MPowerMe, founded by Dr. Maria McWhirt, has developed do-it-yourself tech-based tools to empower everyone with temporary or permanent special needs to participate more meaningfully in their own lives.
MyGuide by MPower Me is programmable assistive technology that supports independence, self-expression, employment, and inclusion for all members of society in ways that are not otherwise possible.
This technology has begun to take off and is now present within school settings, within the healthcare field, as well as the supported employment industry. MPowerMe offers daily virtual workshops where MyGuide users can socialize while learning to use technology as a personal resource; virtual meetings and social media groups for professionals, including a clinical working group and a special education taskforce; and a public library and exclusive access libraries of guides that can be personalized for one user or groups of users. The organization also offers trainings for anyone who wants to become a TechMentor who helps users leverage technology for independence, self-determination, and inclusivity.
MyGuide Care, covered by Medicaid, combines a pre-programmed standard mobile device with customizable software to support skill development and communication with caregivers. A regular MyGuide user shares his experience:
“My brain works differently than some people. MyGuide lessons are built the way my brain thinks. It helps me be more independent by allowing me to make choices and reminds me what to do if I get stuck on something. On each page there is a set of instructions that can be customized to help me complete whatever I want help with, and when I’m finished with that step, I just swipe to the left and it gives me a new step. I send MyGuide reports to my mom, so she knows I’m doing my stuff and when I want help.”
Dr. Maria got involved with this project after her 30 years of healthcare experience failed to provide an option for her son with autism to benefit from technology like everyone else. She recruited her older son, born with severe vision impairment, to design their own app, specifically to support one person’s needs. The results were so extraordinary that the mother-son team worked together with clinicians and teachers to develop early versions of MyGuide into a tool that both professionals and families could use to program guides that support other users, one person at a time. Today, MPower Me supports over 700 MyGuide users.
The Shenandoah Valley Inclusive Wellness Coalition selected MPowerMe for this highlight because of the increased need for programs such as this during a time of remote learning. Prior to COVID-19, MPowerMe also offered training for anyone interested in becoming a TechMentor to help users leverage technology for independence, self-determination, and inclusivity. Just before the pandemic, MPowerMe certified approximately 30 JMU School of occupational therapy students as TechMentors in cooperation with the Arc of Harrisonburg and Rockingham.
During the COVID-19 public health crisis, MPowerMe is offering pre-installed data cards to MyGuide Care users who do not have other available connectivity. And for clients who do not have Medicaid, for a limited time, MPowerMe is offering free temporary access to MyGuide v10 accounts to families who are referred by a healthcare provider who will use MyGuide as a remote support or telehealth enhancement during the public health emergency. Click HERE to apply for MyGuide online or contact MPowerMe at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. The MyGuide program will continue to create independence amongst individuals with disabilities and change the lives of so many often underserved.
More info: MPower Me Tools and Supports (PDF)