Phil Kirk has always been willing to talk about the ways he uses technology, hoping that his experiences can help others.
But the past few months, he’s taken advocacy to the next level, participating in activities that have an impact far beyond Licking County.
On March 22, Phil joined Mary Thompson-Hufford, CEO of the FUSE Network, at the Ohio Statehouse, where they testified in front of the Ohio House Finance Subcommittee on Health and Human Services on House Bill 33. They were part of a large group advocating for an increase in wages for Direct Support Professionals (DSPs.)
Phil’s written testimony, which can be read below, focused on the importance of technology and DSPs in his life.
“Good afternoon and thank you for allowing me to come today to tell you how thankful I am for all of the support
that I have received that has made a tremendous difference in my life, enabling me to live in my own place and
to navigate my life independently with the customized support that I need.
My name is Phil Kirk and I am legally blind but a homeowner, still making monthly mortgage payments. By the
time I turn 65 it will be paid for. I was 32 when I bought it.
I was working for LICCO in an enclave, which is a group of people with disabilities that has a supervisor with
them all the time. LICCO encouraged me that I had skills that would support me working in the community.
Through the support of OOD (Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities) I have a job now that I really like. My
coworkers are nice, we get along and everyone looks out for each other. I build two different types of boxes.
Sometimes they have me do different jobs like taking items out of packages. My job is important to me
because it gives me money to buy things and to live on. I appreciate the transportation support that I receive
getting me to and from work.
I live in a smart home that has cameras that connect to remote supports so that I can be alone, but when I
need something I can reach out. I don’t need a staff person with me all the time because of these remote
supports. I only want staff in my home when I need them. Staff come in and help me with cleaning, grocery
shopping and getting to/from doctor appointments and around town.
I have staff help me get to the places that are important to me like going to the gym, going out to eat and
recently a trip to Zanesville to buy a new drum set. I have a drum studio at my house. When I wasn’t working
I had less money than I do now.
When I have a quality staff, I feel comfortable. It is easier to ask for support knowing that I can trust them. It is
good to have them cut up and joke around with, it feels like a buddy or friend. I’ve been through a lot of staff
members over the years. It’s like the Ray Stevens song, ‘Where are you tonight I search all over for you and
turn around and you are all gone .’ It takes me time to get used to someone being in your life and I become
attached to them and then they are gone. I try to not get attached to people. I know it isn’t me, people move on
but it is hard to get the support we need without keeping good staff..
Thank you for your ongoing support of people with disabilities. Thank you for allowing me to have the finances
to have these supports that support my independence and my life.”
Phil said that he wasn’t nervous during his testimony because he spoke from his heart.
“It was cool,” he said. “And I was as cool as a cucumber!”
As the list of assistive technology devices that he uses grows — he recently added a digital magnifier and closed circuit TV system — Phil has been participating in Zoom meetings to learn more.
He recently attended an event hosted by the Ohio Tech Ambassadors at the Ohio Statehouse.
After listening to a presentation by seven Tech Ambassadors from around the state, Phil and Hayley Flowers-Kreps, a Life Engagement Coordinator at the FUSE Network, explored different tech options at each Ambassador’s table.
Phil said he was interested in learning more about how a Facebook Portal would be beneficial. He was also excited to win a door prize — an Echo Show!
He said he’s looking forward to attending the Ohio State University Nisonger Center’s TechSummit later this summer.
“I just want to see what is out there and explore things,” he said. “I want to see if new tech could help me or the people around me.”
To start a conversation about assistive technology, talk to your service coordinator or visit https://lcountydd.org/techfirst/ to learn more!