What Can Technology Do For You?

Jen Lee Reeves


Jen Lee Reeves is one of those people who always has a big smile and a big goal. She teaches social media and engagement at the Missouri School of Journalism and is the interactive director at KOMU 8 TV, the only university-owned commercial television station in the United States. She has built a great community on her website Born Just Right, and has plans to present on a panel at SXSW (South by Southwest) a series of conferences held in Austin that brings multimedia professionals together. She’s hoping our community can offer additional perspectives.

What inspired you to get involved in the special needs community?

My daughter was born in December of 2005 with a limb difference. She has a typical right arm and a left arm that stops right after the humerus and growth plate. I immediately felt the need to connect with other families of limb differences to learn about this world … which I had not even known existed until the day she was born. My desire to find community led to a website that has introduced me to so many different people inside the special needs world. I have learned by experience that most people who are touched by special needs have similar experiences. We can all lean on each other and learn from each other.

How did you end up on a panel at SXSW and what can the people at SXSW offer?

I am a journalist by trade and found a calling to attend the SXSW conference for the last number of years. I’ve learned there is an incredibly diverse group of people who believe in using technology to build community and connections. There are so many different motivations, but similar goals. I proposed a panel discussion about the special needs community because I realized I should continue to find ways to blend my two priorities: community building and special needs.

I’ve found at SXSW, there are so many smart people, you end up coming up with amazing ideas. If we can target new ways to bring special needs families together, the tech world might be able to help take those ideas and make them into reality.

Is this just about physical disability?

This panel is focused on all special needs communities. The more I talk to families with special needs and adults with special needs, the more I realize we each deal with many of the same emotional and logistical challenges. I learned so many concepts on how to work with my school and therapists from families of children with a wide range of differences.
Adults bring additional perspective on technology uses and with them we can brainstorm on new ideas. I’d really love as many different perspectives as possible. It will make this panel that much better!

What kind of things are you looking for from the TPGA community?

I’m looking for anyone to share video of the ways technology currently helps in their lives, and share ideas on ways technology could be improved. The autism community has already found incredible ways to blend technology into therapies and communication. I’d love to see the many ways the tech world is making a difference and what things you wish existed today — those ideas might be able to come true!

What will happen after SXSW? What are the next steps?

After SXSW, I hope to report back to all of the communities that shared their ideas, then see if there are projects and funding to build or experiment. I’m really hoping some people who are passionate about improving the special needs world will consider donating time to test out ideas we come up with during the panel.

How can someone get more involved?

I’d love to see anyone and everyone share videos. I have posted an introduction to the project: http://bit.ly/SXsnVID – If you aren’t comfortable with video, please share your thoughts and ideas on my post about this project: http://bit.ly/SXsnPreview

Will you be having a meetup at SXSW?

We are hoping to have an unofficial meetup near the Omni Hotel after the panel discussion. If you plan to be there, we’ll discuss it at the end of our session. I’ll also tweet out details when I have them using the #SXsn (South by special needs) hashtag on Twitter and Google+.

Here’s a link to the panel page: http://schedule.sxsw.com/2012/events/event_IAP11932


Registration is still open for SXSW for anyone who is interested in attending. Interactive: March 9–13, Film: March 9–17, Music: March 13–18