Cache Valley AAC Parent Training Night

Assistive technology accommodations in higher education

By Nate Crippes
Utah Disability Law Center

As a new semester progresses, it is helpful to remember what higher education institutions must do to aid students with disabilities.  

In particular, it is helpful to know what higher ed must do to aid students with assistive technology. While law and regulation on this topic is complex, the U.S. Department of Education has a useful Q&A on these issues.   
Chalkboard graphic

As the department notes, an institution may be required to provide “auxiliary aids and services” to students with disabilities:

[Auxiliary aids and services] include note-takers, readers, recording devices, sign language interpreters, screen-readers, voice recognition and other adaptive software or hardware for computers, and other devices designed to ensure the participation of students with impaired sensory, manual or speaking skills in an institution’s programs and activities.

It is important to keep in mind, however, that institutions would not be required to provide these auxiliary aids and services, or assistive technology, for personal use or study. They would also not be required to provide every aid a student wants.

Institutions are not required to provide an academic adjustment that would alter or waive essential academic requirements. They also do not have to provide an academic adjustment that would fundamentally alter the nature of a service, program or activity or result in undue financial or administrative burdens considering the institution’s resources as a whole.

In addition, an institution is not required to make modifications that would result in undue financial or administrative burdens. Public institutions are required to give primary consideration to the device or service that the student requests, but can opt to provide alternative aids or services if they are effective. 

If a student with a disability is in need of assistive technology, or any other accommodation, their institution will have a procedure in place. Each institution’s procedure will be slightly different, but they will have an office that can help with accommodations for assistive technology (links to the major Utah colleges and universities accessibility offices are below).  

While not all accommodations will be provided, a student who is provided assistive technology as an accommodation is not expected to pay for it. As the department states:

Once the needed auxiliary aids and services have been identified, institutions may not require students with disabilities to pay part or all of the costs of such aids and services, nor may institutions charge students with disabilities more for participating in programs or activities than they charge students who do not have disabilities. Institutions generally may not condition their provision of academic adjustments on the availability of funds, refuse to spend more than a certain amount to provide academic adjustments, or refuse to provide academic adjustments because they believe other providers of such services exist. In many cases, institutions may meet their obligation to provide auxiliary aids and services by assisting students in either obtaining them or obtaining reimbursement for their cost from an outside agency or organization, such as a state VR agency. Such assistance notwithstanding, institutions retain ultimate responsibility for providing necessary auxiliary aids and services and for any costs associated with providing such aids and services or utilizing outside sources.

The department provides much more information. In addition, if you have questions regarding accommodations, including those involving assistive technology, you can contact the Disability Law Center. More information can be offered, and, if necessary, legal consultation to help you resolve the issues with the institution. Please visit our website, or call us at 1-800-662-9080.  

National Federation of the Blind of Utah: Cash Scholarships Available

Are you blind or visually impaired? Don’t miss out on this huge scholarship opportunity! 
NFB logo

If you are blind or visually impaired in the state of Utah, we encourage you to apply for both a NATIONAL and STATE scholarship through the National Federation of the Blind. All scholarships awarded are based on academic excellence, community service, and leadership. Very few scholarships available offer cash for higher education students, and the NFB National Scholarship Program is one of the largest in the country. 

Eligibility Requirements for State Scholarship
1. Must be legally blind (PDF document) in both eyes, and,
2. Must be currently residing in the state of Utah (for state scholarship) and,
Blind person with cane graphic3. Must be pursuing or planning to pursue a full-time, post-secondary course of study in a degree program at a United States institution in the 2016 scholastic year (does not have to be at a Utah school).
4. Must participate in the entire NFB of Utah convention to be held on May 5, 6, & 7, 2016 in Provo, Utah (In addition to a scholarship, each winner will receive assistance to attend the state convention including hotel accommodations, registration, food, and banquet ticket). 

ALL applicants are HIGHLY encouraged to apply for BOTH a National and State Scholarship! The deadline for national scholarships is March 31, 2016. The deadline for the NFB of Utah State Scholarship is April 20, 2016.

How to Apply:
1. Visit the NFB National Scholarship Application for full details:
2. Click on the: 2016 Scholarship Application Form, online edition, or 2016 Scholarship Application Form, print edition
3. Fill out application COMPLETELY. (No partial applications will be considered).  
4. Include all related documentation.
5. Send ALL the same documents required for a National Scholarship to the NFB of Utah:

Email: (*Scan and email all information), or mail to:
Deja Powell
2900 West Lehman Ave. #179
West Valley City, Utah 84119

If you have further questions or concerns regarding the scholarship application process, please contact: 
Deja Powell: 801-891-3430 or, Everette Bacon (President of the NFB of Utah): 801-631-8108

High tech meets low tech: robotic arms gives girl mobility

Stories about robotic exoskeletons have been pinging around the internet for some time, but these devices are no longer just prototypes and things of imagination.

Maggie at the AT Lab getting her WREX arms adapted.
Maggie at the AT Lab getting her WREX arms adapted.
A few months ago, the Utah AT Lab encountered one such device with the potential to give Maggie, a little girl, strength and mobility in her arms she did not have on her own.

The device is known as WREX Wilmington Robotic Exoskeleton arms, as demonstrated by a YouTuber in the video below. The arms are lightweight and attach to mobility devices. They assist the shoulder and elbow by eliminating the effects of gravity.

The arms can help people with neuromuscular weakness accomplish everyday tasks like eating. However, Maggie's family was struggling to properly attach the arms to her adapted stroller. That's where the AT Lab stepped into help.

Chelsie, Maggie's mom, helping with the adapting process at the AT Lab.
Chelsie, Maggie's mom, helping with the adapting process at the AT Lab.
After an evaluation of the stroller, Cameron, the AT Lab assistant, made specialized wood brackets to attach the arms. 

"This was a unique solution to a unique problem, and that's what's so great about the AT Lab," he said, "Sometimes you have to use simple low-tech solutions to make a high-tech device work for an individual."

The Gift of Recreation: USU’s College of Engineering, ICON Deliver Innovative Side-by-Side Cycle to Common Ground Outdoor Adventures

By Matthew Jensen
USU College of Engineering

Riding a bike for someone with a disability isn't always possible on an average bike, that's why USU students created the Tandemonium.

The College of Engineering at Utah State University and ICON Health & Fitness designed a student-built side-by-side tandem cycle that helps make outdoor cycling adventures possible for persons with disabilities. 

The finished bike was delivered in December as a much anticipated gift to the staff and clients at Logan’s Common Ground Outdoor Adventures.

The designers and engineers who created this unique quadricycle dubbed “Tandemonium.” 

The finished Tandemonium two-seater bike.
The specially built two-seater bike built by USU students.
Tandemonium was designed and built by a team of undergraduate students in the department of mechanical and aerospace engineering as part of their spring 2015 senior capstone project. Icon Health & Fitness helped fund the project and offered expert mentoring and manufacturing support along the way.

The two-seater cycle was completed in April and has since undergone some minor modifications in preparation for delivery.

In designing the bike, students concentrated on four important aspects: safety, accessibility, durability and portability. Safety challenges included turning radius, braking distance and visibility. The team wanted Tandemonium to be easily accessible for all body types and to be strong enough to ensure durability, but lightweight enough to be easy to transport. Tandemonium is unique because riders can use their feet or a hand crank to operate it.

Student designers say they were thrilled to be part of such an ambitious project.

“It was so easy to get tunnel vision and just design your part,” said student Laura Birkhold. “Everyone brought a different experience and expertise to the table, without which we wouldn’t have been able to build the bike.”

Tandemonium taught the senior design team how to effectively communicate, work together and overcome problems, an invaluable experience for their future careers as engineers. They also learned how to work together even when difficult challenges came up.

“My favorite part was seeing it all come together in the end,” added Birkhold. “For so long the bike was just a model on a computer screen or a list of parts we had to source. Seeing it actually in front of me and getting to ride it was the most rewarding experience of the whole project.”

Utah Legal Needs Survey

The Disability Law Center and Utah Legal Services are pleased to introduce the Utah Legal Needs Survey.

You know your community better than we do. You see the needs of your friends and family everyday and you want a safe and positive community for everyone. As non-profit law firms, you can help us prioritize our resources so we can better offer our free services to your family, friends and neighbors across Utah. Please, take a moment to share with us what you know.

Participate in the Utah Legal Needs Survey today and you'll be entered to win a $50 VISA GIFT CARD.

The volunteers behind CReATE

A good volunteer is like a good hair stylist - they can be hard to come by! But volunteers at CReATE ( are dedicated and effective. We'd like to publicly acknowledge their awesomeness.

These volunteers help CReATE get more low-cost wheelchairs to Utahns who need them. CReATE has two new volunteers: Justin Favero is an occupational therapy student from the University of Utah that has chosen to use volunteer hours here at CReATE as one of his electives; and Jim Olive is a retired forklift technician and business owner. Jim's knowledge of electric forklifts makes him a real asset.

Volunteer Kenneth Whitledge.
Volunteer Kenneth Whitledge.
Kenneth Whitledge is a workhorse that helps us every Monday and has become quite adept at scrapping out wheelchairs. He usually scraps out at least three chairs every Monday.

Volunteer Ed Patillo.
Ed Patillo is another volunteer that is a retired computer network technician that is great at cleaning and refurbishing wheelchairs. Ed and Tom really enjoy listening to jazz here in the shop.

Volunteer Steve King.
Volunteer Steve King.
Steve King is another volunteer who is a retired artist and technician that has been great at helping us get more organized. Steve also donated a MIG Welder and shelving for us to use.

Our sincere thanks to these people, as CReATE works to expand our capacity to improve people's lives.