NorCal SCI co-founders, Nick & Franklin, made their way to Modesto last week with the goal of meeting with a group of residents of Central Valley with SCI as well as meeting the staff at the Disability Resource Agency for Independent Living (DRAIL) and by all accounts, mission accomplished.
The visit and conversations we had were yet another sobering reminder of the lack of medical professionals with experience working with individuals with SCI just a mere 90 miles away from Silicon Valley. We learned this as we had organized a pizza lunch and invited anyone with SCI to join us. Each person expressed their frustration of having to travel to Sacramento or the Bay Area to seek medical expertise in SCI.
Another issue we learned about was the lack of socialization within the SCI community. In fact, it was funny that three of the attendees lived in Ceres (a small community just outside of Modesto), yet they had never met each other. No one was aware of any recreational or sports activities for wheelchair users taking place in that region. The lower cost of living in Central Valley will continue to draw more and more people and that would include members of the disability community. So, these challenges will simply become larger.
After saying goodbye to that group, we headed over to the offices of DRAIL. We were due to meet with Executive Director, Barry Smith, and Coordinator of their Stockton office, Alex Queen. Barry ended up getting snowed in as he lives in Sonora which is about 45 miles from Modesto but also at an elevation of about 1,700 feet and with the storms passing through, they got a healthy dose of snow even at such low elevation.
We had three goals from our visit to DRAIL. One was to learn about the programs and services they offer. Next, we wanted to share what NorCal SCI offers. And finally, we had identified last year the Central Valley region as the site of a Mobile Clinic in 2019 that we would host and we wanted to find out if the offices of DRAIL would be suitable for such an initiative and if DRAIL would be willing to allow us use their facility. The offices are perfect for our purpose and we now need to learn if they would be willing to allow the use of their office, pending a discussion with Barry.
We ended up spending a good amount of time with Alex who shared a lot of information about their programs and services with us and we’ll be sure to highlight them next week. Later on though, Jorge Pimentel, DRAIL’s Assistive Technology Advocate at the Modesto branch, also joined us for a discussion about AT devices and usage. Nick was able to demonstrate one of our up and coming initiatives involving the use of Home devices to create more functionality and independence for those with a physical disability and we think Alex and Jorge were left quite impressed.
Our goal was not to show off our capabilities. Our overarching goal is to expand the use and understanding of how technology can help us become more independent and in the coming weeks, we will be unveiling our plans to help advance that cause throughout the SCI community.
We’re grateful to Alex and Jorge for the 2 ½ hours they provided us with and we thoroughly enjoyed learning about the many services DRAIL offers through its four offices.