Ability Beyond Disability

Success at Ability Beyond with the CT Nonprofit Grant Program

Through a generous combination of OPM grants totaling $1,861,500, Ability Beyond has created residential environments across Connecticut where people with disabilities can live with maximum independence, and “age in place” in homes that accommodate their evolving needs. Our work included construction projects to improve accessibility, health, safety, and efficiency within group homes, and assistive technology pilots at 40 Connecticut sites (work and residential) to remove everyday barriers to autonomy.

In addition to improving quality of life, our projects generated valuable efficiencies for the agency—a key element of sustainability in the delivery of excellent long-term supports and services for a vulnerable, aging population. In the case of technology, savings have been generated through decreased reliance on staff hours as individuals gain greater independence, and smart home technology that streamlines monitoring and notifications. Accessibility and emergency safety improvements through construction have allowed these vulnerable residents to remain in the home as they age and when power outages occur due to the installation of generators.  With the installation of sprinklers in these homes we have been able to reduce staffing on the overnight shift providing cost savings of $1,970,000 over the next 10 years. 

Altogether, these projects have impacted 330 people with a wide range of disabilities, including traumatic brain injuries, mental illness, developmental disabilities and autism spectrum disorders. With Round 1 funding, Ability Beyond integrated “universal design” into five community-based group homes (New Fairfield, Brookfield, Ridgefield) where the agency delivers 24-hour care to men and women with disabilities who struggle with mobility, dementia, and medical complications related to aging. Through the use of maintenance-free and energy efficient products we expect to save $ 240,000 over the next decade.

Through our technology initiative, Ability Beyond has empowered hundreds more people with a wide range of disabilities to live with greater independence and safety in their homes by piloting life-changing technologies and then scaling our best practices to even more people. In order to develop these best practices, Ability Beyond created a strong research infrastructure with a grant from NY State to compliment this grant allowing us to measure and share the impact of commonly known technology products in removing barriers, as well as a blueprint for integrating mainstream technology into a care provider’s operations. We share these materials through an online resource center open to nonprofit service providers and more. You can visit the resource center here.

Some of the tools we piloted with NGP grant funding were: automated medication dispensers, fitness wearables, location trackers, remote monitoring and support, seizure monitoring, sensory / engagement technology, and sleep tracking. By connecting individuals with these products, we saw improved autonomy in a wide range of tasks—from toothbrushing, to communication.

One of our favorite stories is that of Michael, a 29-year-old man with cerebral palsy and a developmental disability who lives in Danbury. Michael was highly dependent on staff in 2016 when Ability Beyond piloted the use of mainstream technology in his home. By incorporating Logitech Harmony technology, we immediately gave Michael more control over his life, allowing him to manage his TV, his X-Box, and every aspect of the lights in his room, including brightness and timing. Through our work with Michael, we were able to identify everyday challenges that many of the people we serve are facing but unable to verbally articulate. For instance, because of Michael’s successful testing of different smart lights and accessories (i.e. utilities), we have a clear sense of how to effectively integrate the technology into all of our group homes.

With Michael, Ability Beyond also successfully piloted the AgileLife Transfer and Mobility system – a life-changing tool that has reduced disruption in the home, risk of injury to Michael or staff, risk of falls and incontinence. In the past when Michael had to use the bathroom in the night, he would ring a loud buzzer to alert staff and would require two hands-on transfers: one from his bed to his wheelchair, and another from his wheelchair to the toilet. Now Michael presses a button that sends a “quiet call” to staff—no longer nervous to awaken his roommates. With the AgileLife transfer system, there is one seamless and safe transition to a commode seat. Learn more about the product here.

Today Michael participates in Ability Beyond’s unique educational training program called the TIP Squad (Technology Innovations for People), where he leads the way in piloting technology for his peers. He has learned to assess and implement mainstream technology into disability care environments, as well as train his peers and Ability Beyond staff to use technology in the most effective way. Through this training program, Michael has gained a strong sense of purpose. Watch his story below, as highlighted in our 2017 gala video:


Another story of success comes from a young man named Neil, who has experienced greater independence since we integrated an automated medication dispenser into his homes.