Tuesday, March 6, 2018 - 12:45pm

Mercy College students in the School of Health and Natural Sciences are not only getting an education, but their work is also having a direct benefit on the lives of thousands of Westchester County residents. Students majoring in occupational therapy, speech therapy, physical therapy and nursing collaborate with The Arc Westchester to bring their skills to bear on behalf of the people they support.


This month, that collaboration will be on display at Mercy's Dobbs Ferry Campus when the College hosts the third annual “Tech Supports for Cognition & Learning: Everyday Applications & Emerging Trends” conference on March 27.


Established in 1949, The Arc Westchester is the largest national community-based organization advocating for and supporting people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) and their families. The Arc Westchester, the largest agency of its kind in the county, supports 2,000 people with developmental disabilities daily.

Richard P. Swierat, executive director of The Arc Westchester, credits Mercy students and faculty with helping his organization move their ball down the field in both a cost-effective and medically-effective manner.


“The partnership with the graduate school has allowed the staff and leadership of The Arc Westchester to advance our learning and knowledge to support people with intellectual and developmental disabilities through the use of "off the shelf" technology,” Swierat said. “People with I/DD now have the opportunity to be more independent through the use of technologies that support cognitive skills. We would never have been able to do this without the professional and academic involvement from Mercy College.”


The partnership began in 2014 when Mercy student interns and faculty began visiting the agency's day program sites and residences.

“Since then we ended up partnering with The Arc Westchester and together we have been hosting a conference at Mercy College that is focused on everyday technology that is for use by people with cognitive disabilities,” said Dr. Joan Toglia, dean of the School of Health and Natural Sciences. “And we have been holding that workshop every spring; this year will be our third year.”


The Arc Westchester has provided Mercy with two grants. The first was for a series of single case studies in which students examined the impact of technology on some of their participants. The second funded the capstone projects of two graduate students. All the projects provide not only learning and research opportunities for Mercy students and faculty, but also tangible benefits to the client base of The Arc Westchester.


The conference, scheduled for March 27, is open to professionals, students, family members, and individuals with autism and other developmental disabilities. It will include vendor exhibits, virtual reality and sensory rooms, and hands-on breakout sessions.

For details visit www.arcwestchester.org/techconference2018.