How software can amplify organizations serving adults with disabilities
In the United States, adults with disabilities account for roughly sixty-one million people. This means that around 26 percent of our population is in need of supplemental assistance, such as being driven to work, getting help with grocery shopping, or assistance with everyday tasks at home. Organizations that specialize in supporting individuals with disabilities are often working with limited budgets, receiving only 16 percent of total dollars donated to nonprofits — funding that is spread across the entire spectrum of human services providers.
Adopting dispatch software that makes managing clients, staff, and vehicles easier would better position those organizations to serve their clients more effectively and efficiently. Yet organizations serving adults with disabilities have been slow to adopt such technology and, for the most part, have relied on the manual way of operating with pen and paper. Why? For most organizations working under budget constraints, the decision to upgrade existing processes to a digital system isn’t made lightly.
Another barrier is the lack of accessible software and mobile apps that address the unique challenges adults with disabilities face. From vision and hearing impairments to cognitive disabilities, there is a wide spectrum of user interfaces that must be considered for a solution to be effective for this demographic. As a result, unfortunately, many software designers simply ignore this significant segment of the population.
When there is a software or mobile app available that serves clients with disabilities, the positive outcomes for service providers can be numerous. Technology can help organizations serve more individuals in an efficient manner, save money through improved resource management, and improve staff productivity.
On the in-house side for nonprofits serving adults with disabilities, HIPAA-compliant software can fill the gaps in the current legacy process and make data easily shareable with authorized personnel. Web-based forms are cost-effective and secure and allow organizations to be better advocates by enabling them to focus their attention on the needs of the client instead of administrative tasks. Filling out paperwork can end up taking the majority of an employee’s day when that person could be working directly with clients. An online form that can be completed and filed with a few clicks frees them up to deliver superior care.
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted additional considerations that a web-based scheduling and intake system can track far better than a desktop spreadsheet or pen and paper. An online software as a service (SAS) can facilitate COVID-19 alert tracking, ideal scheduling suggestions to allow for proper social distancing, and the ability to conduct contact tracing. In addition to supporting everyday time tracking and attendance reporting, these features can help nonprofits stretch every dollar, improve safety for their staff and clients, and enhance the client experience.
Take scheduling appointments, for example. Currently, scheduling is often managed by spreadsheets, calendars, and, at times, whiteboards — which can lead to many challenges, not only for staff but also for the individuals served. An automated system can help organizations keep a detailed history of schedules, schedule changes, and staff availability. Automating the process greatly reduces opportunities for human error and cuts down on staff time spent on manual entry, not to mention the need to update and review the schedules weekly, if not daily, to confirm accuracy.
Many organizations serving adults with disabilities offer transportation services to help get people to and from doctors’ appointments or work. With digitized processes, drivers and clients know they are receiving accurate, up-to-date information and can communicate in near-real time. Drivers can check in and clients can track their ride at every point of the journey, allowing families, caretakers, or physicians to know where transportation is coming from and going.
As the U.S. population of adults with disabilities continues to rise, so does the demand for assistance. However, a recent study found that only 23 percent of nonprofit executives felt they totally understood the benefits of technology. Another survey found that only 11 percent of nonprofits viewed their organizations’ approaches to digital solutions as highly effective. These statistics indicate that the nonprofit sector as a whole is behind the times when it comes to the adoption of technology. And this, unfortunately, is a significant “missed opportunity” to help their clients and their employees.
Organizations that support individuals with disabilities can meet the growing demand for services by modernizing their systems. Implementation of new technologies can feel overwhelming at the outset, but once adopted, the benefits are visible not only to the office staff but to the individuals served. The ultimate mission of organizations serving this community is to be a support system, and this shouldn’t be impeded by administrative or clerical barriers. The adoption of technology assures that the focus is always on the client.