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Using Peer Mentors to Facilitate the Match of Persons & Technology

William D. Heerkens, John Bridges, and Timothy G. Weider
from the Proceeding of the RESNA '97 Annual Conference,
ed. S. Sprigle, Arlington, VA: RESNA Press, p. 484-486.


As part of the New York State TRAID Project, a peer mentoring process was supported. It is guided by the Matching Persons and Technology (MPT) Model and it has been successful in helping consumers to identify the best technologies for their use and to become more self-determining and independent in the acquisition and use of technology.


Help and continued support in learning about and using technology is not always readily available. The Technology-Related Assistance for Individuals with Disabilities Act (Tech Act) Amendments of 1994 include provisions (a) for empowering access to and funding for AT and (b) for increasing the control of individuals over the selection and procurement of their AT devices and services.

The New York State Office of Advocate for Persons with Disabilities was awarded a Tech Act grant in September, 1990. The Office of the Advocate, an independent agency headed by a member of the Governor's cabinet, established the NYS TRAID Project. As one of its systems change initiatives, the NYS STRAID Project has funded Regional TRAID Centers throughout the state since 1990. In 1996, it funded the Genessee-Finger Lakes TRAID Center (G-FL TRAID) through the Rochester Center for Independent Living in collaboration with AIM, an independent living center in Corning, New York. G-FL TRAID established a peer mentoring program by recruiting appropriate consumers and training them in the process of peer mentoring.


The mission of the G-FL TRAID Mentors is to help improve the quality of life for persons with disabilities by facilitating the development of consumer skills in self-advocacy, self-determination, and community systems navigation so that consumers can more effectively drive their selection and use of assistive technology (ATs).

TRAID Mentors are persons with disabilities who are assertive and self-determining in the design, acquisition, and utilization of their assistive technology(ies). They practice the fundamentals of self-advocacy and self-determination. They know how to effectively employ the Matching Persons & Technology assessment process and are familiar with technologies and technology delivery systems. Mentors have a set of prerequisite competences which, coupled with training and on-going support, enable them to successfully assist others in effectively interacting with technology resources. Once successfully completing their training, Mentors receive a stipend for effectively serving peers in their design, acquisition, and/or utilization of technology.


Through partnering, mentors assist consumers in increasing their knowledge about their personal needs and preferences regarding ATs as well as in improving their ability to be more self-determining and more effectively assertive in the selection and utilization of ATs. This process centers on the use of the Matching Person and Technology (MPT) Model (1,2) and the following assessment instruments from the Model (listed in the order in which they are used);

* Worksheet for the Matching Person and Technology (MPT) Model - this results in consumer-identified goals in all areas of current functioning and areas where technologies may be helpful.

* Technology Utilization Worksheet for the Matching Person and Technology (MPT) Model - this form indicates technologies the consumer is currently using, has used in the past, and wishes to obtain.

* Survey of Technology Use - this form provides information on the consumer's use of general everyday, technologies so that the introduction of any new device can be built on existing levels of comfort and familiarity.

* Assistive Technology Device Predisposition Assessment (ATDPA) - Consumer Form - this instrument helps consumers examine their self-perceptions in areas of current functioning, their capabilities, psychosocial characteristics, and predisposition's to the use of particular technologies.

The MPT Model assessments are designed to help potential users of technologies self-assess their expectations and preferences, background characteristics, family and environmental influences, economic factors and training needs.

Consumer responses to the items in the MPT self assessment process assist both the consumer (technology users) and service providers in making choices best suited to the needs of the users, in many cases avoiding the frustration of a technology not compatible with the preferences, personality or environment(s) of the person.


TRAID Mentors help consumers make up their own minds regarding their selection and acquisition of technology resources by using the MPT Model, resource listings, and resource agencies in the community. Additionally, the Mentors provide AT professionals with an orientation to this process and how it helps their consumers be more self-aware and active in effectively using and maximizing professional resources.

Follow-up contacts are made to all consumers. Mentors contact consumers weekly for the first month, bi-weekly for two months, and monthly thereafter. The purpose of the follow-up is to:

1. make sure consumers are satisfied with the AT resources;

2. assist consumers as they assess their need for follow-up with service providers;

3. assist consumers in identifying any adjustments in the use environments.


The success of the G-FL TRAID Mentoring project can be best illustrated through the successful outcomes achieved by persons who have been mentored. One example follows:

The First Meeting: DM is an outgoing optimistic, and communicative person, close to retirement age, who contacted the TRAID project for help in being better able to write. She has multiple disabilities, the most difficult of which is severe arthritis. She is a single leg amputee and uses a wheelchair for mobility. She receives Medicaid, Medicare, and SSI, which allows her to have 6 hours of home health care daily. For the remainder of her day, she experiences the need to maximize her independence. She is not involved with any agencies other than home health care.

The personal care attendants assist with mobility, meal preparation, and household tasks. Earlier in life, she worked in clerical capacities with a typewriter, but is not seeking work mow due to her age. She is relatively comfortable with her wheelchair with attendant help. She can not maneuver the chair herself due to her arthritis (she ahs use of only one arm). She has tried power chairs and does not like them. Her greatest concerns center on the limitations from her arthritis. She wants to be able to write notes and letters. She has severe fine motor limitations. She uses a strap to hold eating utensils.

In going through the Matching Person and Technology (MPT) assessment process, DM indicated ambivalence toward technology use but good family and social support. She has not used computers, sensors, remote control devices (other than the TV remote).

Her initial self-assessment seemed to tell her that low-tech solutions would be preferable and that a high-tech solution like a computer to which to dictate may not be the best match for her, currently.

The Second Meeting. With Mentor support, DM continued her MPT self-assessment, which led her to explore use of a tape recorder for taping her letters to others, in response to which they could write, or tape, back to her. Her choice of this technology has led to continuing satisfaction.

Through the MPT process, DM acknowledged neck pain while watching TV. Encouraged by her Mentor to discuss this with her OT, she subsequently chose to have a shelf installed to better position the TV and, with Mentor encouragement, she requested a new remote from the cable firm so that she could change channels more easily. She alos acquired a touch lamp so that she could turn it on and off independently.

The result was a very satisfied consumer who is growing with comfort in the use of technology and says her quality of life has improved significantly. The sending and receiving of taped letters has worked out very well for her. The cost of the solutions amounted to less than $200.000


This scenario demonstrates that the process of matching a person and technology can be facilitated with assistance from peer mentors. MPT Mentoring is a cost effective AT service which can bring more self-aware consumers into partnership with professionals, maximizing both professional time and expertise, while yielding an effective, technology based higher quality of life for the consumer.


1. Scherer, M.J. (1994). Matching person and technology (MPT) model and accompanying assessment instruments, Revised Edition. Webster, NY: author.

2. Scherer, M.J. (1996). Living in the state of stuck: How technology impacts the lives of people with disabilities, Second Edition. Cambridge, MA: Brookline Books.


The peer Mentors gratefully acknowledge support by the US. Department of Education, National Institute of Disability and Rehabilitation Research; the NYS Office of Advocate for Persons with Disabilities TRAID Project; and the NYS Department of Health Early Intervention Program; as well as from Marcia J. Scherer, PhD, who shared her Matching Person & Technology (MPT) Model and provided training in its use.

William D. Heerkens
Rochester Center for Independent Living
758 South Avenue, Rochester, NY 14620
Phone/TTY 716/442-6470, Fax 716/271-8558


William D. Heerkens, SUNY Empire State College and Rochester Center for Independent Living, Rochester, New York USA

John Bridges, Rochester Center for Independent Living, Rochester, New York USA

Timothy G. Weider, Rochester Center for Independent Living, Rochester, New York USA

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