technology in our daily lives, and a healthy dose of skepticism towards technology companies is necessary considering their power and past behavior.

Despite any skepticism you may have about technology, there are many people who shouldn’t have to live without the benefits of modern technology, people who have historically been excluded from communities based on the design of those communities and a lack of accommodation. If that’s you, fight for your right to access technology that will help you live in your community and lets you participate in activities that promote social inclusion, self‐determination, and quality of life. If it’s your job to help others live in inclusive communities at any level (direct service, programmatic, or systems-level), it will be part of your job to understand their technological resources and how those  resources are evolving. It’s your responsibility to remain “tech-flexible.”

Just like any skill in the real world, being tech-flexible is a practice that you can always pick up and work on. Here are a few recommendations that I have for you to remain tech-flexible in the next decade of innovation:

  1.       Expect change: The pace of change in how you interact with computers will pick up over the next decade. There are no experts anymore; creativity and the expectation that a new solution will always be around the corner will drive inclusivity.
  2.       Be curious: Instead of feeling like you must be an expert in all that exists in the personal technology field, try to think of yourself as an explorer. If you like to read, check out online technology blogs such as,, or If you like to network, attend technology gatherings and conferences like If you are a person who wants to use technology to live a fuller life, try to use these resources to keep up-to-date on other options that could work for you. You never know if a new release on Google’s Android operating system might fit your situation better than the Apple iOS app that you have been using, or vice versa. If it’s your job to teach people how to do new things using technology, make sure that you know how to use all the major platforms from Microsoft, Google, Apple, and Amazon. Teaching someone how to use Google Assistant when their home uses Amazon Alexa is not helpful for that person, and it’s up to you to remain flexible in how you teach technology so that you can match it to the individual you serve and their environment.
  3.       Practice saying “I don’t know”: You don’t need to know everything! (Or even most things.) Remember this: most people learn by doing, so instead of approaching your technological dilemma by feeling bad that you don’t automatically know the solution, practice a functional approach. Explore the problem through asking questions of others who have had similar experiences, building your toolbox, and trying new things that you learn about. Failure is OK.
  4.       Build adaptive systems: If you are working in personal technology and building the systems I’ve shared here, do us all a favor and reach out to us! Get to know people with disabilities who use your products or could be using your products. What we’ve learned is that when you design for people with barriers to access, you end up making your products easier and more intuitive for everyone: this philosophy is known as “universal design.” If you work as a programmatic or funding entity, build your programs so that they change with the times. This means avoiding bulk purchases of products, as that practice doesn’t allow for individual approaches. Avoid lifetime caps on technology purchases and instead think of implementing semi-decade cycles to more closely match the cycle of innovation we expect in the next decades. If you are in a position to make hiring decisions, you can focus on hiring a more inclusive workforce so that the spaces, products, and programs that your teams produce are created from a diversity of lived experiences. Focus on access to technology, because it is limited and has been distributed in unequal ways. This may be apparent in school districts not having technology that mimics work sites, or individuals having access to a resource only when their family can afford to purchase it.
  5.       Finally, have fun. While the challenges and uncertainty will persist, in the coming years we will all experience some bit of magic in being empowered to do things that we didn’t think possible. Then what becomes possible starts to seem normal, and we start looking for more.


Shaun Wood, M.Ed., BCBA  

Senior Project Manager, Wise

Shaun is all about jobs! He’s a community developer and has worked to support people with disabilities since 2002. He continues to work in schools, people’s homes, and job sites, helping to build inclusive communities. Shaun is a Board-Certified Behavior Analyst and a certified Employment Specialist. He served in the U.S. Peace Corps in Eastern Europe, and obtained both his M.Ed. (Applied Behavior Analysis) and B.A. (Political Science/Human Rights) from the University of Washington.

Shaun uses applied behavior analysis, emerging technology, reflective processes, and mentorship to drive employment outcomes. In his current role, he’s available to work in local communities across Washington State and beyond! He has active projects from Alaska to the southwestern U.S. and eastern Canada. Shaun loves languages, and is fluent in Bulgarian with experience in French, Macedonian, Turkish, and Romani (he’s currently studying Spanish). When he isn’t working, he likes to garden, brew espresso, stare into his aquariums, and jog circles around his adopted hometown of Burien, Washington.


Honoring Martin Luther King Jr.



JIM COREY: Did you know that Martin Luther King’s watershed speech “I have the dream” was actually about jobs, and that the 1963 March on Washington was actually known as the “1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom”?  In almost all of MLK’s major speeches and writings he addresses jobs as one of the major things our society needs to address so that people are able to lift themselves out of poverty.  Let me quote, “We call our demonstration a campaign for jobs and income because we feel the economic question is the most crucial that black people and poor people in general are confronting.”

Martian Luther King led the way for Employment for All.

What can we do, almost 60 years later, to make the dream of employment for all possible?

We look forward to this discussion. Thank you very much. Thank you Martin Luther King.

Reflections on Community Inclusion by Stephen Eyman

Recently I caught wind of the decision to change the name of the Community Access Program to Community Inclusion. As I think back on my years as a Community Access Specialist in Spokane, I can’t help but reflect on the meaning of true inclusion in our community and what true inclusivity looks like.

I remember my first day of inclusion work like it was yesterday. I was a young, idealistic, recent college graduate looking for meaningful work. My first day at the local community center felt like a big, clean breath of fresh air after months of uncertainty. Nothing I had found up until that point had quite aligned with my ideals and interests, and I felt like I had been holding my breath for quite some time. The way the job description wove together ‘access’ and ‘inclusion’ was unique and invigorating, as was the opportunity to make a tangible difference in my community. This is it – this is exactly what I have been looking for,” were the words that echoed in my head on my way home that afternoon.

The job for me was not only a professional opportunity, but also something I could relate to on a personal level. Although I had been previously unaware of the compelling idea of inclusion as a vocation, I had been in the business of inclusion for quite some time. As the sibling to a younger brother heavily-affected in life by a disability label, I was able to look at inclusion as more than just an intangible concept to strive towards professionally.

To illustrate it, I could have instead pulled out a worn VHS tape and pointed the concept out to you more practically in the fabric of our childhood home. “There, that’s it. That’s the definition of inclusion,” I could have told anyone who cared to listen, as they would watch my sister and I orbiting dizzying circles around my brother in the home video footage; he lays on his back in the middle of the room, smiling, laughing, and engaged in the joyful chaos. My sister and I run far and wide, yet we always circle back. In those memories, my brother is the center of our play and our home. Inclusion was so very simple and unannounced in our youth.

As I began my new job back in those recent graduate days, I soon found that the concept of inclusion had become so much more convoluted in the context of adulthood. My sister and I were no longer spinning circles around my brother in the living room.  He had in fact recently joined us in the strange adult world of looking past education towards whatever the rest of life is supposed to be. Consequently, the vibrant young-twenty-something spaces available to us, we soon found were difficult to navigate in the world of labels and diagnoses. This experience was not at all uncommon. Many of the people I met through my job as a Community Access Specialist were in a similar situation: looking back on childhood and wondering— where exactly do I belong?

In my job, I met brilliant people all around. I met people that included me in their world with an unmatched generosity. In the most clear or subtle ways, I was invited into so many people’s spaces, perspectives, and unique forms of communication. I had the privilege of working with colleagues who were enthusiastic about the basic right people should have to access community spaces. These were the kind of people who would strap themselves to a rocket if it meant making the moon accessible. It was a natural fit for me, and I am filled with gratitude for that experience.

Working together in the Community Inclusion Program (CA at the time), we had some clear and resounding successes. I remember the way an older man connected with the people at the farmer’s market where he volunteered—the way he came to life when contributing to a common goal. I remember when a younger man connected to his college-aged peers through dance; I also remember his boundless excitement the moment he was immersed in water after years that swimming had been unavailable to him. These successes filled me with the desire to get out there and make things happen every morning.

However, I now feel community inclusion can be so much more dynamic and effective than I ever originally dreamed. In fact, If I had the opportunity now to go back and give advice to that younger version of myself, I would challenge and encourage that young person to go even further—to seek out that deeper meaning of inclusion I knew with my siblings in my childhood home.

For me, the limitations I experienced began with never truly understanding the capacity of my position and the extent of its inclusive mission. I saw boundaries where I no longer see them. What I missed in those years was a deeper invitation to be something bold and unique and entirely beyond my concept of what a social services system could provide. At that time, I knew only the world of respite and direct support; yet, the skills I wish I had employed are more akin to those of an active agent of change, a networker, and a community organizer extraordinaire.

To believe fully and profoundly in inclusion and to embody it professionally, one must have the courage to be creative and dynamic. Working in community inclusion means getting outside of what is comfortable, outside of the important services that we already know and understand. It means we must find a way to cleverly interweave all the elements of life and service towards inclusion. It requires us to stand up, to listen deeply, and to ask for profound teamwork from others. It teaches us to research, to find community resources, and to have the humility to ask for assistance when we confront something outside of our expertise.

I found great meaning and accomplishment in my CI experience because I repeatedly asked myself an important question: what can I do to bring inclusion, meaning, and richness to the hours inside my influence as a service provider? Yet, I think there is a deeper question.  Community inclusion should entail exploration and profound creativity. It means making the connections, seeking out support and collaboration, and advocating for a life that goes beyond the boundaries of a billing cycle. The question I want to ask is this: what can you do to ensure those in your community experience inclusion, meaning, and richness during every hour of life? What would it take for true inclusion to become typical, and how can you actively promote that?


Clark County Businesses and Citizens Honored for their Commitment to Employment and Services for Individuals with Developmental Disabilities!

On October 17, 2017 the Clark County Developmental Disabilities Advisory Board, the Greater Vancouver Chamber of Commerce, New Seasons Market, and Umpqua Bank hosted the 17th annual awards ceremony to honor Clark County’s employees with developmental disabilities, their employers, employment agencies, and citizens who provide outstanding service.

The event took place at The Heathman Lodge in recognition of National Disability Employment Awareness Month with the theme: Inclusion Drives Innovation. Kelly Love of Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center was the emcee. Throughout the program, several videos were shown to introduce award categories. These videos featured a combination of 2016 Award winners and others making an impact in Clark County supported employment (click links to view):

The 2017 Award presenters were: Clark County Councilor Julie Olson, Clark County Developmental Disabilities Advisory Board Member Le Ann Larson, and the chair of the Clark County Developmental Disabilities Advisory Board Ted Engelbrecht. The event, attended by over 250 people, was broadcast live on CVTV.  See the recording here:

2017 Award Winners

The 2017 Large Employer of the Year is Pacific Crest Custom Cabinetry, which has worked creatively to restructure tasks to leverage the skills of their employees and work with them to ensure they work the maximum number of hours they desire. They work hard to create an atmosphere that brings coworkers together as a team, making each employee know that he or she is an integral part of the work family. 

The 2017 Small Employer of the Year is Marshall’s. They are known for their ability to see hiring as an opportunity to include people of all backgrounds and perspectives. They provide excellent natural supports and have gone above and beyond with supporting everyone to be successful. The management team understands that a cohesive and effective team is created when each employee is recognized for their contribution and opportunities for growth and career advancement is afforded to everyone.

The 2017 Employee of the Year was presented to two different stand-out nominees:

Austin Ewald, courtesy clerk at Mill Plain/Andresen Safeway. He is known for never being too busy to help a customer or coworker. If things are slow in the front, he will help his coworkers with stocking or changing out displays. His keen eye for detail is appreciated by all and he never misses an item out of place when doing his hourly safety sweeps of the store. His positive attitude and dedication to his work is apparent to all. If you stop by the Andresen Safeway on a 100-degree day in August or a snowy day in December, you will see him outside gathering carts with the same speed and determination.

Christopher Gaston: He was nominated by his employer, saying that he has continued to be a dedicated and valued employee through the 21 years he has worked at S.E.H. America. He is highly regarded by his fellow co-workers and is noted for his good humor and gregarious nature. Throughout his history at S.E.H., he has been recognized as “Employee of the Month” several times. Most recently, he was selected for typifying “S.E.H. Guiding Principle #6: Keeping work enjoyable, positive, and engaging activity while respecting others. By his long tenure and performance, he exemplifies how capabilities far exceed barriers, and his presence in the workplace is an asset.

The 2017 David Hanawalt Service Award was presented to Carolyn Newton of Goldman and Associates. She is described as a person who is “any manager’s go-to person.” Not only does she enjoy her job, but her success in supporting people in job retention, increasing duties, and working more hours, shows her true commitment to her work. The quality of her work has led to referrals from other employers, and she has supported every single one of her customers to retain their job since hired at Goldman and Associates 5 years ago—not a single job was lost on her watch.

The 2017 Dennis Campbell Outstanding Service Award was presented to Harold Rains, Finance Manager for the Department of Community Services. He is described as a man full of not only ideas, but action. He has spearheaded building-wide diversity trainings that are quite innovative in Clark County. He has also taken his positive experience with supported employment on the road, participating in various events and conferences. He has sat on panels of employers, sharing his experience and encouraging other businesses to give supported employment a try. He firmly understands the importance of a county that will hire staff that echo the diversity of the community they support. He is someone who believes wholeheartedly in power of people—all people, to contribute and be valued.

Employers affiliated with all 2017 nominees are: Ilani Resort, Walmart, Home Depot (Jantzen Beach), Clark County Treasurer & I.T. Department, Heathman Lodge (Hudson’s Bar & Grill), Wendy’s, Dog Gone Clean, MadDog’s Gourmet Hotdogs, MOD Pizza (Hazel Dell), Vancouver Elite Gymnastics Academy, and Jack in the Box.

Congratulations to all!

For more information about Clark County’s employment services for individuals with developmental disabilities, please contact:
Mary Strehlow,
(360) 397-2075 ext. 7825, [email protected]

Partners for Work 2017 by Debbie Moore

Our Seattle summer is behind us and fall is here. With this transition, new opportunities within our Partners for Work (PFW) Project are underway. The groundwork has been taking shape over the summer getting Rotary Clubs prepared for their new Greeters. First time clubs have been designing their job descriptions, school districts are identifying potential students and meetings with families and their support agencies are being held.

Rotary Club Greeters are yearlong “working interviews” which provide transition students the opportunity to improve work skills, expand their work experience and earn a paycheck while networking with business people on a weekly basis. This is often their first paid position. Twenty-Two Rotary Clubs have adopted this project within their clubs.

King County employment agencies are connected with students and the weekly club meetings provide a platform for the employment agency to build a relationship with the S2W student while also making connections with Rotarians. Students leave this experience with an enhanced resume and close to 100% also exit with employment. Equally important is the enhanced awareness about PFW and the value of hiring individuals with varied abilities.

Enjoy our video;

Partners for Work Greeters, get on board!