Direct Access Application Revolutionizes Service Delivery for People with Disabilities

You need a job. You need a home that provides support. You want to be involved in your community. You want all of these things yet the system that is in place before you is arduous to navigate and often leaves you feeling discouraged.

TOUCH (Therapeutic Outreach Uniting Community Health) was created with your needs in mind. TOUCH is a web-based application for people with disabilities, families, parents, advocates and professionals that allows you to sign up and have direct access to service providers close to where you live, provides an aggregate employment search engine that connects you directly with employers and exposure to recreation and community events hosted by the providers that you are interested in learning more about.

Finding sufficient employment and/or housing is difficult for anyone and can be particularly challenging to those with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The TOUCH web-based platform is free and accessible to everyone and will enable people receiving services, their families, friends and advocates to log on and search all of the provider and employment opportunities available to them, allowing them to self-direct their services by referring themselves for the opportunity, provided they have successfully gone through NYS OPWDD’s Front Door.

TOUCH was designed by Special Citizens Futures Unlimited (SCFU), a nonprofit organization that has been supporting adults and children with Autism for forty years. “Giving people with developmental and intellectual disabilities the ability to self-direct the course of their lives is imperative and it is our hope and vision that TOUCH will become a national model for our industry,” says Jessica Zufall, CEO of SCFU.

TOUCH enlisted the support of Gerry Libertelli, Managing Partner of Agnostech Systems, to develop the highly complex TOUCH application.

Gerry Libertelli is a veteran entrepreneur and Internet developer with roots in Online Service Delivery dating back to the start-up of the industry. Libertelli began his career at Charles Schwab and Company where he played several critical roles in delivering Schwab’s online investing products: StreetSmart and The Equalizer. These products were the first of their kind in the investment industry and were a precursor to Schwab’s eventual success on the Internet. Following his accomplishments at Schwab, Libertelli formed G. Triad Development Corporation in 1995. Under his leadership, G. Triad became the Internet development services firm of choice for enterprise and dot-comes alike. G. Triad delivered some of the most comprehensive Web applications in operation today, including such revolutionary projects as SmartMoney.com and Simon and Schuster’s Simonsays.com, ToysRus.com, Dow Jones University and several award-winning applications. Libertelli has been an active supporter of eGovernment initiatives around the country and frequently gives his time to municipalities interested in bringing local government to the Internet.

“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 has experienced great success since its release in the spring of 2015 and has been working diligently to create enhancements to the application based on feedback from its users. Through the application, people and their families can locate service providers they can begin to engage with, locate employment through our highly efficient partnership with Simply Hired, communicate directly with their Job Coach and locate and attend events that are being hosted by New York State Providers. The application also allows a manner in which to save jobs of interest, events you would like to attend and to catalogue a cart of providers a person is interested in learning more about. For example, Job Coaches can sign up for TOUCH as a Job Coach user, log into their account, and immediately can start building their roster of users of the TOUCH system.  Job Coaches are also encouraged to help their existing followers to sign up for TOUCH so they can all make use of the enhanced Job Coaching features.

The original launch of TOUCH in the spring experienced great success and I am thrilled about the new revisions,” says, Alex DiMaio, TOUCH Coordinator. “We have listened to what you need and what helps you as a person being supported and as a professional, and it is our goal to continue to provide these enhancements to streamline how you have access to the information you need,” he added.

The TOUCH application is the first ever-statewide housing and employment database working directly with state and government agencies to identify housing and employment vacancies directly to the person who will be the recipient of services.

 

For more information or to become a registered user on TOUCH for free, please visit www.touchnys.org and follow TOUCH on Facebook @TOUCHNYS.

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