Case Study

Easterseals Southern California goes mobile-first to foster more inclusive communities.

Now with strong, reliable mobile connectivity wherever their clients live, work, and play, the nonprofit can invest more in changing the way the world views disability.

When it comes to helping people with disabilities thrive, Easterseals has few peers. The 100-year-old organization pioneered the idea that everyone has potential, even when much of society treated disability as a family "secret" to be hidden away and ignored.

By empowering those with disabilities to engage with their communities, the organization’s work and social programs help change the way the world defines and views disability. They challenge perceptions daily, breaking down stereotypes to show the world that those with disabilities have as much to offer as anyone else.

Technology plays a key role in breaking down barriers to inclusion. Mobile platforms, in particular, help level the playing field by giving people with disabilities the power to communicate in ways most of society takes for granted. This is one of many reasons Easterseals Southern California (ESSC) partnered with T-Mobile for Business to provide the robust network and mobile devices it needs to succeed.

Changing the way the world views disability.

Putting new opportunities at clients' fingertips

Without a strong mobile network, ESSC would spend more time and wasted effort working to connect its 2,800 associates and 13,000 participants while serving fewer people in fewer locations. Partnering with T-Mobile for Business allows them to extend services further into the community, providing meaningful services to more people.

“Our services are all community-based so having the continued and reliable access through T-Mobile is essential for our staff to provide those services. The connectivity for us to operate as an organization is a tremendous asset to Easterseals.”

Beverlyn Mendez Chief Operating Officer, Easterseals Southern California

"That mobility allows our associates access to our services right on their tablets," says Kimberly Cohn, VP Marketing Communications. "Everything has become a lot smoother. It's really been dynamic in the way it changes services delivery and workflow to make things modern and efficient. The tech is essential to what we do because we are so decentralized."

By necessity, most of Easterseals associates are out in the community all day interacting with clients where they live, work, and play. Today, it is widely recognized that people with physical, behavioral, and mental disabilities are happier and more fulfilled in their own homes surrounded by family or in supported homes where professionals can help them achieve their full potential.

A great example is how Easterseals has been able to foster meaningful engagement for non-verbal participants, like those in Easterseals' Adult Day Service. Participants engage in community activities including regularly scheduled volunteer work and other activities based on their own interests and goals. In the past, some participants struggled and acted in ways that made interactions difficult. In many cases, these problems stemmed from the basic frustration we all feel when we're not being understood.

Fortunately, ESSC found a solution by using an electronic tablet with an application designed to help non-verbal people communicate more effectively. By enabling these participants to tell people about their world and how they experience it, interactions can improve dramatically. Gaining the ability to communicate with others and contribute to a group has a deeply connecting effect—increasing confidence, self-esteem, and the desire to have more positive interactions and relationships.

"Having access to the latest in mobile technology not only allows Easterseals to consistently innovate program delivery for our participants, it also helps us be more efficient and effective in how we raise philanthropic dollars in support of our mission," says Nancy Weintraub, Chief Development Officer.

Doubling down on mobile

As a “mobile-first” organization, ESSC focuses on applications and devices that leverage mobile connectivity, like tablets and smartphones, to form the backbone of the organization's technology infrastructure. Instead of hardwiring their offices with phone lines, they rely on unified communications, wi-fi, and cellular to connect everyone harmoniously. This means they no longer have to pay for unnecessary infrastructure or phone lines requiring costly installation, management, and maintenance.

For example, ESSC’s new Autism Therapy and Disability Services Center in Irvine was built without incoming phone lines for any associates. They've also been able to drop 220 branch office phone lines and consolidate approximately 50 different telephone provider contracts into just a few. Seeking optimal client security and device performance, they rely on Apple's device enrollment program through T-Mobile for Business to manage all of the ESSC devices issued to associates.

“Smoothly transitioning providers while not interrupting our client services was a serious concern for us, but T-Mobile provided support at our locations to make it an easy and fun experience for our associates. For IT, the additional support made the process run smoothly and we were able to add more security to our devices as part of the transition.”

Stacie DePeau Chief Information Officer, Easterseals Southern California

"We have 77 locations that used to have their own phone number,” says Mendez. “Now everybody has a unified communications number and it doesn't matter whether you're at an office or you’re strictly mobile or a little of both, associates can connect to everybody seamlessly the same way."

This is important since ESSC’s associates rely on their smartphones and tablets to manage everything about their clients’ services. From entering data and filling out forms to finding contact information in the case of an emergency, mobile devices and networks ensure the secure, timely delivery of the organization’s services.

Reinvesting savings in services

"Switching to T-Mobile from our prior provider unlocked tremendous cost savings, and reduced our mobile services bill by 65%," says Mendez. “This has allowed us to reinvest dollars in services that help us reach more people in more locations.”*

"As the tech has gotten more sophisticated, we have been able to adapt and approach our services in more innovative ways," says DePeau. "Our programs are community based and mobility is enabling them to be more successful with different technology tools that wouldn’t otherwise be available."

ESSC is also in the process of digitizing its health records to be available 24/7 to its associates in the field via an electronic health records platform.

More exciting news for ESSC’s participants is the new smart homes project. ESSC is piloting smart homes projects in two of their 23 residential homes in 2019, implementing technology to assist with tasks that people without disabilities take for granted. This can include using a tablet to assist with tasks such as viewing visitors and opening the front door remotely for someone with mobility issues or, for someone with sensory loss, to be able to set their shower temperature without risk of scalding. When the pilots are complete, additional smart technologies will be considered and deployment will extend to other homes where residents will be able to use assisted technology to improve interactions at home and in their communities by transferring information to their mobile devices.

Other initiatives like fundraising at events using tablets to swipe credit cards might seem obvious, but that one added convenience has boosted donations at those events. "It has absolutely increased fundraising," says Weintraub. "What we have seen, especially at our annual golf tournament, is an increase in remote raffle ticket sales and donations because we've been able to quickly swipe a card for people who don’t generally carry much cash these days."

The team is also using technology at ESSC locations to enable familial caregivers to observe therapy sessions from a waiting area to learn and provide continued support at home. This convenience helps therapists and age-related participants connect more naturally with their peers, while at the same time giving caregivers tips and tools they can take with them to apply at home.

“T-Mobile for Business helped us increase real-time collaboration for our associates who communicate with clients, internally, and with vendor partners—enabling them to foster inclusivity and empower all people to share their strengths.”

Stacie DePeau Chief Information Officer, Easterseals Southern California

Helping participants define and reach their own potential

Looking ahead, the sky is the limit. As 5G networks take shape, even more capabilities become possible. Imagine eye tracking software paired with a screen that helps people who are unable to speak or reach out tell others what they think or need. Or smart glasses that translate voice to text for people with hearing disabilities. Or devices that are able to connect with smart city sensors to help wheelchair users better navigate traffic from the sidewalk.

ESSC will be ready as it continues to build on a mobile-first culture to ensure it reaches as many people with disabilities as possible and helps them connect in universal ways, regardless of ability.

“Building more inclusive communities is a cornerstone of Easterseals’ mission. Utilizing T-Mobile technology in new and innovative ways provides us vital tools that can be shared with our participants, which in turn enables them to advocate for themselves in a very meaningful way.”

Nancy Weintraub Chief Development Officer, Easterseals Southern California
*Individual savings and experiences may vary based on size of organization and connectivity needs.
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