The 4th Annual FFTCon was a success!

By Katherine Carol

It wasn’t that long ago, or so it seems, the seeds of innovation lay dormant just waiting for the right conditions to sprout. Four years ago, our first Families at the Forefront of Technology conference (FFTCon) took root at the base of the Maroon Bells in Snowmass Village, Colorado.

Our fledgling idea has now enjoyed four years of growth, and our roots are growing more profound as the technology for people with disabilities is no longer just an idea—it is a reality.

2018 FFTCON moved from Snowmass Village to downtown Glenwood Springs. The luxury settings of The Viceroy Hotel traded for a more community experience at the state of the art technology venue of the Morgridge Commons at the local library. Appetizers and drinks replaced with Mexican food from Mi Casita in Carbondale and beers in the park. Continental breakfast turned to fantastic Cake’s donuts and coffee with the smell of smoky-sweet barbeque from Smoke filling the conference rooms for lunch. A conference always starts with good food!

The theme of this year’s conference was less on innovation and more on implementation and practice. Many of our most popular sessions included people with disabilities sharing their stories on how technology works for them. Our self-advocate panel highlighted how personal technology must be as advocate Corey Mineo, speaker Zack Korbel, and physicist Jacob Olitsky shared how technology enhances their abilities to live and work in their community.

Alice and Kara Brouhard continued to inspire and inform our participants on the various ways digital speakers like Amazon’s Alexa, Google Home, and Kindle Fire can assist individuals with physical and memory challenges to enhance daily life with minimum effort and a reasonable budget.

Assistive Technology Expert, Robin Pegg’s excellent keynote, “But, What if They Can?” challenged us to continue to explore how technology to help discover personal genius and give it a platform to express itself.

Robin’s breakout session, “Is It a Behavior Problem or Is It an Accommodation Problem?” helped examined how technology indeed is an accommodation. Without access to technology do students experience greater frustration with the classroom environment? Can this lead to challenging behaviors?

Katherine Carol and Danielle Coulter’s presentation highlighted the new Employment First legislation which aims to improve employment outcomes for people with disabilities across the state. Danielle’s gracious presentation on her writing and publishing business, a conference favorite, demonstrated excellent use of technology and work.

Our panel of experts, Shea Tanis from the Coleman Institute, Heide Haines, from the Arc of Colorado and youth advocate, Sonja Linman shared perspectives on how the need to teach advocates and self-advocates how to protect their information as well as how not to fall victim to folks and systems who might misuse their information.

Break time was movie time as we saw an Encore viewing of Big Air Max, the story of FFT founders Max and Katie Grange. Mikelle Learned ran a short video highlighting a coffee video she produced with nephew, Jackson Learned, finishing with demonstration videos on how to use ACC with Siri.

And lest we forget, we were honored to have Christano Sosa, Executive Director of the Arto of Colorado. The Arc of Colorado continues to take the lead in supporting FFT.

Check out a video clip of Representative Bob Rankin of District 57, Garfield, Moffat, Rio Blanco Counties, Joint Budget Committee (JBC) member updating the conference on legislative efforts to support people with disabilities in Colorado.

Finally, we once again, thanks to our treasured sponsors.

The Coleman Institute for People with Cognitive Disabilities, Ascendigo, The Alliance, Stifel Nicholas, ANB Bank, Mountain Valley Developmental Services, Rest Assured, NxGenLearning, Sopris Liquor and Wine and The Arc’s of Colorado, West Central, Central Mountains and Mesa County.