United Way of Cache Valley lends helping hand in Technology Lab

On Thursday, the United Way of Cache Valley presented the National Day of Caring, in honor of Sept. 11. They invited service volunteers across the valley to lend helping hands to non-profits of their choice. The Utah Assistive Technology Program was lucky enough to have three great volunteers join Clay Christensen, coordinator of our Assistive Technology lab.

The volunteers went right to work with Clay, building a ramp for a client who contacted us about a need to make her home accessible for her wheelchair. The volunteers visited her apartment early that morning to assess the measurements and meet the client. Afterwards they went straight back to lab to begin building from scratch. 

"We came here thinking we were going to be cleaning the lab," said volunteer Stacy Newman. "But we broke out the power tools so it was cool and she was very grateful."

Employed by Stevens-Henagar College, the volunteers who work in admissions, described their positions as often helping students, which led to them wanting to further their assistance to the community.
Newman said that her team tries to get together for a day of service at least once a year. 

They participated in every detail of the creation of the ramp, from measuring and sawing the wood, then piecing them together before painting it navy blue.

"We like to help people so its kind of in our nature to do that," said Newman. "Little things are what make people grateful and you never know when you're going to affect somebody's life and change them for the best."

School Tools: SmartPen for learning disabilities

By Kent Remund

Q shows Bond a super pen.
Q would be impressed with the SmartPen.
Growing up, I loved James Bond movies. My favorite scene in each movie was when he would visit “Q” in the lab to see the latest gadget that had been created for James to use. 

When I first saw the Livescribe SmartPen, I was placed in the moment feeling like I was visiting “Q”. This pen has become one of the most demonstrated and recommended pieces of assistive technology for students within the complete range of learning disabilities. What makes this pen so great?

LiveScribe SmartPen
The LiveScribe SmartPen is a great tool
for people with learning disabilities.
While the SmartPen allows you to take traditional ink notes, it also has the ability to capture audio simultaneously while taking notes. Here’s where the real magic happens: the pen is combining written notes and anchoring them with the audio happening at that exact moment, bookmarking it for later. What does this mean? 

This allows you to go back in your written notes and tap on something written, and the pen will playback the audio from that exact recording within the pen. No need to search through hours of a recording. The pen requires special paper that has thousands of dots that the pen uses to track writing and anchor it to the audio that it records.  

How is this such a powerful tool for people with learning disabilities? For many, it is completely transforming the way they pay attention in class, retain information, process information and study using the audio from notes they have taken.  

We teach the individual to keep key notes during a lecture while are paying attention rather than worrying about keeping overly detailed notes. For most students with learning disabilities, auditory learning is their biggest strength and most struggle with the stress of keeping accurate written notes. This pen allows a student to go home and play back audio from a specific point to help retain the information that we being presented. 

The Livescribe pen can be purchased at many major retailers such as Office Depot, Staples, Office Max and online from Amazon.com. A 2 gigabyte pen can store up to 200 hours of audio and is reasonably priced at approximately $120.00. The paper that is required for the pen costs $20.00 for four books.  

The pen does so much more and must be seen to believe - this YouTube video demonstrates the pen in action.

This video shows how students with dyslexia are using the pen to be successful in class.

Please contact me if you would like a demonstration, be evaluated or have questions regarding the SmartPen. There are a couple different versions of the pen and we can help determine which one would be best for you.

Kent Remund is part of the Utah Center for Assistive Technology serving Utahns with disabilities, and a member of the Utah Assistive Technology Teams serving Utah school districts, helping people with disabilities identify and obtain assistive technology that will enhance the quality of their lives. 

Upcoming training on serving people with disabilities from various cultures

A free training, A Guide to Success: Serving People with Disabilities of Various Cultures, is coming soon by the Center for Persons with Disabilities at USU along with UCASA, UDVC, the Sanderson Center and Human Capabilities.

Topics will include:

  • Assumptions, Stereotypes and Generalizations
  • Culture and Cultural Competency
  • Communicating with People who have Various Types of Disabilities
  • Service Animals and Other Accommodations
  • Effects of Violence and Trauma on Disability
  • Response to Victims with Disabilities 

USU Brigham City, 265 W 1100 S, Miller Bldg. Room 164, Brigham City, on September 18th from 1:00 – 3:00.  

USU Extension/Health Dept., 151 North Main, Room 180, Tooele, on September 23th from 1:00 to 3:00

Please RSVP to Lynelle at lynelle.chenn@usu.edu or 435-797-8807.  

Ice Bucket Challenge Video for Keep Kim Home

Disability Law Center Update: Assistive Technology Denial Cases

By Erin Hough

The Disability Law Center (DLC) advocates for individuals to be able to access many different types of assistive technology devices and services. This month, I decided to share some examples of our recent assistive technology cases. Hopefully this helps you better understand our work and current trends.

Example #1: We’ve had success appealing private insurance denials of CoughAssist. 
Child using CoughAssist.
CoughAssist device.

As the name implies, a CoughAssist is a device that helps someone to cough who otherwise wouldn't have that ability. This device was critical for the health and safety of our clients. Nonetheless, a private insurance company (who shall remain nameless) claimed that CoughAssist is investigational and experimental for the treatment of anything other than cystic fibrosis. 

After reviewing the medical literature, we were able to successfully argue that this was not the case, that these devices are actually well-proven and effective for other populations. The insurance company agreed to pay for the devices. If you know of someone in a similar situation, call us! A strong appeal can make all the difference.  

Example #2: We’ve had limited success advocating for students to be able to use their own personal communication devices at school.

I've been hearing more and more about this issue lately. Parents purchase a device for their child, only to find that the child’s school is unwilling to use it. What is the school’s obligation in this situation? 

I'll give you the all-encompassing, all too predictable legal answer: it depends. The law requires that students have access to the technology necessary to benefit from their education and access the general curriculum. The school should also consider the transition needs of the student and the input and materials provided by all members of the team (including the parents and student). 

However, it is ultimately the school’s responsibility to make the decision as to which device or service they feel will best enable the student to access her education, and this may or may not be the device brought from home. Each individual situation is different. Call us if you’d like us to review your particular case regarding AAC devices at school for your child.

Contact the Disability Law Center at 800-662-9080.
Services from the DLC are available to all Utahns with disabilities.

A Reminder: Medicaid will cover communication devices for adults.

Two years ago, the Utah Court of Appeals overturned a state Medicaid policy denying coverage for speech augmentative communication devices (SACDs) for adults over 21. The DLC represented the two clients in related cases. 

Since then, we've heard very little about adults being denied coverage for these devices. We do know there are still challenges, especially for people needing related evaluations or training. If someone you know receives a Medicaid denial of a communication device or related service, call us! 

For that matter, contact us if you’re having any sort of problem accessing a communication device. SACDs are usually considered to be “Durable Medical Equipment,” and they should be covered by most insurance companies. 

I hope you found this glimpse into our work to be enlightening. If so, stay tuned to the UATP Blog for more updates!

This is general information. It is not intended to be legal advice. Only an attorney can give you legal advice to help you with a problem or answer a question. 

UATP, CPD to take on the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

Next week, UATP along with the Center for Persons with Disabilities will take on the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge to show solidarity for one our clients and friends, Kim Maibaum. You can help by taking the challenge yourself, donating to the ALS fund or Kim's care fund, and coming and cheering us on!

My Friend Kim
By Deanna Taylor

My name is Deanna and I was nominated by a friend, Wendy Shelton, to complete the ALS ice bucket challenge. It's been well over a week, but I waited to complete the challenge so I could introduce to you my friend Kim Maibaum.

Kim with her friends
and caretakers.
When Kim was 50 years old, she was diagnosed with ALS, more commonly known as Lou Gehrig's Disease. ALS attacks your muscles and nerves. The symptoms initially begin with mild muscle stiffness followed by severe weakness and then paralysis of the muscles of the limbs and trunk. Eventually, ALS will affect other vital functions such as speech, swallowing and for many the inability to breathe without a ventilator.

Unlike you and I, if Kim has an itch she is unable to scratch it. If her arm or leg position is uncomfortable she is unable to adjust it. One of the few things ALS does not affect is the mind. Kim's mind is as sharp today as when she was diagnosed.
The average life expectancy for a person diagnosed with ALS is 2 to 5 years. Only 10 percent of those living with ALS will live longer than 10 years. Kim falls into that 10 percent category. On Sept. 16, 2014, Kim will have been living with ALS for 10 years. 

While born and raised in New York, Kim is a Utah State University graduate and Cache Valley resident. She was an interpreter for the deaf (American Sign Language) for 22 years before having to quit because of her illness. She has been an interpreter for many influential people including President Clinton during a rally for Senator Ted Kennedy. 

The State of Utah only pays for 17 hours per week for Kim's care providers. This leaves Kim to pay for the remaining 6 days of the week, and she's exhausted her financial options. 

You can learn more about Kim, ALS and donating to her care fund at www.keepkimhome.blogspot.com. You can also 'Live a Day in the Life of Kim' by watching this video

Thanks for your support and participation!

Bingo night for advocacy group for people with developmental disabilities

People First of Cache Valley is part of the self-advocacy movement, an international civil rights movement for people with disabilities. People First is a self-advocacy organization that assists people with developmental disabilities learn how to advocate for themselves, increase their independence and become apart of their community.