Startups

Digitability to help students with cognitive disabilities at 18 Philly schools

The program, in partnership with the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, will reach some 2,000 students.

Digitability's launch event, at Hill Freedman World Academy.

(Photo via @Digitability on Twitter)

Correction: The program will serve nearly 2,000 students, not 1,000, as was originally reported. (1/5/18, 9:48 a.m.)

Preparing kids with cognitive disabilities for an increasingly tech-driven reality is the aim of Digitability, the startup formerly known as Autism Expressed, creators of a workplace-readiness training program.

A new partnership with Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry’s Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR) will let the company deploy its system at 18 Philly schools, reaching close to 2,000 students aged 14–21 across the Philadelphia School District. The deal also opens up the door for Digitability to reach 67 counties across the commonwealth.

“This partnership is a game changer for the city of Philadelphia,” said founder and CEO Michele McKeone. “We’re bringing together educators, city officials and employers to solve a real city problem for people who are traditionally pigeonholed into being unemployed and underemployed.”

The OVR partnership, launched Tuesday at Hill Freedman School World Academy with some 130 teachers, is funding the program for students throughout the course of the school year. The startup had already piloted an early version of its program in the Philly school district, where McKeone formerly worked as a consultant and facilitator of an autistic-support classroom.

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“The way we’re different than other programs,” McKeone told Technical.ly, “is that we prepare them for a tech-driven and highly social workplace. It’s designed to make sure that students can generalize, that is, apply their skills in a variety of experiences and settings.”

The program does that through workplace simulations, where students work together to transform the classroom into an office setting and take on projects from beginning to end.

“Every student has a role to play,” McKeone said. “Everybody applies for a job. We provide a wide range of tools so that this can be done with a wide range of cognitive profiles.”

The company has five employees and a few part-timers and contractors working out of Northern Liberties.

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