How this WA based company grew and learned to use technology to help thousands of people with disabilities

Image: The Ability Centre

In 1951, the Centre for Cerebral Palsy was opened by a group of parents who wanted to create a better life for their children. In the following six decades, the organisation has grown Ability Centre in 2015, it now seeks to help people with a range of needs, including therapy, housing, equipment services, community inclusion, home care and much more.

Technological innovation has been central to the growth of this not-for-profit organisation, as has its involvement with CBA and the dedication of its team. The Ability Centre’s CEO, Suzi Cowcher, is passionate about the organisation and the how much it gives to Western Australia.

“I love my job, if you can call it a job — as it is a pleasure to be part of such an amazing organisation. Making a difference comes in many forms. Our youngest customers are young babies, our oldest in their 80s. We exist to enable people to realise their abilities.

“Every day I am inspired as I see achievements from a young child walking for the first time after therapy supports we have provided to talking with a person with very complex needs as we assist them to be self-sustaining in employment.

“We have really enhanced our employment services in recent years to assist more and more people to join workplaces across the state. Employment is so important to building confidence and self-sustainability.”

The organisation has expanded significantly since its original inception. “We have come from no employees to one that now has close to 1,000. We support thousands of people every day and all types of disabilities We have built on our extensive expertise in cerebral palsy and complex physical disability to support autism, acquired brain injuries, intellectual disabilities, and the list goes on.”

Image: The Ability Centre

In addition to having more hands on deck, the organisation has also concentrated on innovative technology that can help their customers.

“We have been building up our assistive technology capability and have two key brands in our equipment… CP Tech and Dreamfit. One focuses on communication, mobility, sleep solutions and seating, the other on recreational equipment, innovative adaptions to everyday issues. We keep listening to our customers and seeing how we can create new or enhance current services and products to support them to live the life they choose.”

She adds: “The benefits of innovative technology for people with disability are endless. We now have some customers living in a shared living arrangement that can open doors through eye gaze technology; we have the Australian and New Zealand distributorship of a zippy car shaped mobility device called a Wizzy Bug which allows children aged between about 18 months and 5 years to move often for the first time by themselves.”

The Ability Centre’s innovation focus sharpened further through their relationship with The Commonwealth Bank, which went from simple business banking to being involved in their Think Tank initiative.

“We came together with 6 other companies from all sorts of industries to try and solve specific business problems. It has been an invaluable experience being involved in innovation work and we were proud to be the winner of the Innovation Lab Think Tank last year when we presented to a ‘shark tank’.

“We were taken on an experiential journey which applied design thinking principles to a business problem. It was highly interactive, fast paced, fun and CBA provided a whole series of experts to help us build up a prototype to solve a customer pain point.

Image: The Ability Centre

“We really focused on the experience of people with disability and their families needing to repeat their story to every provider and touch point they interact with. The solutions developed were amazing.”

The Ability Centre also has its own Innovation Hub that focuses on service redesign that aims to be beneficial for the entire business and their customers. They have found this to be even more important since their Think Tank experience.

“We have continued to evolve our innovation hub and build on the role of our Chief Innovation and Development Officer to drive the innovation agenda. We really try to think differently to help current and future customers and to further why we exist. It helps by having supports on the end of the phone, tools at our fingers tips and friendly voices to help us solve matters where another view is beneficial.”


Do you want to see your business grow and innovate? Accept CBA’s 21-day challenge over at their website.

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