Employees of Fridley-based Cummins Power Generation use their expertise to modify a wide range of equipment and toys for Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute. This helps Courage Kenny clients enjoy full inclusion into society and experience more productive and fulfilling lives.
The CVC Minnesota Employee Engagement Award, which recognizes an employee-driven corporate initiative or program that demonstrates a best practice in employee engagement, was recently awarded to Cummins Power Generation for their assistive technology Collaboration with Courage Kenny.
The relationship between Courage Kenny and Cummins relationship began with volunteers who were electrical, software, mechanical and other engineers. The engineers and assistive technology staff worked on projects such as creating new solutions for unique needs, and at Christmas time, adapting toys which could be operated with a simple switch.
Over the years, needs grew and the partnership changed. Adapting toys is much more than providing fun to children. It is about providing a child who otherwise wouldn’t have an opportunity to explore an environment which prepares them for school and to move beyond a cause-and-effect response. Without a way to play and explore, a child with a disability will not progress equally to their peers that are nondisabled. Toys which have been adapted by the engineers provide a great opportunity to growing children. The engineers are all very committed and always find the solution to most any task.
Assistive technology products are commercially available but often these are overly expensive. Choices are also limited. Switches are expensive as a secondary piece to the toys. There are several Six Sigma projects which have been worked on in attempts by the engineers to lower prices.
This work has allowed Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute to provide training into universal design principle for new student engineers as well. Assistive technology is similar to rehabilitation engineering when attempting to design new products. Assistive technology staff can bridge the needs of the rehabilitation staff and the engineer. Each party has a different way of looking at each problem or issue which needs to be conveyed in an easy-to-understand communication tactic.
The work of Cummins volunteers and Courage Kenny staff and volunteers can in helping not just with toys but with getting people back to work. From childhood to adulthood, there is always a solution to problems when you are creative and resourceful. There are still challenges when hiring a person with a disability. Understanding beliefs will allow for system changes to occur. There are many within the disability community for employment. These are misconceptions documented.
Some of the memorable projects are those which involve people with disabilities and creating options for each person.
One girl was only able to move their fingers a couple inches. With adaptations was able to enjoy toys. Now at age 13 she has gone beyond childhood toys. But she is still using switches, joysticks and eyegaze to control her environment and academics.
Another girl played for hours with her new toy. Her smile radiated throughout the building and she brought it to show and tell where all of the other kids tried it. This was the very first time she interacted with someone who did not have a disability. Her teacher was amazed and excited at the same time.
A boy who is blind was unable to move or speak with family used a specialized mounting unit created by Cummins. He was finally able to participate in school and personal needs. His wide smile moved his mother to tears.
A man was unable to utilize his hands for his computer access as well as communication needs. No devices on the market worked for him. Cummins volunteers created a special device for him, which he is able to use independently by scanning to different options on the computer screen. He is now writing his personal memoirs of growing up with a significant disability. Everyone has a gift and is augmented by assistive technology to enable real-life opportunities for individuals to strive in the academic and vocational areas even with a significant disability.
Throughout this article, there is a mirage of information which can be successfully utilized in creating new opportunities from our years of experience. Technology and assistive technology has significantly reduced in pricing but engineering will always be necessary for unique situations which cannot be solved with available products. It is through our program we have taken possibilities and built realities.