Friday, November 17, 2017

AT Lab enriches intern's experience while he helps others

Heber Morse shows off a slanted desk he helped design.
Heber Morse is new to the Assistive Technology Lab in Logan. Dan O’Crowley, a student employee who works a lot with Heber, is new to working with interns. This fall, they have learned a lot from each other.

Morse came to the Utah Assistive Technology Program through Aggies Elevated, a residential higher education program for students with intellectual disabilities at Utah State University. He started at the AT Lab after a two-month stint at UATP’s CReATE program in Salt Lake City, where he worked on wheelchairs. While he still works on mobility equipment in his current position, the move to the AT Lab exposed him to a much wider variety of assistive technology.

“At first I was kind of confused,” he said. “But as I slowly came to know what various machines do, I felt comfortable.”

“I feel like Heber is really good at not just thinking of [a problem] in one way,” O’Crowley said.
“He doesn’t limit himself in the way that you can solve a problem.”

In an interview at the lab, Morse showed off an item he made for O’Crowley’s wife, who teaches special education and needs a slanted lap desk. She also wants it to store flat.

“I came up with the idea of putting hinges on it so it would close easier,” he said. They also added a removable piece of wood to keep the sides from collapsing while in use, and Velcro to attach the piece to the bottom of the desk so that it could be easily stored. “It worked really nicely.”

O’Crowley remembers a project they took on for a woman who needed to carry a walker on her scooter. “We had to scratch our heads and engineer something, and Heber was very involved in that process. … I didn’t tell him what I thought was the best way, and I’m glad I didn’t.”

They ended up with a simple design of PVC pipe and square tubing to give the walker a place to ride on the scooter. It was secured on top with a hook. The design was simple enough that it could be used by the client, who needed a solution that did not take a lot of hand strength. The whole time, O’Crowley was there to provide support, but Morse did the project.

O’Crowley has learned that Morse’s approach to a problem may be different from his own. Sometimes it takes Morse longer to arrive at a solution, and O’Crowley has learned to let him work through things at his own pace. O’Crowley has enjoyed the collaboration. “Being able to work with someone and bounce your ideas back and forth, you make it a lot farther and it turns out a lot better… You’ve got to get outside of your own brain.”

“It’s so much fun,” Heber said. “Dan actually brings a lot of great ideas, and he’s the most wonderful, hardworking person I’ve met.”

Photo of Heber working on a project.

The internship’s benefits go so far beyond learning to work with tools. Aggies Elevated Career Success Coordinator Sue Reeves said the program’s students learn job-related skills: being on time, finding productive things to do, following directions and accepting criticism. In addition, they may learn specialized skills they may need in their chosen career. The internships give them work experience to refer to as they go into the “real world” after graduation.

“As a program, our employment rate at 90 days past graduation is 78 percent,” Reeves said. “The employment rate in general for people with disabilities is only about 19 percent. Our internships, and the skills our students learn from them, are a huge part of that success.”

The Logan AT Lab has contributed to that success, thanks in part to coordinator Clay Christensen’s willingness to make it a meaningful experience for Aggies Elevated students.

Morse has been good for the AT Lab, too. O’Crowley said he has the friendly, helpful nature that is essential.

But more than that, Reeves and O’Crowley agreed they’ve seen Morse’s confidence and problem-solving savvy grow. “There’s something about building something or fixing something and making it work,” O’Crowley said. “For me it’s been really neat to see the amount of progress he’s made in two and a half months. There’s a lot more confidence.”

Morse said he loves to see the smiles on the faces of people he has helped to find solutions. “What really brightens up my day is to fix that problem. The gratitude they show is wonderful.”

Friday, November 3, 2017

UATP director speaks out on driverless technology

Night photo of headlights painting lines on a road

UATP Director Sachin Pavithran advocates for fully-accessible, autonomous vehicles as he has met with representatives from government and the automobile industry. Now, he urges people with disabilities to join the conversation.

"When the indicators are that fully autonomous vehicles are expected on our roads within the next five years, it makes me wonder why we haven't seen a prototype of an accessible autonomous vehicle yet," he said. "Conversations continue about making accessibility a priority when designing these vehicles. Promises are being made by the auto industry that autonomous vehicles will change the lives of all for the better, including people with disabilities. 
"But I hope people with disabilities are not left behind yet again."

You can read the full story on the Center for Persons with Disabilities website.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Save the date: basic wheelchair maintenance & repair webinar

photo of Tom Boman
Tom Boman
When you spend your whole workday refurbishing wheelchairs, scooters and other mobility equipment, you know a thing or two about their repair and maintenance. In October, CReATE coordinator Tom Boman will share his knowledge in a free webinar, covering topics like battery maintenance, joystick repair and keeping those wheels turning properly.

The event takes place October 23 at 10:30 am. It will be posted later on our YouTube channel.

If you have a question for Tom, or if you'd like to sign up, email utahatp[at]gmail.com. We'll add you to our list!

Photo of many wheelchairs in CReATE warehouse
The CReATE warehouse is full of examples of Tom's repair and refurbishment skills.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Coming to a city near you: DIY AT

Professionals and students work together
to build a custom-made seat for a young
child with disabilities.

Training program brings low-tech assistive technology techniques to communities in rural Utah


Earlier this year, Logan AT Lab Coordinator Clay Christensen participated in an event that inspired us all. He teamed up with CPD occupational therapist Amy Henningsen to help people from different backgrounds make assistive technology--and their creations addressed specific needs of people from the community.

Building on that idea, the Utah Assistive Technology Program at Utah State University will begin teaching low-tech assistive technology methods to students, teachers, parents, and professionals in rural Utah, thanks to a grant funded by the Center for Persons with Disabilities's Interagency Outreach and Training Initiative. These workshops will address an identified need of a person in the community, and local students and professionals will have the chance to participate in a hands-on exercise to design and build a low-tech device.

Some examples of devices that could be built:


  • A custom-made chair that helps a child with low muscle tone sit upright and in the correct position;
  • An iPad holder that allows a person with limited motor skills to access an iPad independently;
  • A device that helps a person with limited mobility get in and out of bed safely.

Want us to come to your town? Contact Alma Burgess. Let's build something!

Monday, August 14, 2017

CReATE celebrates brighter days

The CReATE warehouse brightened up this summer, thanks to a grant from the Gibney Family Foundation to improve its lighting system.

photo of a dingy shop
Before.
photo of a brighter shop
After.
This well-lit shop will help CReATE employees and volunteers in their mission to bring affordable mobility equipment to Utahns who need it. And if they drop a tool along the way, they may be finding it faster!

Thanks, Gibney Family Foundation! Things are looking brighter already.

For a look at the work CReATE does--and how they do it--watch this video.


Monday, July 17, 2017

Logan, Uintah Basin AT labs have both beefed up their demonstration libraries

From the CPD blog.

Clay Christensen displays modular hose and an electronic, voice-activated personal assistant. Both are examples of high-
and low-tech AT available in the Utah Assistive Technology Program's demonstration libraries. 
People at the CPD's AT Labs hear it all the time: disability can be expensive.

They want to help. The Utah Assitive Technology Program's AT labs, which are part of  the Center for Persons with Disabilities, offer a demonstration library, stocked with items that people can try before they buy. This saves families the expense of buying item after item and discovering it doesn't quite fit the need.

The demonstration libraries in Logan and the Uintah Basin now have some now, hot technology, including Liftware utensils for people with tremors or contractured hands; voice-activated, electronic personal assistants (Chrome and Alexa), iPads loaded with apps for all kinds of disabilities, and much more.

Here's a more complete look at AT available for Utahns to try at both AT Labs:

Demonstration library inventory

Most items can be “checked out,” and all can be demonstrated at the AT Labs in Logan and Roosevelt. For more information contact Clay Christensen (Logan) or Cameron Cressall (Roosevelt).

High-tech

Augmentative and alternative communication software for both Apple and personal computers, including Boardmaker
iPads loaded with AT apps (Augmentative and alternative communication, reading and comprehension aids, specialized apps for people with vision, hearing or motor loss)
Liftware eating utensils
Mobility devices
Programs and assistive devices for people who have difficulties using a mouse or keyboard, including JAWS and  Dragon
Smart pens
Vehicle adaptions
Voice-activated electronic assistants (Alexa and Chrome)

 

Low-tech

Adapted eating utensils & a feeding kit; includes custom-made, adapted silverware
Daily living aids
Mobility devices
Modular hose (used for mounting devices, Logan lab only)
Custom-made AT (can also be made on request, usually for the cost of materials)

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Another bike, another happy, active summer

photo of Georgia on the bike
Georgia tries out her new bike

Georgia Sumsion is an active 13 year old who enjoys bike riding, but her short arms made steering a challenge. Her dad modified some bikes for her, adding thumb shifters, for example. Even so she had some hair-raising, balance-challenging moments.

"We've had a lot of near misses because we live on some hills," said her dad, Aaron.

They came to the Logan Assistive Technology Lab within the Center for Persons with Disabilities at Utah State University, hoping for a more comprehensive solution. They found it with the help of volunteers who work at the lab. Todd McGregor put in a thumb shifter, adjusted the pedals for a better fit, customized the handlebars and added a spring that stabilized the steering so it didn't go wonky if Georgia lifted one hand from the bars.

Georgia took it out for its first spin, looped around the parking lot, and laughed a lot.

"I love it," she said. "It's absolutely perfect."

Family bike rides are in the future, Aaron said.

From left to right: volunteers Mike Stokes and Todd McGregor, Georgia Sumsion, and AT Lab Coordinator Clay Christensen.