Friday, March 15, 2019

Notes from the trenches: Volunteer Mike Stokes shares some solutions for seniors

Mike demonstrates a liftware  spoon
Mike Stokes demonstrates assistive technology at Utah State University.

UATP volunteer Mike Stokes has experienced caregiver worries: how to make sure a loved one with dementia doesn't wander into danger, fall out of a wheelchair or fall out of bed. He wanted to know if an elderly parent is drinking enough to avoid dehydration, but he didn't want to violate their privacy.

"They want their independence, but you want to be there," he said.

Mike also wanted to solve problems affordably, in ways allowed by landlords and as needs change in senior housing complexes and care facilities. "They don't want you to come in and wire things and put in monitors," he said.

With a knack for solving problems, Mike found some things that help which he shared with the Utah Assistive Technology Program. 

Before we share these tips, please note: this technology is meant to supplement quality care, not replace it.

Solution 1: motion detectors.

When a loved one with dementia came to stay with Mike and his wife, Cindy, they were concerned about her waking up and wandering in the middle of the night. They tried sleeping while listening for her to make sure she didn't wander out of the house. It was exhausting. 

So Mike found a wireless motion detector for $15 and installed it in the hallway. When their loved one left the bedroom and entered the hall, it alerted them with a loud chime.

"We just put it on our nightstand so we could get some restful sleep," he said.

Solution 2: magnetic and pressure alarms

A $20 magnetic alarm let the Stokes family know when their loved one was trying to get out of a wheelchair--a move that would put them at risk of falling.

A wireless bed alarm and sensor pad also helped alert them when their loved one was getting out of bed and might need help. (An online search turns up many brands that do this, at varying prices and consumer ratings.)

These solutions worked in a number of different settings and did not require wiring.

Solution 3: Smart door and window sensors

It was important for Mike to know if his parents were drinking enough water to avoid getting dehydrated, but he wanted them to feel like their privacy was respected. His solution was to make sure drinks were in the fridge, then install a wireless sensor on the refrigerator door that would send a notification to his phone when the door opened.

An internet search turned up a number of smart sensor options and prices, ranging from $15 to $60.

Solution 4: Smart home technology

UATP posted a training on smart home technology on our YouTube channel. Bryan Carroll of the Utah Center for Assistive Technology demonstrates Amazon Echo and Google Home smart speakers, compares them, and shows how they can be integrated into smart home technology. He offers a voice-activated experience that can turn on lights, lock doors, set the thermostat, and make phone calls. View the training here:


Friday, March 8, 2019

Intermountain West will soon have another AT lab


Future Idaho facility drew inspiration from UATP

A group looks at a specialized spoon
BYU-I visitors examine a Liftware Level spoon in UATP's demonstration
and loan library.
A new assistive technology fabrication lab is slated to open in the Intermountain West—and it has drawn some inspiration from the Utah Assistive Technology Program.

“It’s one of the few AT labs in the country where they make custom made assistive technology,” said Dean Cloward, professor in Special Education at Brigham Young Univerisity-Idaho. “Idaho doesn’t do that.” 

BYU-Idaho now plans to launch its own fabrication lab to serve people in southeastern Idaho. The area has similar demographics to northern Utah, Cloward said, with similar needs in special education. Idaho families with a need for custom-made assistive technology have gone to Utah in the past.

Visitors from BYU-I have come to Utah State University’s UATP off and on for years, but on the most recent visit included faculty members interested in the launch of the Idaho lab. Its focus will be more on serving children, while the Utah lab serves people of all ages and abilities.

The BYU-I visit included a stop at the Smart Apartment in the Sorenson Legacy Foundation’s Center for Clinical Excellence. The apartment is stocked with high- and low-tech assistive devices. “We’ve seen most of those technologies, but not in one place, not where they’re all used in conjunction with eachother,” Cloward said. “It was interesting to see … how it could be used to assess someone with disabilities and see how they could interact with the technology.”

The Idaho lab is expected to open in Fall 2019.

Mike Stokes in the smart apartment
Volunteer Mike Stokes demonstrates some low-tech grab bars.


Thursday, February 28, 2019

UATP welcomes VISTA member, expands outreach to Utah’s minorities

portrait
Bora Lee will help us reach out to minorities in Utah. If you
would like her to meet with your group, contact her at
435-797-0466.

Twelve years ago, Bora Lee went to Los Angeles with a plan: get a master’s degree in graphic design. Instead, she discovered a new path: one that eventually brought her to the Utah Assistive Technology Program.

She is an AmeriCorp VISTA member who will work with UATP to reach out to Utah’s underserved populations for one year. “I wanted to contribute to the community what I’ve learned,” she said. “This was a way I could give back.”

In LA, she worked with immigrant children and families with disabilities for a private organization; first in a preschool and later with a weekend program for the families of people with disabilities.

It sparked a lot of thought for her, knowing that people emigrated to the United States hoping for a better life for their children. But especially for families of children with disabilities, the reality fell far short of the American dream. Students with disabilities went to school, but once they finished their public education, a lot of them ended up spending all their time at home.

Do you know someone who needs UATP’s services, but does not speak English? We now have a service that connects us to interpreters who speak 24 languages. Call 800-524-5152 and we will get you started!
“For minorities it is a lot harder to find resources,” she said. They have to overcome so many barriers: of trust, of language, and of just knowing who to ask for help.

It became a focus of study. She earned a master’s in special education with a focus on moderate to severe disabilities. Now, in addition to her work with UATP and Americorp VISTA, she is completing an Ed.D, focusing on transition to adulthood for minority students with disabilities.

At UATP, she is busy talking to organizations, individuals and families about the services UATP can offer.

“I received so much, and I wanted to give back what I’ve learned for a year,” she said. “The more I work with people with disabilities, the more I feel like I’m gaining more from them.”

Get involved:

Do you have suggestions on how UATP can better serve minorities in Utah? Would you like Bora to meet with your group? You can contact her at 435-797-0466.

Do you know someone who needs UATP’s services, but does not speak English? We now have a service that connects us to interpreters who speak 24 languages. Call 800-524-5152 and we will get you started!

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

3D printer in Logan helps build customized AT, gets its own specialized home

portrait
Bryce Hampton with Dan O'Crowley, in front of the housing they created for the
3D printer.

LOGAN--The Utah Assistive Technology Program in Logan has added a 3D printer to its fabrication lab. It gives our staff yet another way to customize assistive technology to meet the specific needs of clients. 

For example, it helped a boy who struggled with motor control in his right leg to ride his bike, after UATP employees Brandon Griffin helped design a pedal that solved the problem of a foot that kept sliding off the pedal.

The boy really likes riding his bike (he calls it his motorcycle).

portrait
Brandon Griffin came to UATP Logan after working
in the Uintah Basin location.
Griffin was able to print a pedal that kept the foot from sliding. That bit of custom-made AT was also “low profile;” it wasn’t clunky or noticeably different from the pedals of other boys’ bikes. “It seemed to work really well, and he was very excited to have his ‘motorcycle’ back,” Griffen said.

But as it turned out, UATP’s powerful new customization tool needed some adjustments of its own. When the UATP technicians used material that is able to withstand higher temperatures and higher stress, they were having trouble, especially if the print was more than a half-inch tall.

That material—called ABS plastic—needed to be kept at a warmer, more constant temperature than the air around it could provide. So technician Dan O’Crowley worked on it with Bryce Hampton, an intern who came to UATP via the Aggies Elevated program.

close-up of pedal with a small ridge that prevents the foot from sliding off
 A 3D printed pedal, customized for the boy
who will use it.
Rather than heat up the room where the printer was, they decided to trap the heat the machine created by building a box around it. It could hold in the heat the printer created, maintaining a more constant temperature.

Some other requirements: it had to be lightweight and inexpensive, so that it could be replaced easily and wouldn’t damage the printer if it was bumped. They settled on an old UATP standby—tri-wall cardboard—and added in some plexiglass windows so they could observe the print in progress.

They also needed two doors, but were momentarily stumped on how to add hinges to their tri-wall design. “Bryce came up with the idea of just cutting through the tri-wall except for that last layer,” O’Crowley said.

The result: UATP’s powerful tool now has a home within a home. ABS prints turn out better. AT lab technicians continue to beef up their printing skills. And assistive technology in Utah takes another big step into the future.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

UATP classifieds: helping Utahns access affordable AT statewide


magnifying glass over "Utah Assistive Technology Program Classifieds," uatpat.org
Do you have a gently used device to sell or give away? Do you need a gently used device? The Utah Assistive Technology Program announces the UATP Classifieds: our newest comprehensive means of helping Utahns access the equipment they need, regardless of where they live in the state.

The new online service connects device sellers and donors directly to people who need technology to be more independent.

Examples of equipment that can be advertised include mobility equipment, adapted vans, environmental adaptions, technology to aid with communication or learning, daily living, adapted computer technology and much more.

Sellers and donors can use the service to ensure their equipment can help someone else, once it is no longer needed.

To use the service, register online for UATP Classifieds. You can then search available devices or post a device of your own. Devices are searchable by device type (mobility or daily living, for example) and by list type (free, priced, priced or best offer).

Items posted will be subject to review before they can be viewed publicly. UATP provides a place for buyers, sellers, donors and recipients to meet, but UATP is a third party that is not involved in the exchange, liability or monetary transaction of devices on the site.

You can always find a link to the UATP Classifieds on the UATP website homepage. Just visit the page, scroll down and hit the "access UATP classifieds" button.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

A young advocate in Africa receives a new-to-him wheelchair from UATP


This month in West Africa, a young man is trying out his motorized wheelchair for the first time. He joins with the Utah Assistive Technology Program in thanking the people who made it possible.

“My new wheelchair has changed my life,” said Jacques Zongo, who lives in Burkina Faso. “I am not always asking for help from friends to go somewhere. It’s like I got new feet. … I am not psychologically feeling my disability, hurting me all the time.” It was painful and discouraging when he wanted to go somewhere and could not get there on his own, he said. “Today I don’t think that will be the same. This wheelchair will help me to overcome my disability.”


In an earlier interview, Zongo said it was very hard to get a motorized wheelchair where he lives because nobody made them locally. He reached out to the UATP in Salt Lake City (formerly CReATE) via Facebook, after talking to Isamael Traore, another wheelchair user from Burkina Faso. Traore was one of a delegation of people from many countries who met UATP’s Salt Lake City Coordinator, Tom Boman, during a site visit with the Utah Council for Citizen Diplomacy in 2015. At the time, Boman tuned up Traore’s wheelchair and sent some extra wheels back with him.

Zongo asked if UATP could help him get a motorized wheelchair. The Salt Lake facility did have a chair that would fit his needs, but getting it to Burkina Faso was a greater hurdle.

Read the whole story on the Center for Persons with Disabilities blog.



Friday, November 30, 2018

UATP's executive director takes national leadership role

Sachiin Pavithran at the AUCD conference


Sachin Pavithran, UATP's executive director, will be serving as a national disability leader in addition to leading the Utah Assistive Technology Program.

He is the current president-elect of the Association of University Centers on Disabilities, after serving for a year on the organization's board. When he began his service, he said his goal was to increase diversity in the organization--a goal he said has begun to be realized.

Still, there is a long way to go. "Accessibility isn't something that we need to discuss, it's something we need to do," he said.

When job seekers with disabilities don't face discrimination, when students with disabilities don't have to wait in line to receive the services or technology they need for success, when people with disabilities are not treated as second-class citizens, then his hopes for the disability field will be realized.

Read more on the Center for Persons with Disabilities' blog.