For Chris Cooley working with people was a passion he has grown to love, but he never thought he would be encouraging others and raising awareness about service animals through his experiences.
Cooley has been volunteering with young people, something that made him feel more connected to his community. It was this connection he felt he was in danger of losing when he became a member of the hard of hearing community and also noticed changes in his vision.
“I felt like I lost my independence,” Cooley said.
Larkin, Cooley’s Service Dog, offered the independence Cooley needed to continue working, volunteering, and educating people about accessibility issues in the community. The supporting technology Cooley uses in his home allows him to live independently and feel safer. The use of support technology is a service Cooley and others utilize through the coordination of their Service and Support Administrator (SSA) at Scioto County Developmental Disabilities.
There are two types of supportive technology, assistive and remote. Assistive technology can include such things as communication devices or phone apps that provide step-by-step instructions for a task such as cooking and following a recipe. Remote supports allow an individual the peace of mind that comes with having staff available but having the ability to enjoy privacy in their own home. This involves such devices as sensors, video systems, medication alarms and video communication systems.
In the past, Cooley discovered items had been stolen from his porch and worried to be home alone with no staff with him. Recently, a woman he didn’t know was on his porch at night and he was able to use the video system to warn her away and get photos of the incident.
“I laid down on my bed, no worries,” Cooley said. “I had help if I needed it. I felt safe.”
Larkin also helps Cooley feel safe and allows him to navigate his surroundings. Cooley’s dog is a legitimate service dog who can help his handler and obtained proper training.
Google the phrase “service dog” and a long list of links to organizations offering various registration kits, vests, and documentation that makes an animal seem official. However, service dogs and emotional support animals are not the same, a fact lost on many without direct knowledge.
A dog can be a legitimate service dog by meeting one simple criteria according to Cooley.
“As long as they do a task for you,” Cooley said.
Cooley explained If the animal can perform a task for its handler, it’s considered a tool for the handler much like a wheelchair, maybe for someone with mobility issues. Larkin allows Cooley to easily navigate the physical world around him and alerts him of potential dangers or obstacles.
Cooley said he is passionate about sharing with the public. He is happy to discuss the issue and help organizations broaden their reach into the disability community, making for a larger pool of potential customers and information consumers.
If you would like Cooley to speak to your business or organization about accessibility issues, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (614) 928-5519.
for more information on supportive technology and other services call Scioto County Developmental Disabilities’ SSA department at (740) 353-4677.