Barriers persist in finding and affording technology

December 1, 2021
Featuring DD Council Chair Michael Denlinger

Michael Denlinger, chair of the Ohio Developmental Disabilities Council (ODDC), recently found himself in a predicament many of us have experienced – his computer died. Often this is simply a work issue resolved by an IT department or a social inconvenience. For Denlinger, it was a major life fail.

Photo of Ohio DD Council Member Michael DenlingerDenlinger, who has cerebral palsy, relies on his computer for every bit of his daily communication with the outside world. With funds tight and the unavailability of a computer that could be adapted to his particular needs, Denlinger turned to the ODDC for help.

Council staff looked into available options, but were limited to loaning him a laptop that he could use during his tenure of being a Council member. And the laptop could only be used for Council business. “I always need my computer,” said Denlinger. “It helps me be a more effective Council member. If I can’t get assistance with this, what is it like for anyone else with disabilities? We need to do better for people with disabilities.”

While currently using a loaner computer from his sister, Denlinger turned to the Hamilton County Developmental Disabilities Services (HCDDS) for assistance. Ryan Braun, Director of Community Relations at HCDDS explained, “Unfortunately working to find the right technology and funding sources such as Medicaid is often frustratingly slow and complicated. But for many people without a Medicaid waiver, they don’t even have that option. That’s why we’re working locally to build a comprehensive plan on behalf of all people we serve. Michael’s early challenges are helping us to prepare for a better process moving forward.”

“If this was going to happen to anyone, it’s good that this happened to me so I can shed a light on the issue.” — Michael Denlinger

Focusing on the positive, Denlinger said, “If this was going to happen to anyone, it’s good that this happened to me so I can shed a light on the issue.” Denlinger’s main concern is needing a computer to help do his advocacy work for a young man he works with. “I talk with him daily via the computer and social media. Not having a computer makes it harder for me to help him.”

In the meantime, Denglinger will receive another loaner computer from the Assistive Technology of Ohio (AT Ohio) Device Library. According to Bill Darling, Director of AT Ohio, AT Ohio runs a library full of assistive technology devices made for people with disabilities. “The majority of the people who use our library do so as a way to learn about the different types of technologies that are on the market, so they can make an informed purchase. It is also perfectly acceptable to use the AT Ohio Device Library if you are in a situation where your technology is broken down and you need a device to "fill in" while your original device is being fixed,” said Darling. “Additionally, if you are ordering a device (or trying to get one approved on a waiver), you can check out that device from our library and use it while you wait for your new device to arrive. Our Library is often used for continuity of service purposes.” You can find out more about AT Ohio’ Device Library on their website at https://atohio.org/.

“Michael's experience has shown us first-hand that obstacles continue to exist for people with disabilities when it comes to getting technology devices,” said ODDC Executive Director Carolyn Knight. “Ohio is considered a Technology First state, but clearly there needs to be more work done to ensure that this becomes a seamless process. We at Council will continue to advocate on behalf of people like Michael who continue to have issues with getting the technology they need to live independent and productive lives.”