Six months have flown by since I joined the team at North Dakota Assistive, but not without some surprises!   Admittedly, when I started last May I didn’t know much about assistive technology or accessibility (I’m still learning, and I’ve only scratched the surface).

But I did know I could trust Mike Chaussee, who had been telling me for years how rewarding and impactful the work has been for him.   I found out for myself about a month into the job. Mike and I were in Minot for a meeting, and we were asked to make a quick stop to help one of our clients.

Miriam had recently lost her sight and had moved into an assisted living facility. When we arrived, she was sitting in a comfortable chair in the corner of her living room. On the surface the issue was a simple fix. However, no one had been able to connect her phone to a smart hub.

As Mike and I worked to get it hooked up, she could sense we were struggling and good naturedly teased us in between offering us M & M’s and other snacks. In turn, we asked questions about her life, and she answered in-between zingers. She really enjoyed our company. We certainly enjoyed hers.

At one point she got serious and said something I’ll never forget. Miriam said since she had lost her vision, she sometimes felt stuck in her head. About that time, Mike and I got the devices connected–a minor miracle! I asked her what type of music she liked, and she said Lawrence Welk and Johnny Cash.

“Siri, play Lawrence Welk.”

As the music began, Miriam’s whole demeanor changed, her foot started tapping, and a relaxed smile spread across her face. The music transformed her.

That’s when I had my epiphany. The work we do at North Dakota Assistive is often simple but profound.

I can tell you one thing for certain; it feels amazing when you are able to make someone’s day a little bit better. I think of that moment often, and since that time stories like Miriam’s have played out repeatedly.

There was Leo, who has Alzheimer’s, and his companion cat. We learned from a caregiver that the robotic cat calmed him, helped him sleep, and provided him with a friend.

Leo Lenior is pictured seated with a robotic companion cat that he received through an ND Assistive Possibilities Grant. Leo is wearing a red t-shirt and dark pants.
Vita Moore smiles for the camera while seated on a sofa. She is wearing a bright red blazer with a black shirt underneath. She has dark rimmed glasses and her hands folded in front of her.

And then there was the kindest, most thoughtful voice message I have ever heard from Vita. She was so excited to receive a new phone with the help of our consultant, Annette, who also offered a personal touch by including some garden cucumbers.

Vita’s message warmed all our hearts.

And who can forget the handwritten note from Rita, who told us, “It is a pleasure to see when people do their job, but it is also a pleasure when someone likes what they are doing.”

The note finished with, “From the bottom of my heart to all of you, thank you with love.” Wow. All of that is amazing and life affirming, and you can see why it’s easy to show up for work.

But none of it is possible without the incredible team of people I am privileged to work with.

Rita Plair is pictured with a smart pen she received through North Dakota Assistive. Rita is wearing a white coat with a white t-shirt underneath and a black and white checkered dress.

My wife and I talk about kindness as one of our core values. I wish you could see the day in, day out kindness I see from our AT Consultants and staff.

I’m proud of the way we treat people who walk through the doors of our Fargo and Bismarck offices looking for help—some feeling a little nervous or uncertain. It’s incredible. It also feels good to know there are no hidden agendas with what we do. The work we do comes from the heart.

All of us value helping other people. All of this has helped me land at this perspective: North Dakota Assistive is about the devices and tools that we educate, consult, and train people to use.

However, more than anything, North Dakota Assistive is about the people themselves. Six months have gone by quickly. I can’t wait to see what surprises are around the next corner!

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