Bronx, NY – As of April 15, 2015 New York has a powerful ally in advancing opportunities for people with intellectual and development disabilities. The ally is TOUCH (Therapeutic Outreach Uniting Community Health), the first ever statewide housing and employment application working directly with state and government agencies to identify housing and employment vacancies to the people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
In Housing, TOUCH provides users with direct access to a comprehensive Provider Directory in all of New York State. Providers can be searched directly, by region, or radius of a given zip code. Provider profiles consist of the following contact information: address, phone number, email, website and main contact title. Users can add a Provider to their Providers Cart. The cart allows the user to save Provider information.
In the employment area, users can search employment opportunities through the TOUCH Job Search feature. Opportunities can be searched directly, from a TOUCH managed term or by radius of a given zip code. TOUCH provides users with an opportunity to connect directly with their Job Coach. If they choose to work with their Job Coach, they can share jobs with their Job Coach and the Job Coach can share jobs with them. Users can save jobs in the Jobs Cart.
TOUCH provides users with direct access to a comprehensive Provider Directory in New York State. Providers can be searched directly, by region, or radius of a given zip code. Provider profiles consist of the following contact information: address, phone number, email, website and main contact title.
“TOUCH will revolutionize the way people with developmental disabilities, advocates, professionals and family members gain access to housing and employment opportunities. These opportunities will help people self-direct the course of their lives,” said Jessica Zufall-Guberman, Ph.D, CEO of TOUCH
Special Citizens Futures Unlimited. Founded in 1976, Special Citizens is committed to the development and delivery of a comprehensive, integrated system of services, which has as its primary purpose the promotion and attainment of independence, inclusion, individuality and productivity for adults and children with autism. Special Citizens manages TOUCH.
TOUCH will become a housing and employment clearinghouse of best practices and policies. A library will be maintained which providers, professionals, families and people with intellectual and developmental disabilities can access, containing information on trending topics such as housing, employment, direct support professional information, as well as upcoming events.
The New York State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) is responsible for coordinating services for more than 128,000 New Yorkers with developmental disabilities, including intellectual disabilities, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, autism spectrum disorders, and other neurological impairments. It provides services directly and through a network of approximately 750 nonprofit service providing agencies, with about 80 percent of services provided by the private nonprofits and 20 percent provided by state-run services.
TOUCH is available to New York State OPWDD recipients, their families and support professionals involved with OPWDD recipients. To gain residential placement, people must be eligible for services with OPWDD, click here for eligibility information and click here for OPWDDs Front Door Initiative.
OPWDD was created in 1978 as the Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities, an independent cabinet-level state agency, largely because of the need for an autonomous entity to implement the Willowbrook consent decree and the resulting closure and downsizing of institutions. In the decades that followed, it has become one of the state’s largest agencies. Individuals supported by this agency and their family members forged a strong working partnership that shaped the way the system grew to support increasing numbers of individuals to live with greater independence in their communities.
One of the most useful sections of TOUCH is the New York State provider directory. “The directory starts with a familiar graphic of the New York State region map. To see providers in a region, simply click on the highlighted region within the map gives us a sense of accomplishment,” said Alex DiMaio, TOUCH’s statewide coordinator. The New York Providers section also provides a way for users to search providers by using a zip code combined with a radius option. This lets you search "around" a specific location (the default is always your profile's zip code).
The functionality and accessibility of TOUCH was designed specifically to be accessible for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
“ TOUCH streamlines the way people with developmental and intellectual disabilities get the services they need. It is my hope that it becomes a tool for better connections across the services landscape. It creates an environment that ensures people find information that has for so long been buried to them. All providers have to do is use it, and it will unlock many direct access obstacles. Agnostech Systems is proud to have built this framework and hope it serves to further the goal of Direct Access for everyone,” says, Gerry Libertelli, TOUCH Senior Developer.
TOUCH’s host organization Special Citizens Futures Unlimited is a non-profit organization. TOUCH is assisted by a Testing Group. The Testing Group analyzes general ease of use, functionality and accessibility. Touch’s Advisory Board meets bi-monthly to discuss progress and assist with outreach.