Friday, January 20, 2017

DIY assistive technology: How to make a calm-down jar

photo of jars with suspended glitter

Calm-down jars allow children (or stressed-out adults) to focus on the mesmerizing, downward flow of sparkling glitter to stop thinking about that annoying... hmm, what was I worried about again?

There are many ways to make them, but this one uses a ratio of 80 percent water to 20 percent clear tacky glue, and glitter at your own discretion. You can also add larger sequins or other decorations, but be warned: they can be hard to see through a veil of glitter.

Another thing I discovered in my own kitchen: while some recipes call for glitter glue, the brand I used was really, really tacky. It created a permanent suspension, with the glitter at a virtual standstill. I recommend using tacky glue at first and playing with the proportions later.

Once you have the suspension you want, you can super-glue or hot-glue the lid in place.

photo of jars after glitter has settled

Here's a quick look at how it goes together.

For alternative ways to make a calm-down jar, here's a link. If you really want to go crazy with it, you can search for calm-down jars on Pinterest.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Roosevelt AT Lab finds multiple solutions for Vernal couple

In the last year, the Utah Assistive Technology Program opened an AT lab in Roosevelt. Since then we have provided services and made new friends in another part of the state. Here is the second in a series of stories from the Uintah Basin.

VERNAL—Cathy Johnson heard about the Assistive Technology Lab in Roosevelt before it even existed. When she saw a flyer announcing that one was being considered for the Uintah Basin, it felt personal.

“I’m a special educator, so I was interested for work, and for my husband,” she said.

Her husband, Jerry, had been diagnosed with multiple system atrophy (MSA), a rare neurological, degenerative condition. When the AT Lab came to the area, she contacted them looking for specialized eating utensils and communication boards. Roosevelt AT Lab Coordinator Cameron Cressall and Logan AT Lab Coordinator Clay Christensen demonstrated some options and evaluated the family’s needs.

“Those were our first two concerns at that point,” Cathy said. But in addition to the evaluation, Cressall also came with eight pages of information on MSA.

“They understood the progression and how our needs would be changing,” Cathy said. “This is huge!”

Later, lab coordinator Cameron Cressall came back with a specialized rail for the bathroom. It folds down and lifts up for storage, so it takes up less space.

It was a piece of donated equipment, said Cressall. “We’re like a hub. People want to share what they’ve had and used with others that it can help.”

It’s a good thing, because assistive technology can be expensive off the shelf. Cathy knew this from her own experience; from searching online for things that weren’t quite the right fit, or ordering a device in that didn’t quite work.

Still later, Jerry needed a new chair. Cressall brought in a demo chair so that they could try it out, then connected them with a provider who could arrange for a new one. Jerry is nonverbal now, but when asked how he liked his chair he gave a big thumbs-up.

Once, when the chair crashed into a wall, Cressall helped fix it. “Instead of the warranty work and waiting for a vendor to come, we can fix certain parts without jeopardizing the warranty,” he said.

So what would the Johnsons have done without the AT Lab? “Cried,” Cathy said, “Or just made do.”

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

UATP kept "Montana" rolling in Roosevelt

Joel "Montana" Filmore
In the last year, the Utah Assistive Technology Program opened an AT lab in the Uintah Basin. Since then we have provided services and made new friends. Here is one of their stories.

Joel “Montana” Filmore had a problem. His wheelchair had broken down during a therapy session, and his backup had no batteries. His therapist had a suggestion, though: call the AT Lab.

“I said I don’t have tons of money,” he said. His therapist’s response: No problem, call anyway.

The AT lab helps people find customized solutions that help them stay independent—usually for the cost of materials (though donations are always accepted and appreciated).

The call to the Assistive Technology Lab connected Filmore with Cameron Cressall, who coordinates the lab in Roosevelt. “He came right over and fixed me up,” Filmore said. 

Without that help, Filmore's mobility would have been severely limited—especially since he uses a chair with reclining capabilities. Fixing the one he had was preferable to using a replacement that did not recline.

It didn’t stop there, though; Cressall also built a step for Filmore to help him get into his truck, and another that helps him get onto his exercise machine.

Filmore spread the word in the neighborhood, since he knows other people who use wheelchairs. “I got my neighbors onto him,” he said. “He’s helped me a lot.”

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Help us provide wheels for Jacques

Jacques Guenaro Zongo
Over the summer, a young man contacted the Utah Assistive Technology Program through Facebook, asking if we could help him find a wheelchair.

Since then, we have learned a lot about Jacques, what he needs, why he contacted us, and how to help.

Our biggest barrier: he lives in Burkina Faso, a country in West Africa. Our next-biggest barrier: while the UATP's CReATE program had a chair that would serve his needs, it did not have funding to provide the needed extra batteries or pay for the chair's shipment it to West Africa.

But CReATE and its friends are not giving up, because the need is real. Today we are asking for your help.

"Here it is very hard to get a wheelchair because there is no one who makes them," Zongo said in an interview we conducted through Facebook.

Zongo attends the University of Ouagadougou. He is part of the organization Mouvement Panafricain Des Droits des Personnes Handicapees (Pan-African Movement for the Rights of Handicapped People). "Here I took part in many meetings for people with disabilities to know my rights and to prepare my future fighting for our rights in many countries of Africa," he said. "Every time, I share many pieces of information about people with disabilities and try to encourage those who feel hopeless to never give up, because disability is not incapability."

He heard about what we do through Ismael Traore, one of a delegation of people from many countries who visited the CReATE program in 2015. The visit was arranged through the Utah Council for Citizen Diplomacy. During the delegates' visit, CReATE coordinator Tom Boman tuned up Traore's wheelchair and sent some extra wheels back with him. Traore knew Jaques, and they both began working with CReATE and Natalie Moore, a former Peace Corps volunteer who worked with Traore during her two years in Burkina Faso.

In fact, Moore helped Traore apply for the Visitors Leadership Program, run through the U.S. State Department,  before she left Burkina Faso. That program helped him come to the U.S. to learn more about disability rights. His involvement led him to tour CReATE in 2015.

Moore, now back in the states in Washington D.C., heard of Jacques's need and began making some goals that launched a fundraising effort--she has named it Yembre--to transport wheelchairs to Jaques and others like him. "The first thing that Yembre can do is get Jacques a wheelchair," she said. From there she would like to help the university at Ouagadougou to get an accessible bus, which could then be used as an example to the Burkina government for accessible public transportation.

She knows of no accessible buses in Burkina Faso. People with disabilities in face many barriers to independence, she said.

Jaques agrees. For now he relies on classmates for help, but he hopes for more independence. "After my graduation I want to work in an organization that helps people who are suffering," he said.

For a closer look at Ismael Traore and life for people with disabilities in Burkina Faso, watch this documentary (it has English subtitles).

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Utah Assistive Technology Foundation loan secures van, independence and time with family

photo of Roland on the ramp of his new van
Roland and his sevice dog, Danny. Roland is  on the ramp
leading to his cargo van.
Roland Bringhurst’s search for a van that could transport his wheelchair was a long one, and it hit some roadblocks. But in the end, the Utah Assistive Technology Foundation was able to help him get a low-interest loan for a van, fitted with a ramp.

“I never would have been able to secure a loan without the help of the Utah Assistive Technology Foundation,” he said.

UATF helps Utahns with disabilities secure low-interest loans, small grants and small business loans, all with the goal of enhancing their physical and financial independence.

The van has two front seats and a cargo area for his wheelchair. “This is going to do for what I really need, which is to do things with the family that require a lot of walking,” he said.

His walking without his wheelchair is limited to about half a block, so if the family wanted to go longer distances without a car, Bringhurst had a hard time participating.

He lives in Logan, but most of his family is outside of Cache Valley. He used to either rely on his son to take him to family events in a truck (with the wheelchair riding in back) or else take a shuttle service to Odgen. “Every once in a while they’d send a van that wasn’t accessible,” he said. Then he would have to wait for another van to arrive.

Having a van of his own makes it possible for Roland to maintain independence, do things with friends and see his family—all of which are good for his mental health. “Being able to see and associate with my family is very important,” he said.

For more information on the low-interest loans available through the Utah Assistive Technology Foundation, visit our website.

photo of the van
The van and ramp

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Give the gift of independence. Use Amazon Smile.

photo of gifts

While you’re shopping for gifts this holiday season, why not give the gift of independence?

When you use Amazon Smile, .5 percent of your eligible purchases will go to support the Utah Assistive Technology Foundation, which links people with disabilities up with small grants, loans and even small business loans to help them be more independent.

It’s easy to do: just click on "shop Amazon Smile" in the box to your right. Or you can visit our giving page, scroll down to the “Shop at Amazon Smile” box and click on “get started.” You can also find us at when you search for “Utah Assistive Technology Foundation.”

If the assistive technology labs, CReATE or the Utah Assistive Technology Foundation have given to you, this is your chance to give back. If you just want to help other people access the assistive technology that could help them be more independent, this is a way to pay it forward.

Thanks for your support, and happy holidays!

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

UATP at Holly Fair in Roosevelt

photo of holly

Plus answers to frequently asked questions

If you live in the Uintah Basin and have a disability--or if you are close to someone who does--you should watch for Cameron Cressall at the Holly Fair on the USU-Uintah Basin campus in Roosevelt this Friday and Saturday.

Cressall coordinates the AT lab in the Uintah Basin, and he loves to help people with disabilities find a way to reach their goals for independence. "It's not hard to be passionate about my job," he said. "I'm building, creating, doing fun things, making people happy."

The event runs Friday, November 4 from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Saturday, November 5, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

But in case you can't make it to Holly Fair, here are some quick answers frequently asked questions:

Q: What is assistive technology?

A: Any device, high- or low-tech, that helps people with disabilities be more independent.

Q: Does the Assistive Technology Lab help people of a specific age group?

A: If you are between the ages of 0 and 150, you are in the right age range.

Q: I see you're on campus. Does that mean you only work with students and faculty?

A: Nope. We work with everybody.

photo of Cameron Cressall
Cameron Cressall
Q: What if I can't afford the technology that I need?

A: The Utah Assistive Technology Program includes a foundation that helps people with disabilities purchase the technology they need. It even facilitates small business loans for people with disabilities.

But you might be surprised at how many inexpensive, low-tech options are available.

Q: I purchased some assistive technology, but it's not quite right for me. What should I do?

A: The AT Lab specializes in finding customized solutions for people with disabilities. We can help bridge the gap between an off-the-shelf product and your specific situation.

Q: How can I find out more about the Utah Assistive Technology Program, and assistive technology in general? 

A: Visit our web page. You can also find lots of ideas on our  Pinterest boards. We're also on Facebook, Twitter (@utahATprogram) and  YouTube.