Friday, January 10, 2020

Winter’s here! Let's prevent the fall.

trees covered in snow
We hear it again and again—snow and ice complicate the lives of people with limited mobility. If you worry about falling in Utah, here are options to help.

In the home

If you need ideas for creating a safe environment, consider visiting the Smart Apartment in the Sorenson Legacy Foundation Center for Clinical Excellence on Utah State University’s Logan campus. This space features high- and low-tech solutions that can work together, but that do not require a remodel or rewiring of the home.

adjustable shower head
Items in the Smart Apartment that could help with fall prevention include a roll-in shower with a shower chair, a shower head that can be fixed and adjusted for height, grab bars, a lift chair and pull-down shelving. A complete list of smart apartment items on display is available on the Utah Assistive Technology Program website. For a tour, contact Dan O’Crowley.

Dan can also show you the MyNotifi device, available in our demonstration and loan library. This wearable technology detects falls and recommends exercises that help prevent falling.

Other resources in Utah include the state’s independent living centers, which are non-residential programs that offer services to people with disabilities. To find the one nearest you, visit their network website.

Need help affording an assistive device? 

UATP offers small grants up to $400 to people at 150 percent of the US poverty guidelines and below. We also offer reduced-interest loans without income restrictions for the purchase of AT. More information is on our website.

Home modifications

Sometimes a more permanent change is needed to make a home safer. UATP has aided in the purchase of outdoor stair rails and has financed many other home modifications. More information is on our website.

Neighborhood Housing Solutions also offers financing options to help with modifications to homes in Cache, Box Elder and Rich counties. Options vary by location and the type of modification. Find out more on their website.

We transferred a power chair to Sandy Johnson from our
Salt Lake City location. Now she volunteers there to help
with the refurbishing of chairs for other UATP clients.

Mobility aids

Our demonstration and loan libraries in Logan and the Uintah Basin have a variety of canes, crutches, wheelchairs and scooters. These can be demonstrated or loaned for a short-term need. 

In addition, UATP has an inventory of donated wheelchairs and scooters that can be refurbished and transferred to people who need them. Fees may apply, but they are nearly always lower than an insurance deductible. This service is offered in our Salt Lake City, Logan and Uintah Basin locations.

Know of other options in Utah? Leave us a comment. 

Be safe and stay warm!

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Eating and writing made easier, thanks to UATP

Sharon poses with her customized tray
Sharon Ross
BRIGHAM CITY—Sharon Ross needed a way to eat and write from her wheelchair. So she bought a $300 shelf that attached to her chair—and found it still didn’t work for her. 

“Signing papers, that was a battle,” she said. If she wanted to write, she didn’t have much room to do it. If she used it to eat, dinner plates hung off the edge. The tray interfered with her arm rest, and it was too far from her body. So she turned to the Utah Assistive Technology Program in Logan for help.

UATP lab techs Brandon Griffin and Ray Emmart worked together on the project. They made a template from cardboard before shaping the final shelf from a big piece of acrylic. The design brought the tray closer to her body, so she’d have more usable space.

They welded a support bracket and designed the tray so it would slide easily on and off.

Their work doubled the usable tray space for Ross, using materials they had on hand. The cost was $40.

“I think it’s perfect for me,” Ross said. “I can drive with it on.” The tray is so stable, it doesn’t rattle.

Need help adapting equipment? UATP has two fabrication labs in Utah, where they can modify assistive technology or build it from the ground up, usually for the cost of materials. Contact Dan O’Crowley in Logan and Cameron Cressall in the Uintah Basin for more information.

The customized tray doubles the usable space for Sharon, at a fraction of the cost. 

Thursday, December 12, 2019

UATP, Prime Time 4 Kids work together, customize a little wheelchair

portrait of Westyn in his wheelchair
VERNAL—Westyn Hacking had come to the time in his life where he needed to get up off the floor.

He couldn’t sit up—a condition he has had since birth gives him only minimal control of his core muscles. He is also blind. But like other children his age he likes to be up, near people, interacting with his family.  

The toddler is also growing.

“He’s getting heavy,” said his mother, Shaylee. “That’s 25 or 30 pounds that you’re packing around. … When we go out to eat, he was either being held or we’d get it to go.” 

She worked with Michael Peterson, an occupational therapist with Prime Time for Kids in Vernal. Peterson had some donated equipment from a former employer, Canyon Home Care. One of the donated wheelchairs was small, but it wasn’t quite a perfect fit. 

So Peterson reached out to Cameron Cressall with the Utah Assistive Technology Program in Vernal. Cameron added a sturdier handle, more supportive straps and some sections of pool noodle on the sides to protect Westyn’s head. He brought the foot pedals up higher to fit Westyn’s legs. 

It wasn’t the first project Michael and Cameron have collaborated on. Both said they liked drawing from each other’s expertise. The result was a chair that fit both Westyn’s body and his situation.

Now, when the Harding family goes out to eat, Westyn can be up at the table on his own. “This gives us a little more freedom,” Shaylee said. 

Do you have used equipment to donate? If it fits children age three and younger in the Uintah Basin, Prime Time 4 Kids is happy to take it. And UATP is glad to accept and reuse equipment for all ages and abilities.

To find out more about donating to UATP, visit our reuse page.

Monday, December 2, 2019

Can't hear on the phone? Here are some options for Utahns.

golden, old fashioned phone
Can't hear on the phone? It's time to upgrade!
We at UATP recently interviewed representatives of several services for people who have trouble hearing on the phone. Relay UtahCapTel and CaptionCall. It’s been enlightening for us to learn how many resources are available, and how many of those resources are free. Here’s are some answers to common questions.

What are some captioning options if I’m having trouble hearing people on the phone?

CaptionCall phone
Captioned phones are available at no charge, with no income restrictions, to people who qualify. Clients must be certified to need the equipment by an audiologist or hearing professional, but once they have that certification, the phone and the captioning service are both free. 

Providers include CapTel and CaptionCall. Both services have representatives in the state who can help with the installation and trouble-shooting of the equipment.

Relay Utah loans amplified phones, captioned telephones, and mobile accessories at no cost to people who meet the income (200 percent or less of US poverty guidelines) and medical requirements.

Applications are available at Relay Utah.  

CapTel phone
Where can I get a demonstration of phones for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing?

Relay Utah offers two demo centers, one in Salt Lake City and one in St. George. These centers offer a variety of devices and options for Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and Speech challenged individuals. 

The Sanderson Community Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing also has an AT demonstration lab in both Salt Lake City and St. George, where people can find out what options are available not just for using the phone but for other situations. Equipment can be loaned on a short-term basis to people who live in the state of Utah. In addition, the center can bring equipment to demonstrate for those who cannot travel. 

UATP in Logan has phones from both CapTel and Caption Call. UATP in the Uintah Basin has a CapTel phone. These phones are for demonstration only; from there we can refer you to the providers.

Are there any mobile options for captioned phones?

Yes. CaptionCall offers a captioning service that works on an iPad, essentially turning it into a captioned phone. It allows the user to view captions on an iPad via wifi or cellular data. The app is free; the user must provide the iPad.

CapTel offers captioning on mobile devices through a third-party app. 

Relay Utah has a limited pilot program to explore the feasibility of using wireless devices to address telecommunication needs for Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and Speech challenged individuals. The devices are available on a first-come, first-served basis, and they are subject to income (200 percent or less of US poverty guidelines) and medical requirements. 

Where do I go for technical support for a captioned phone?

Both CaptionCall and CapTel offer in-home installation and support. Both services offer some troubleshooting on their websites and on the phone.

This information is to help inform Utahns of assistive technology options. UATP does not endorse any one service or technology provider.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Chair modifications come in the nick of time

portrait of Steven in his wheelchair
Steven Bryggman in his modified chair
SALT LAKE CITY—Steven Bryggman has used a wheelchair for nine and a half years, at home and at work at Kroger Stores’ Data Integrity Center. But when his new motorized wheelchair came with some built-in obstacles, it was a real threat to his independence.

The problem was in the chair’s arm rests. He could raise them, but they wouldn’t stay up. If he tightened the screws, they became too tight to move. If he loosened them, they were too loose to hold the arms up. And that made transferring from his new chair to the bed or the toilet or the shower bench just about impossible.

“I live alone. I’m trying to remain as independent as I can,” he said. “I rely on my chair to help me through everything.”

He heard about the services offered at the Utah Center for Assistive Technology, and went there to ask for help. They referred him to Tom Boman at the Utah Assistive Technology Program. Boman is UATP’s Salt Lake City coordinator, and last year his shop refurbished more than two hundred wheelchairs. 

Armed with that experience, Tom looked at Steven’s wheelchair. It’s unusual for UATP in Salt Lake City to do customization work, he said. (UATP in Logan and the Unitah Basin both offer customization services.) The bulk of the work in the shop he coordinates is focused on refurbishing chairs and getting them into the hands of people who need them. Often, it’s easier to supply a refurbished chair to a client, who rolls away with a better, newer model that works.

Still, “If it’s necessary for someone, we’ll give customization a try,” Tom said. And in Steven’s case, the customization was clearly needed. Steven still had years to wait until his insurance would pay for another chair, and the one he had wasn’t working. He’d held onto his former chair, too, but it was more than seven years old. It was developing problems. 

Tom took on the challenge and delved into the parts inventory at the warehouse. “We happened to have two linear actuators that were the right size,” he said. “Not only does it have to extend to the right length, but it has to retract.”

He used the actuators to modify Steven’s wheelchair so its arms were motorized, activated by a switch. They would go up and stay up until the switch put them down again.

The changes made it possible for Steven to transfer from his wheelchair again. And the modifications were completed just as Steven’s old chair broke down.

“What a godsend,” he said. “It happened at the last moment.”

Tom and Steven plan to have his old chair refurbished there as well, so he will have a reliable back-up.

“He’s a great guy,” Tom said. “He was gracious, and very patient.”

“What these guys do is incredible,” Steven said. “I have a new chair that’s reliable. I still have my independence.”

To find out more about how UATP reuses and customizes equipment, visit our website.

Want to get involved?

UATP in Salt Lake City transfers donated and refurbished chairs to people for an affordable fee—usually less than an insurance deductible. It does not matter whether a client is insured, but the work depends heavily on volunteers. 

The Salt Lake City location is looking for more people to help them supply affordable chairs to those who need them. More volunteers would mean fewer people on the waiting list. If you are a person who likes to tinker, who is able to come into the shop on a regular basis, we’d love to hear from you! For more information, contact Tom Boman.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

UATP presenters reflect on “proving” disability

Sachin smiles, a microphone in one hand and a white cane in the other.
UATP Director Sachin Pavithran at the "Disrupt" event.
Two UATP presenters spoke at the “Disrupt” 2019 Inclusive Excellence Symposium at Utah State University on Wednesday. While their presentations were very different, they both spoke of the frustrating and sometimes infuriating need to “prove” their disability—or their ability. 

This led to some reflection on whether people who use UATP services need to prove their disability. (The short answer is mostly no, they don’t—but keep reading.)

Proving ability

UATP Program Director Sachin Pavithran was once confronted by a professor after he turned in a major paper. Pavithran was studying information systems at the time, and the project was a paper on how to structure software design. It was a major project that counted heavily toward his grade, and because Pavithran is blind, the professor was convinced he had plagiarized. 

“I was called into his office and he asked, ‘Who did your project,” Pavithran said. “Not, ‘How did you do your project.’ His assumption was, ‘Who did your project?’”

In an interview this morning, Pavithran said he isn’t sure if the professor didn’t believe he could type it up himself, or if he just thought Pavithran couldn’t have conceptualized it. He is sure the professor wanted him kicked out of the program. Pavithran ended up in a meeting with the professor, his own academic advisor, the department head and the director of the disability resource center. The professor questioned not only the paper but the tests Pavithran had taken at the DRC. 

Pavithran's academic advisor had a daughter who was blind, and she was a fierce advocate for him. The disability resource center director outlined the steps her center had taken to make sure the tests were fair. And in the end, Pavithran remained in the program, with a C in the class. He remains convinced the final grade—which was based on two nearly-perfect tests and that one project—was assigned to him because of suspicion, not because he earned it.

Social Media Specialist Storee Powell at the "Disrupt" event

Proving disability

In a separate presentation later in the day, Social Media Coordinator Storee Powell described how draining it is to have an invisible disability that she must prove to others, again and again, as they seem to expect her to justify the need for services or accommodations.

Powell looks young and healthy, but she was diagnosed with Ehlers Daniels Syndrome in 2018—after 10 years of misdiagnoses, chronic pain and a host of other worsening symptoms. 

It was a long, painful wait for a correct diagnosis. “If you don’t have a name for what you have, you kind of don’t exist,” she said. “It was really hard to explain it to the people around me.”

Powell urged her listeners not to ask anyone—even those who look healthy—why they need an accessible parking stall or bathroom stall, or why they use an elevator or need extra bathroom breaks. People with disabilities often have to ration their energy, she said; it’s best not to make them spend it justifying why they need accommodations.

Will you have to “prove” a disability to receive UATP equipment?

The short answer is no. UATP has locations in Logan, the Uintah Basin and Salt Lake City. None of the locations deal with insurance. They simply don’t work with insurance companies.

The facilities in Logan and the Uintah Basin offer devices to people who need them through the reuse of refurbished equipment, or by customizing a device to fit individual needs. Sometimes fees are charged to cover the cost of the materials. Both locations also have demonstration and loan libraries that allow people to learn more about available technology, and even try it before they decide what to purchase.

Coordinators don’t need a doctor’s note or a diagnosis to provide these services. If they ask their clients questions, it is with the goal of matching the person’s needs to the right assistive technology.

The Salt Lake City facility focuses just on refurbishing mobility equipment like walkers and wheelchairs (at last count, their inventory was more than 400 devices). There, too, a diagnosis or doctor’s note isn’t necessary. 

About our financial services…

UATP also offers financing to help people afford assistive technology devices. Proof of disability is not required for UATP’s small grants or reduced-interest assistive technology loans. 

Proof of disability is required for UATP’s reduced-interest, small business loans to entrepreneurs with disabilities. These loans are often used to start or expand a business. While they may be used for purchasing equipment, they may be used for other purposes, too. 

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Customized bike pedals prevent injury in Logan

action shot
Wyatt Goodwin, using his customized pedals
LOGAN--Wyatt Goodwin likes having some transportation, and his physical therapist likes him to ride his recumbent bike. But when his foot slipped off the pedal last year, the bike kept rolling forward. Its crossbar rammed into Wyatt’s leg and dragged it under the bike, breaking his tibia and the growth plate that goes into the ankle.

“I had a lot of outdoor plans,” he said. He’d been looking forward to camping, hiking and biking over the summer. Instead he had to take some time off his leg to heal. 

This year, physical therapist Shaun Dahle told the Goodwins that the Utah Assistive Technology Program in Logan can make customized bike pedals, designed so the foot doesn’t slip out of them.

The Goodwins already knew about UATP, because they’d gone there for help with a scooter Wyatt had used in the past. They went back and started working on the pedal project with UATP employee Brandon Griffin.

Velcro straps wrap around the foot
Wyatt tightens the pedal's straps
“We traced the shoe onto a piece of paper,” Griffin said. “Then we transferred the pattern of the shoe onto three-eighths inch plywood.” They added a “lip” from thermal plastic, molded to fit around the heel portion of the pedal. They designed some Velcro straps after consulting with Dahle, making sure the straps fit around Wyatt’s foot and held it to the pedal for added security.

The customized pedals can be adjusted for a sharper or shallower angle, and they can be removed and attached to different bicycles. UATP in Logan charges for the cost of materials in customization projects. In this case, the bill came to $10.

“They did it just perfectly,” said Heather Goodwin, Wyatt’s mother. “It’s a huge difference.”

Today, Wyatt can ride his bike with confidence, and without injury. So is the exercise for fun or therapy? 

“It’s both,” he said.