Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Back to school: Favorite tips and resources from UATP



illustration

Is your child preparing for that first day of school? Are you going back to school yourself? Here are some things to make the education journey a little easier.

The Utah Assistive Technology Program has added some new items to the Demonstration and Loan Library in Logan and the Uintah Basin. To check them out or to receive a demonstration, contact Dan in Logan or Cameron in the Uintah Basin.

For the blind and visually impaired

·     A Victor Readerstream will access Library for the Blind materials, as well as DAISY books, MP3, MP4 and EPUB files. It is a pocket-sized device with large, high contrast buttons.

·     A large print keyboard with high contrast keys may help your student with homework assignments.

·     A talking book player will help you access tons of free material from the Library for the Blind. You can use your own for free, but if you’d like to see how it works first, come to UATP for a demonstration.

For those who have trouble getting out of bed on time:

We have a shake and flash alarm.

For families that use communication apps:

·     We have iPads stocked with LAMP words for Life, ProLoQuo2Go, TouchChat with WordPower and Snap + Core First. (We also have Predictable for students who are literate but have lost their ability to speak.) Your child’s school should be your first stop for some great resources, but if you want to know more, would like to explore an app on your own or would just like a little more information so you can help with your child’s homework, contact us!

·     Coming soon: demonstration videos to help you navigate these apps.

For reading and comprehension: 

We have these short training videos, thanks to Kent Remund of the Utah Center for Assistive Technology.


·     Notability


·     CoWriter


Want to know what else is available in our demonstration and loan library? Visit our website.

Have questions? Call us at 800-524-5152. Have a great year at school!

Thursday, August 8, 2019

UATP wheelchair brings long-awaited relief to a Utah girl and her family

portrait in their yard
Tyler, Aubrey and Marissa Peck
AMERICAN FORK--When Audrey Peck was diagnosed with two uncurable and serious illnesses, her family’s life became something of a research project.

The 11-year-old has both juvenile dermatomyositis (JD) and lipodystrophy. The first is an autoimmune disease affecting her muscles and joints. The second attacks the fat under her skin, which in turn causes other problems. Her first diagnosis, the one for JD, came in 2014. 

Her family keeps a small chest-full of medications to manage the two conditions. Aubrey’s been involved in National Institutes of Health studies. Her parents have undergone genetic testing and submitted the stuff they vacuumed off the floor in their home. Their DNA and floor dust were studied so that researchers could better understand the genetic and environmental factors surrounding Aubrey’s health. 

Doctors at Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City told Aubrey’s mother, Marissa, that they have never seen both conditions in one child before, and they never will again.

When her parents told the story around their kitchen table, Audrey shrugged and shook her head. “I’m special.”

Her parents shook their heads, too. “You’re special,” they agreed. 

Then Aubrey looked through the old photos Marissa brought up to show how the diseases had progressed, and cringed. She wasn’t complaining about the diseases. She just didn’t like how she looked in some of the pictures.

Marissa and Aubrey’s dad, Tyler, pointed out that even though Audrey has missed a lot of school, she’s pulling excellent grades. They live in a busy home, with a dog that wants attention and siblings who want to know what everyone else is up to. The family has done a lot to adapt to life with chronic illness, but medical bills piled up. When they decided they needed a new wheelchair to fit Aubrey’s growing body, insurance wouldn’t pay for it. The Pecks couldn’t afford to buy one out of pocket, either.

A new wheelchair would help keep Aubrey off her feet. “She would call me all the time, ‘My feet hurt, my legs hurt,’” Marissa said. They hurt often, but especially when she’s on them too much. 

Meanwhile, Aubrey was squeezed into a stroller-chair intended for a much smaller child. Not only was it too small; it made Aubrey dependent on having other people push her. She solved this by sitting in the stroller and pulling herself forward with her heels, but that defeated the purpose of relieving the strain on her feet and legs. 

Marissa wanted Aubrey to stay in school as much as possible. She misses a lot due to her health conditions; it was discouraging when she wanted to go home because of the pain in her feet. 

Eventually Marissa and Tyler decided to sell a vehicle and use the money to buy a wheelchair for Aubrey.

They found a buyer. Then the person who was going to buy the car drove off with it without paying for it. They never got the money and they don’t know where he went.

A friend suggested they go to Ability 1st Independent Living Center in Provo to see if they could help with a chair. Ability 1streferred them to the Utah Assistive Technology Program in Salt Lake City. That’s where they met Tom Boman, UATP’s Salt Lake City coordinator. He worked with them to make sure Aubrey received a chair that fit her. 

It's blue, like she wanted. What’s even better: it’s lightweight, and it’s easy enough to put together, Aubrey can do it herself.  

With the new wheelchair in hand, Marissa gave the old stroller-style chair to the school. Another child was using it a week later.

While the journey has been long for the family, Marissa has a strong desire to give back and pay forward. The family has received a lot of support from neighbors, people in their church congregation, and the school. 

“We don’t know what the future holds, and the doctors don’t, either,” she said. “But we have a good team. A really good team.”

_____________

UATP is part of the Center for Persons with Disabilities at Utah State University. The Salt Lake City location transfers donated, refurbished chairs to people who need them, for an affordable fee. For more information, call 800-524-5152.


Monday, August 5, 2019

UATP joins “Enabling the Future” to provide affordable 3D printed prosthetics

Dan makes a heart shape with his hand and a 3D printed prosthetic hand
Logan UATP Coordinator Dan O'Crowley
The Utah Assistive Technology Program is now a volunteer on the Enabling the Future network, a worldwide organization of volunteers dedicated to providing 3D printed prosthetic arms and hands to people who need them.

“We provide all of the time and expertise, but we charge for what the materials cost,” said Dan O’Crowley, UATP’s Logan coordinator.

For example, the “Iron Man” hand (pictured here) was printed at the Logan location for $50. That includes the plastic material used in printing and the finger gel tips—available from any office supply store—that give the device some grip.

“If people have insurance and they can purchase a prosthesis, it would probably be best to do that and just customize the device,” O’Crowley said. But 3D printing offers some possibilities to people who cannot afford a device or whose needs are not covered by insurance. They also have their own custom-designed coolness factor.

“The kids enjoy wearing them and the other kids in the class accept them wearing the designs,” Crowley said.

Enabling the Future’s designs are intended for people with a functional elbow. “We are willing to work with peole who don’t fit those requirements,” O’Crowley said. “We’ve already done that, we are doing it.”

The advantage of using the network: lots of existing designs and access to network expertise. Members can access files for printing, use the web-based platform where they can upload photos and connect with other people in the network, and follow a set process for printing a device.

Do you need a hand? Contact Dan O’Crowleyor visit the “need a hand”page on the Enabling the Future website!

Monday, July 29, 2019

UATP aids in effort to make sure wheelchairs are transported safely with patients

SLC mayor unveils wheelchair ramp trailers; UATP and UCAT help train firefighters on moving wheelchairs safely

portrait
SLC mayor's office ADA Coordinator Sarah Benj, center,
watches the trailer demonstration with
Mayor Jackie Biskupski as the trailers are demonstrated.


SALT LAKE CITY—This morning, Salt Lake City Mayor Jacki Biskupski unveiled two wheelchair lift trailers that will help emergency responders to transport not only wheelchair users who experience an emergency, but also their power wheelchairs.

“We want our community to be accessible to everyone,” she said. That includes ensuring that no one is left behind in an emergency—or that they have to do without the technology that helps them be independent.

“Wheelchairs are often a lifeblood to those who use them,” said Karl Lieb, Salt Lake City fire chief, during the unveiling event at City Hall. But the power chairs are also heavy, and they’ve presented a problem for firefighters who respond to an emergency. “It is a challenge,” Leib said. “I know what it takes to get these things located from point A to point B.” 

So does Tom Boman, UATP coordinator in Salt Lake City. “I don’t think as people without disabilities, we get the connection between equipment and independence,” he said. “If somehow our legs could be separated from us and someone went to a little extra effort to get them back to us, maybe we’d get it.”

Boman recently presented in a video training for the Salt Lake City Fire Department, helping explain how to move a power wheelchair that has been turned off. It’s important information because when a person who is not familiar with a power wheelchair moves it while the motor is engaged, it could end up damaging the chair.

It’s a different project, but both represent the effort to make sure chairs are moved safely from the site of an emergency to the hospital. The portable trailers helps ensure that the chair travels with the patient. The training helps protect the equipment and the people who operate it.

“We don’t want to break something that is going to be a financial burden on the patient,” Lieb said.

“This is amazing,” said Ken Reid, assistive technology specialist at the Utah Center for Assistive Technology. He attended the press event and watched with a smile. “Before, you left your chair at home. … It’s good to know they’re thinking about people with disabilities.”

Reid, who uses a wheelchair himself, coordinated the filming of the training video between UCAT, the SLC Fire Department and UATP in SLC. “I’m thankful that this happened. … We worked with UATP of Salt Lake. They had a bunch of wheelchairs that were from different manufacturers.” In the video, Boman demonstrated how to move several different types of wheelchairs. 

“It’s a good step in the right direction,” Boman said, “knowing that they’re making an effort to treat people’s equipment without damaging it.”

The city obtained the two ramp trailers after Sarah Benj, ADA coordinator for the SLC mayor’s office, researched how cities handled the transport of wheelchairs. Most cities she surveyed either didn’t transport the wheelchair, or they contracted with private companies. Salt Lake’s two wheelchair ramp trailers will be stationed at Station One and Station 11.

A wheelchair user herself, Benj went to the hospital several months ago. She had to leave her wheelchair behind, so she’s glad wheelchair users in the future will have better options.

“We’re hoping that other cities will see the same need and do the same thing,” she said.

firefighters move around the ramp
Firefighters loaded a power wheelchair, secured it and covered it, preparing for transport.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Independence, unboxed: UATP small grant gives mobility

Scooter “will allow me to once again get out and enjoy life”

scooter on a wooden floor
A small grant from UATP facilitated
the purchase of this scooter.
ST GEORGE--This thank you note regarding a small grant from the Utah Assistive Technology Program was reprinted with permission from Kathryn Naron.

Dear Lois,

Red Rock Center for Independence recently assisted me in applying for a Utah Assistive Technology Program small grant in the amount of $400 to go towards the purchase of an electric mobility scooter. I received word on Tuesday that the grant was approved, and the scooter was ordered today.

I want to thank you and all those who participated in the grant approval process. It means more to me than I can possibly describe, but I will try.

Prior to my retirement from the Foundation of Dixie Regional Medical Center in 2012, I enjoyed a full life in spite of pain stemming from multiple degenerative, inflammatory, and neurological ailments. After retirement, I tried to maintain a certain level of activity and sense of purpose by volunteering in the community, serving on boards or committees of several non-profit organizations, and being a member of a professional choir. 

However, over the past 5 years, my body continued to deteriorate and pain increased. The last two years brought mostly immobility. Dropping out of every activity I had previously enjoyed caused feelings of despair. Self-imposed isolation became increasingly frequent. I was unable to stand for more than a couple of minutes or walk any distance, and life came to a screeching halt.
The decision to go anywhere at all had to be measured by how far I would have to walk or stand in a line. More often than not, knowing how much pain I would endure prevented me from going. 

I purchased a used transport chair hoping to get out more, but that requires asking someone to push me. For an independent (and perhaps a little too prideful) woman, that’s a difficult ask. It was just easier to sit at home and mope.  

The UATF grant of $400 that facilitated the purchase of an electric mobility scooter will, singularly, allow me to once again be more functional at home, be active in the community, and to get out and enjoy life. I will not only regain mobility, but quality of life and a renewed sense of purpose.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. From the bottom of my heart, the deepest appreciation.

Sincerely,

Kathryn Naron

Thursday, July 11, 2019

UATP appreciates its summer interns!

It’s summer at the Utah Assistive Technology Program—and that means we are enjoying a new crop of interns. Here’s a quick introduction.

Three men bend over a table in the AT Lab
Ray (right) works with volunteer Nick Wolford (far left) and employee Brandon Griffin.

Raymond Emmart, Logan


Raymond Emmart is a 14-year army veteran with a combat disability. After completing an associate’s in general technology, he is now a student at Utah State University working on a bachelor’s in tech systems with an emphasis on controls, robotics and automation. 

His internship in Logan is voluntary. He has put in more than 300 hours since May. The experience will look good on his resume, and more than that, he’s enjoyed it.

 “I’m having a lot of fun here,” he said. His work with the lab means that he is sometimes present when people receive a device that makes a difference in their lives. Recently he saw the reaction when a man received a wheelchair ramp and was almost in tears. “It’s very touching when you see stuff like that,” he said. 

Ray’s mother was a nurse, so he gained a lot of exposure to the disability field. The internship was the first time he worked in it himself, though. 

“His experience has been very beneficial here. He’s helped us streamline and get organized,” said Dan O’Crowley, Logan’s UATP coordinator. “He’s got a very good engineering mind, so when we tackle a project, he brings a lot to the table. He is good at looking at it from a different perspective, which can be very helpful. It’s been very nice not to have to train him.

“His background as a veteran has been very helpful as we’ve worked with them. He’s been able to connect with veterans because of that common experience.”

action shot
Noah operates at power drill at UATP in the Uintah Basin.

Noah Sadlier, Uintah Basin


Noah Sadlier started as a volunteer and is now a paid intern at UATP in the Uintah Basin. “I’m organizing tools and putting in new wheelchair batteries,” he said. “I’ve also been cleaning up, sweeping, taking out trash, vacuuming.”

He has learned to shine up an old wheelchair and take measurements, too. 

Noah comes to us through a partnership with the Community Employment Placement Program with the Uintah School District. The program teaches work, vocational and daily living skills to students and adults with disabilities. “Noah’s a very fast learner and he’s worked hard,” said Sarah Chandler, the program’s coordinator. “We’re really proud of him.”

“He is developing a comfort zone in knowing what needs to be done, and gets busy on his own,” said Cameron Cressall, UATP’s Uintah Basin coordinator. “He’s getting that confidence that he knows he’s doing a good job. I hope he realizes that it’s not just a job. He’s helping people. He gets to see the difference that he’s making in people’s lives."

Welcome. interns! 

Friday, July 5, 2019

UATP’s new Logan coordinator is a familiar face

portrait
Dan O'Crowley
The Utah Assistive Technology Program welcomes a new coordinator in Logan.

Dan O’Crowley started with UATP in the spring of 2016 as a volunteer in the AT Lab, then became a lab technician. He is now a junior in mechanical engineering at Utah State University.

“Growing up, I had a mind for mechanical engineering. I always thought I would go in that direction.” he said. “I realized at one point I wanted to work with people, not just objects. This lab has been a great combination of those two.”

Dan has already seen the difference assistive technology can make in people’s lives, both on the long- and short-term. “A lot of people come to the lab with a lot of frustration. It’s great to be able to have the tools on hand to solve that problem.”

Once, a man who broke his ankle came in after getting around on crutches for a week. “He was just exhausted, trying to do that,” Dan said. “At a sports event he saw someone else with a knee scooter, and then he came and borrowed another one out from us.”

UATP’s fabrication capabilities have also helped people with long-term needs. Dan and UATP volunteer Mike Stokes worked to make a 3-D printed prosthetic device for a child to help him color, paint and use an iPad. That ongoing project has helped the boy be successful at school, and he has taken the device home to use it there, too.

action shot
Chance paints using a 3D printed device
from UATP in Logan.
The Logan program is working with physical and occupational therapists to collaborate, use their expertise and offer solutions to clients, Dan said. The goal is to provide AT in affordable, practical ways to the people who need it.

“Generally speaking we prefer people to come to us,” Dan said. “If they’re a long distance away, we will try to Skype and work out most or as many of the details and plan sometime in the future to cross paths to transfer the device to them.”

For more information on UATP and its services, visit our website.

_____________________

Are you a Utahn with an assistive technology need? UATP has locations in Logan and the Uintah Basin that can help you find ways to maintain or improve your independence. Both locations also have a demonstration and loan library where items can be checked out, compared to similar devices and used before a purchase is made. Devices can also be refurbished, reused, customized and built from the ground up to suit a particular need.

UTAP’s Salt Lake City location focuses on putting refurbished mobility devices into the hands of people who need it, for a fee that is usually less than an insurance deductible. 

UATP also offers small grants and low-interest loans for the purchase of AT. This service is available to Utahns statewide.