Accessibility Services, Inc. Awarded New Contract to Equip VA Hospitals with the autonoME Environmental Control/Speech Generation Package

Accessibility Services, Inc. (ASI) in Homosassa, Florida announced that they have been awarded a new Veterans Administration (VA) contract to equip spinal cord injury units with their signature autonoME environmental control unit (ECU) / speech generating device (SGD) package. The autonoME – specifically designed for quadriplegics and individuals with debilitating diseases such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) – allows individuals to completely control their environment (i.e. turn on fan/lights, control their bed, television and telephone, call a nurse or caregiver, open a door, use a computer, etc.) as well as generate speech.

The company has already installed hundreds of units in VA hospitals on a previous contract, including sites in Memphis, Houston, Cleveland, Dallas, Long Beach, San Antonio and Boston, among others.  ASI recently learned they have been awarded a new contract, allowing them to install and service the autonoME package in additional VA spinal cord injury units across the country. ASI also customizes and installs the autonoME in the homes of veterans with qualifying service-related disabilities.

“Our founder, Fred Thomson, founded ASI back in 1989 with a mission to help veterans,” explains Brice Green, Product and Sales Manager for ASI. “I myself am a veteran, and we employ many veterans.  What make us different is that we are continually conducting research and development to ensure we are delivering the latest technology. We also customize, install and support each autonoME package.  We spend time making sure the therapists, nurses, caregivers and patients understand how to use all of the features and are available to answer any questions and provide technical support after the installation is complete.  When someone calls us for support, they actually get one of our technicians, not a call center.”

According to Green, seeing people experience independence as a result of the autonoME is the most rewarding part of each day.

“We are touched by the stories and struggles of the brave people we meet,” says Green. “seeing a person’s face light up when we install the autonoME and knowing that we are making a difference in the lives of so many is the reason why we are in this business.”

ASI will proceed with installing the autonoME at specified VA hospitals throughout 2017.  The company also serves individuals living at home, rehabilitation facilities, and public and private hospital systems. Watch this 1.5 minute video to see how the autonoME is helping one veteran maintain his independence.

About Accessibility Services, Inc.
Accessibility Services, Inc. (ASI) is a leading provider of environmental control units (ECU’s) designed specifically for individuals with severe disabilities and spinal cord injuries. Founded in 1989 with a primary vision to help veterans, the company has since expanded its mission to address the needs of all severely disabled individuals with a special focus on the unique and exceptional needs of the quadriplegic community. ASI designs, customizes, installs and services ECU’s which enable clients to control their entire surroundings and environment, thus significantly increasing independence and improving quality of life. ASI’s proprietary autonoME unit has become one of the most popular hospital and residential devices on the market. Founder Fred Thompson’s philosophy, “we start with the customer and work backwards” has inspired ASI’s research and development engineers to stay one step ahead of technology, ensuring the company delivers the most advanced and progressive ECU solutions available.

North Port Man Who Clinically Died Now Aspires to Pursue a Nuclear Engineering Degree Thanks to the autonoME

Manny Galan was a healthy, overachieving, energetic 14-year-old whose life was forever changed in 2010 when he suddenly went into cardiac arrest while on vacation with his family. A blood clot traveled to his heart through an opening which was not previously diagnosed. As a result, Manny suffered an anoxic brain injury and was left in a persistent vegetative state. Although doctors told Manny’s mom – Millie Galan-Aguirre – that there was zero chance of him recovering, she refused to give up. Manny did not have enough brain function to qualify for rehabilitation, so Millie trained herself and started to provide him with therapy. Several months later, while in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber, Manny looked into his mom’s eyes and became responsive.

Today, Manny is still a quadriplegic and non-verbal, but he is able to walk short distances with a walker, use the bathroom, eat small amounts of pureed food, water ski with assistance and go to school. In fact, Manny graduated from high school in 2016 and aspires to attend college to study nuclear engineering. Sarasota County Schools contacted Accessibility Services, Inc. (ASI) in Homosassa, Florida to tell them about Manny and his aspirations. As a result, ASI visited Manny to conduct an evaluation and customized one of their autonoME packages – a combination of a speech-generating device and environmental control unit (ECU) – for him. The autonoME will serve as Manny’s “mobile aid”, allowing him to take notes, help him study, complete homework and access the Internet and computer programs.

“This has been a blessing in so many ways,” explains Galan-Aguirre. “I have to fight for everything I get for Manny. One Sunday I was praying because we knew how much Manny needed to get the communication device. I got a call that Wednesday to tell me that ASI was going to donate the device to Manny. I broke down in tears because my prayers were answered!”According to Brice Green, Product/Sales Manager for ASI, the company thrives on success stories like Manny’s. “We are literally delivering hope when many times, all hope has been exhausted,” explains Green. “Knowing that the autonoME will help Manny get a higher education and achieve a certain level of independence is rewarding for everyone at ASI and confirms that what we do definitely makes a difference.”

According to ASI, devices such as the autonoME are covered by the Veteran’s Administration for service related injuries and diseases such as ALS. However, they are generally not covered by private insurance, Medicaid or Medicare, making it challenging for some who need these types of devices to be able to afford them. “When a quadriplegic gains independence, their entire demeanor changes,” says Green. “The autonoME also helps alleviate stress on caregivers as well. We hope that one day private insurance, Medicaid and Medicare will realize the importance of the autonoME.” Manny’s autonoME is the second donation ASI has made this year. In March, the company donated a Grid Pad environmental control unit (ECU) to a gentleman with end stage Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS).“We wish we could donate autonoME’s to every person with a financial need,” says Green, “While ASI will continue to make donations as we are able, we are in the process of exploring new funding opportunities and partnerships with non-profit organizations to help make the autonoME accessible to more people who need it.” In the meantime, Green says ASI is excited to follow Manny’s progress. “We have no doubt Manny will be able to achieve his dreams,” concludes Green. “We believe his story of survival and determination will inspire others and make a difference in the lives of so many.”

A few weeks ago, a story aired on ABC Action News (WFTS) in Tampa, Florida about a gentleman named Robert McGruder and his friend, Eric Chapman.  Eric has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).  He dreams of having a covered outdoor patio to enjoy what precious time he has left. Constructing a patio is quite costly, so Robert put some of his most prized possessions up for auction to raise money for Eric’s patio.

Our Program Director, Lisa Swiger, was deeply touched by this story about Eric and his friend Robert.  Although the money needed to build Eric’s patio was raised as a result of the news story, Lisa wanted to do more. ABC Action News reporter Cameron Polom was kind enough to put ASI in touch with Eric and his lovely wife, Margarita.  Last week, Lisa, along with ASI technician John Sanders, traveled to their Tampa residence to install an environmental control unit (ECU) for Eric.  The ECU – equipped with eyegaze technology so he can control the device with his eyes – will not only assist him with communicating, but Eric will now be able to turn on lights, surf the Internet and even control his television on his own.  ASI plans to also install an automatic door opener for Eric once his deck is built.

Lisa had an opportunity to spend a lot of time with Margarita.  Both Margarita and Eric are upbeat and ever so sweet.  Despite Eric’s disease, they are both still smiling and living life.  The family is on a very fixed income as Eric is unable to work and Margarita is now his full time caregiver.  Margarita indicated she attempted in the past to obtain an ECU for Eric, but kept running into obstacles.

This beautiful couple touched our hearts.  We are honored to help and be part of their lives!

What the ECU Means to Eric and Margarita – Margarita’s Words:

“With much thanks and gratitude to both Lisa and Brice at ASI for making it possible for Eric to have a fully functional device such as the ECU. This act of kindness has allowed for Eric to finally be able to check his own Facebook, send text messages, change the television channel, and soon, be able to open a door!! Amazing right? What does having the ECU bring to our life: a sense of independence, of freedom.

The moment I heard Lisa’s laughter enter my room, I knew I had to go meet the woman who owned such an innocent giggle and contagious laughter. Lisa saw the ABC Action News clip that shared Robert McGruder’s quest to build Eric a patio. She was so touched by the story that she felt she had to not only meet us in person, but to also enhance Eric’s lifestyle. She did both with pure selflessness.

I believe that the most valuable possession we humans have is TIME.

So, when Brice, Lisa, John & Gina gave 4 + hours of their day to hang with Eric & I in our home, I can happily say – We are Blessed.”

Actually, Margarita – it is we who are Blessed.  Thank you for sharing your lives and story!

 

Robert Oxford, a quadriplegic, finds independence through his autonoME environmental control unit (ECU).

Environmental Control Unit (ECU) Allows 84-year-old with Parkinson’s Disease to Communicate with His WifeAlfred and Anna at Sandys wedding

Eighty-four year old Alfred Combee had quite an active life. The former fire investigator was also an avid wildlife photographer. He and his wife Anna loved to mountain bike together. Three years ago, Alfred found out he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. His disease progressed quickly. He has already lost his speech and his ability to write, which left him unable to communicate.

Alfred’s wife Anna is now his full-time caregiver. Frustration grew among them both as Alfred struggled to convey even the simplest information.

“It got to the point where he could not even tell me if he needed something,” explains Anna. “He could not communicate basic things like when he had a headache or if he needed his medicine. It is very scary when you do not know what is wrong.”

Alfred’s dream was to be able to speak to his wife again, so, his hospice social worker suggested they contact Dream Foundation. The California-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization is the only national dream-granting organization for adults and their families battling life-threatening illness. Dream recipients are 18 years of age and older, have received a limited prognosis, and lack the resources to fulfill their dreams themselves. Anna submitted an application on behalf of Alfred, and, much to their excitement, they were selected. With more than 20,000 dreams served since 1994, Dream Foundation has never turned away a qualified dream request.

Dream Foundation contacted Accessibility Services, Inc. (ASI) in Homosassa, Florida to see if they would be willing to develop and donate a device to help Alfred achieve his dream of being able to communicate with Anna. ASI manufactures the autonoMe ECU and customizes the devices to fit the specific needs of each client. When ASI president Maggie Thompson heard Alfred’s story, she was more than willing to help.

“We knew how important it was for Alfred to be able to speak to Anna,” says Maggie Thompson, President of ASI, “We sent our technical team to Alfred’s home multiple times and developed a solution which now allows him to communicate with Anna. We were determined to do whatever it took to make one of his final wishes come true.”

According to Anna, Alfred is able to type into the device, which, in turn, speaks to Anna.

“They also programmed pre-fabricated sentences he can choose from, such as ‘I need to take my medicine’ and ‘I have a headache’,” says Anna. “I can now quickly respond to what he needs. We can also have a conversation, which we could not do before.”

According to Dream Foundation Executive Director Kisa Heyer, “Our organization was touched by Alfred’s story and his unique needs. Working with ASI was an encouraging and heart-warming experience that allowed us to help restore Alfred’s quality of life. We are thrilled for both him and Anna that he is once again able to communicate.”

“Alfred and I have been together for 25 years. My full time job is taking care of him. This is what you do when you love somebody,” concludes Anna. “I am grateful to both the Dream Foundation and ASI for making sure Alfred got exactly what he wanted.”

About Dream Foundation
The only national dream-granting organization for adults, Dream Foundation enhances the quality of life for individuals and their families battling life-threatening illness. Dream recipients are those individuals who have been given a year or less life expectancy. Dreams range from basic need items, like a working stove, to bedside reunions and meaningful experiences with children and loved ones. Founded in 1994, Dream Foundation serves more than 2,500 dreams each year and relies on a network of volunteers, sponsors and individual donors. For more information, visit www.dreamfoundation.org.