New app sounds promising for hearing-impaired worker

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New app sounds promising for hearing-impaired worker

Technology is expanding the horizons of a Blueline Laundry worker in Hobart.

Using an iPad app, Blueline supported employee Joel, 24, is increasing his learning capabilities and developing his communication skills.

Joel was born with a chromosome disorder and his mother was told he would never walk or talk. Thankfully that did not eventuate, but when Joel’s mum Jo-Anne Plunkett found out more recently that a side effect of his chronic lung condition was permanent deafness, she acted quickly.

“I didn’t want to leave everything to the last minute and then wonder how I was going to communicate with my son,” she said.

“So I got onto Tasdeaf. Now we’re learning how to do Auslan [Australian sign language].

“I also got onto Joel’s disability advocacy representative, Toni Leigh, and she helped with the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) funding side of things [and a review of his plan support]. Then we got onto Peter [Hockley].”

St Giles speech pathologist Peter Hockley explained that Joel uses an iPad with an app called Proloquo2go. Users combine symbols to represent words or phrases.

“It generates speech, so it’s often used for face-to-face communication for someone who doesn’t have speech or someone whose speech isn’t very clear,” he said.

“Joel’s speech is fairly clear and he understands what other people are saying. So the app for him is slightly different. He’s using it more to email people … [and] by using the symbols he can communicate what he’s feeling and what he wants and doesn’t want.”

Mrs Plunkett is delighted with Joel’s progress.

“It’s absolutely wonderful; I see a change in my son.”

A positive benefit of Joel’s growing skills is that he is passing on his technical knowledge to his mother.

“Both of us are learning and he’s teaching me, which is good,” Mrs Plunkett said.

Joel works five days a week at Blueline Laundry, where he is a valued staff member.

“He really loves it at Blueline,” Mrs Plunkett said.

“He’s a happier person and really takes pride in his work.”

This is a view echoed by Blueline’s Services Co-ordinator, Ron Di Felice, who describes Joel as a dedicated, loyal and passionate employee.

“It is a pleasure having Joel at Blueline. He wants to achieve his goals of being independent and acquiring work skills to improve his quality of life. He is willing to learn and helps others less fortunate than himself.”

Blueline is a commercial laundry with sites at New Town and Kings Meadows. It is an Australian Disability Enterprise and a National Disability Insurance Scheme provider. Blueline Laundry operates under the auspices of the Archdiocese of Hobart.