Assistive Technology Awareness with Gold Medalist Muffy Davis

By Bennett Purser

In honor of November being Assistive Technology Awareness Month, the UATP spoke with Paralympic gold medalist Muffy Davis about her career, how she uses assistive technology in sports and her experiences with the Utah Assistive Technology Foundation.


For Paralympic gold medalist Muffy Davis, assistive technology isn’t just for competitive sports, but what she uses every day to live her life to the fullest. With November’s celebration of Assistive Technology Awareness Month, Davis shares her gratitude for adaptive sports and the Utah Assistive Technology Foundation, which made some of her devices possible.

Muffy Davis with her gold medals

“For me,” Davis said. “They enable me to have a full life. That’s what assistive technology does, enabling people to be able to do the things they want to do.”

As an avid skier her throughout her life, an accident 25 years ago left Davis paralyzed from the waist down at age 16. After the tragedy of the accident, she was determined to get back back on the mountain and conquer the slopes. 

She taught herself how to ski sitting down and embraced a new realm of competitive winter sports. Since then, Davis continues to be an avid skier as well as hand cycler and mountain climber. She has competed in the 1998, 2000, 2002, 2010, and 2012 Paralympic Games, where she won three gold medals in hand cycling. 

It was 2008 when she first came to the UATP seeking information about low interest loans for assistive technology devices through the Utah Assistive Technology Foundation. A unit within the UATP, the foundation partners with Zions Bank to make new devices a financial possibility.

Davis was interested in putting an indoor elevator in her home after retailers told her that a custom lift would be about the same price as an elevator, she was approved for a low interest loan and had the home elevator installed. 

A few years down the road, Davis returned to the UATF when her car was no longer meeting her needs. With a growing family, it was time to find a more practical vehicle. She was approved for her second loan from the UATF to get a van fit for her wheelchair and her new daughter.  

Davis, who won three gold medals during the London Paralympic games, has gone great lengths with assistive equipment, but it’s the small things, Davis said, that assistive technology influences the most.

“Having this fully accessible van is so much easier. I can do more things, I can go farther,” she said. “It’s the peace of mind, I have a five year old daughter so knowing I can go get her. It’s the little things.” 

Muffy Davis with her daughter

With assistive technology fully implemented in Davis’ home and daily life, she notes the importance of adaptive devices in recreation. The type of devices that make her career and success possible, devices like adaptive skis and hand pedaled bicycles, bring her joy beyond competition.

“Aside from the fact that I love to compete at an elite level and get physical fitness and exercise, just being able to recreate with my family is immeasurable." Davis said. "I can recreate with my daughter, and that’s what I love to do.”

With Assistive Technology Awareness Month, Davis mentions how the youth embraces assistive technology. Those she’s seen skiing in the resorts and biking in the summers, have impressed her with their dedication to perform despite any physical limitations.

“What I think is so wonderful is that assistive technology is not a surprise to them. Kids are growing up and they’re like ‘of course I can play wheelchair basketball,’ or ‘of course I want to swim with adaptive technology, or run or ride a bike,'” Davis said. “So the fact that more kids in wheelchairs don’t even consider that it may not be a possibility.”

She expressed her gratitude to resources like the Utah Assistive Technology Foundation, who provides funds when someone doesn’t have the financial needs, but “the idea and the passion.”

Muffy Davis is in the process of writing her first book, a memoir recalling her experiences as a Paralympian, choosing to do more than survive, but to thrive. The book is to be published within the next year. To learn more about Muffy Davis’ story, visit her website here and for more information on the Utah Assistive Technology Foundation and our partnership with Zions Bank click here.

The Life of a Wheelchair at CReATE

In honor of Assistive Technology Awareness Month, the Utah Assistive Technology Program is celebrating the wheelchair, and the many lives it can change. 

CReATE graphic
Ray Rasmussen was stuck. With his wheelchair falling apart, his mobility was limited and his freedom had been compromised. That's where CReATE, Citizen’s Reutilizing Assistive Technology came in. 

Tom Boman, the technician for CReATE, looked at Rasmussen’s needs and turned a recycled wheelchair into freedom for Rasmussen. An ordinary day in the life for Boman, reutilizing assistive technology equipment for the needs of people like Rasmussen. 

It was Rasmussen’s cousin, Jim Graehl, who brought him to CReATE after hearing about the wheelchair services from a local medical school. He recalls the difficulties of finding a chair that could meet all the physical requirements for his cousin, noting a collection of broken chairs at Rasmussen’s home.

"The value of CReATE was really driven home for us when Ray broke his first chair,” Graehl said. “He's not eligible for a new chair from Medicaid for two years.”

There are no waiting periods or disability proof requirements at CReATE, helping fill the need of those unable to get one through insurance. After receiving the new chair from CReATE, Graehl donated three of Rasmussen’s previous electric wheelchairs in need of repair.  

Peggy Naud
Peggy Naud testing out her new chair from CReATE.
"One of the chairs Ray had was a bigger, more industrial chair. Tom [Boman] said it was hard to get, but easy to reutilize,” Graehl said.

Reutilize he did. Boman worked his magic and now Rasmussen’s old chair belongs to another client Peggy Naud. As a resident of downtown Salt Lake City, Naud received her chair after her electric scooter lost power. Learning about CReATE from the United Way, Naud felt relieved when she visited the shop.    

“I walked in that place on my crutches and it felt like there was a million chairs in that room,” Naud said. “When I saw all those chairs it made feel like I wasn't such a sore thumb sticking out in the crowd.”

After consulting with Boman about her specific needs in her mobility chair, she left the shop gleaming in Rasmussen’s donated chair.

“It was an old, Jazzy 1170 wheelchair,” Boman said. “We took that chair and combined with parts of others for Peggy.”

Since many parts of the chairs and scooters are interchangeable, everything either gets scrapped out or refurbished, and goes back to someone. 

“We take a look at whatever chair has the best possibility to meet the client’s needs,” said Boman. “It really is the gift that keeps on giving.”

As Naud explores her downtown neighborhood, new chair in tow, she frequents many of its shops and events. Recently she bought season tickets to the Utah Opera, attending “Madame Butterfly,” as she sat in Rasmussen’s former chair with her daughter next to her in the aisle seat.

“It was marvelous! The chair makes me taller than everyone else around me, so I had the best seat in the house,” Naud said laughing. “Nothing keeps me from getting downtown.”

Graehl recalls similar feelings after discovering the services at the shop.

“The lack of freedom and loss of freedom was really difficult for Ray, but having those guys [CReATE] available to help us is a huge benefit."

Visit the CReATE webpage to learn more about the many wheelchairs available, or call 801-887-9398 to speak with a technician. 

Myth vs. Fact – The Cost of Workplace Accommodations

By Lindsay Boerens
Utah Disability Law Center

Myth: 99% of all green Jell-O is consumed in the state of Utah.

Fact: In 2001, the Utah state senate recognized Jell-O as a favorite snack food and the governor declared an annual Jell-O week. 
Green Jell-O Mold

Myth: Accommodations for employees with disabilities are expensive.

Fact: 58% of accommodations for employees with disabilities actually cost nothing.

A common misconception is that accommodations for employees with disabilities are expensive. 

However, according to an ongoing study conducted by the Job Accommodation Network (JAN) since 2004, employers report that 58 percent of accommodations cost them ZERO dollars. The rest typically cost less than $500. 

Employers often assume that accommodations are expensive, high-end electronics and technology. Many forget that assistive technology can include any item, piece of equipment, software or product system that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities.  

According to JAN, simple items such as tennis balls, headlamps, and even curtains could all be used as a reasonable accommodation in the workplace. 
Assistive technology to help accommodate  workers can be high-tech or low-tech.
Assistive technology to help accommodate
workers can be high-tech or low-tech.

It is important to note that some types of assistive technology (AT) that are more expensive may be necessary. The type of accommodation needed will always depend on an individual’s particular situation – including their job and their disability. 

One thing for employers to consider is that, in some cases, something as simple as putting curtains up to reduce glare on a computer screen for an employee with migraine headaches is much less complicated (and more than likely much less expensive) than searching for the best anti-glare computer monitor on the market. 

So remember, before jumping to the conclusion that an accommodation will break the bank, low cost and effective accommodations do exist. Employers and employees can find a wealth of information on job accommodations on the JAN website: https://askjan.org/, and check out the JAN search for accomodations by disability gadget on the right-hand side of this blog.

If you are a person with a disability and are in need of an accommodation at work, you can contact the Disability Law Center for more information and, if necessary, legal consultation to help you resolve issues with your employer. Visit us at www.disabilitylawcenter.org or call us at 1-800-662-9080.

Augmentative & Alternative Communication: Impacting children with differing disabilities

Assistant Technology Consultant of Saltillo, Jean Bosco Walsh, spoke to the UATP about AAC awareness month and the power of speech.

By Bennett Purser

October is International Augmentative and Alternative Communication Awareness Month, and the ways children with speech disabilities communicate have never been stronger. With fast-changing AAC devices and software reaching a milestone in accessibility, toddlers to aging adults can now make themselves understood with communication devices.

Assistant Technology Consultant of Saltillo, Jean Bosco Walsh, spoke to the UATP about AAC awareness month and the power of speech. 

“It is much more of a mainstream type of device now, anything to do with AAC is so much more commonplace,” said Bosco Walsh. 

The NOVA Chat 10 functions similar to a tablet with its user-friendly touch screen
The NOVA Chat 10 from Saltillo functions as a tablet.
Communication devices in the past were heavy, large machines that had to be worked around, but the increase in accessibility of the devices has made it much easier for people with communication disorders to engage in meaningful conversation with others. Many devices have decreased in size and price, while allowing for more options to be utilized. 

“Now being able to have a tablet, your device can be much more of a daily function. It doesn't have to be this big extra burden,” she said.

With Saltillo's NOVA Chat device and TouchNet, Saltillo’s app for Apple products that can be accessed with iPads and iPhones, Bosco Walsh has seen children’s behavior change drastically as the technology improves their speech capabilities. 

She’s witnessed the hardship of people not being able to speak naturally, while still having the ability to understand others. So when speech through AAC is given to a child, their behavior reflects their relief, influencing the child’s behaviors.

The NOVA Chat 5 functions like a Smart Phone, with its similar size and weight.
The NOVA Chat 5 functions like a Smart Phone.
“The frustration of someone not being able to talk, but being able to really understand," Bosco Walsh said, "behaviors can really be lessened with the use of a communication device."

She notes that people with varying disabilities can benefit from AAC devices. Researchers have seen children with Autism become more comfortable communicating with these devices as they aren’t distracted with the other sensory elements of a conversation. Students with other disabilities also show drastic increase in speech when learning with devices. 

“Sometime students with Down syndrome have the ability to to put two or three words together, but then you put a device in front of them and all of sudden they're speaking with full sentences and using the right tense and parts of speech, which normally they wouldn't be able to do,” she said.

The relief that Bosco Walsh has seen as students engage in AAC has been powerful. She believes that this year, AAC awareness month has brought more attention to children in need of alternative communication than ever before.

“Not being able to speak, does not mean someone doesn't understand,” she said. “So giving someone a voice can really change their life.” 
  

Utahns can contact UATP to learn more about acquiring an appropriate AAC device for a family member or client. Learn more about AAC devices from Saltillo and watch the Saltillo Webinar by UATP.

U.S. Access Board Update with Sachin Pavithran

Sachin Pavithran, UATP director, is also vice chair of the U.S. Access Board, appointed by Pres. Obama. The Board is a federal agency that promotes equality for people with disabilities through leadership in accessible design and the development of accessibility guidelines and standards for the built environment, transportation, communication, medical diagnostic equipment, and information technology. This is an update from Sachin on current issues the board is working on:
UATP director, and US Access Board vice chair, Sachin Pavithran.


We currently have 5 active rulemakings and two that are planned. The five active rules are:

1. Transportation Vehicles (buses) - the final rule is at the Office of Management and Budget under review (it was sent on September 9, 2014).

2. Public Rights-of-Way and Shared Use Paths - this will be a final rule; we expect to ask for a Board vote in January 2015 and will then send it to OMB for review.

3. Medical Diagnostic Equipment - this will be a final rule; we expect to ask for a Board vote in January 2015 and will then send it to OMB for review.

4. Passenger Vessels - this will be a final rule; we expect to ask for a Board vote in March 2015 and will then send it to OMB for review.

5. Information and Communications Technology - this will be a proposed rule; the proposed rule is at OMB under review (we expect to publish the rule in October and hold a public hearing during our November Board meeting).

The two rules that are planned include:

1. Self-Service Transaction Machines - we have not decided on a rulemaking approach yet; we just received the market analysis from Econometrica (staff is reviewing it now and will send it to the ad hoc committee once they finish their review).

2. Transportation Vehicles (rail) - this will be a proposed rule after the advisory committee completes its work; they are scheduled to present their recommendations to the Board at the July 2015 Board meeting.

Here's background information on each of the rules:

Transportation Vehicles (buses):
A notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) to revise and update the accessibility guidelines for buses, over-the-road buses, and vans covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), was published in July 2010. Two public hearings were held during the comment period that closed in November 2010. 

One important issue was raised after the close of the comment period. As a result, the Board re-opened the comment period for additional public input related to the late comments. The commenters raised issues about the 1:6 ramp slope requirements and a new design that locates the shallower ramp partially inside the vehicle. This design constrains the maneuvering space within the vehicle at the top of the ramp and at the farebox and creates a grade break within the ramp run. 

During the extended comment period which ended in October 2012, the Board held two information meetings to gather input on these issues. Because we do not want to delay rulemaking for subjects that do not require further development, we plan to move forward with the sections that have been vetted through public comment and that will result in better accessibility e.g., automated stop announcements. The Board submitted the final rule to OMB for review in September 2014. Additional research needs will be identified along with a time schedule for completion of the remaining issues. 

Public Rights-of-Way and Shared Use Paths:
In 2009, we contracted with the Volpe National Transportation Systems Center to assist the Board in finalizing a regulatory assessment for the public rights-of-way rulemaking. An NPRM was published for public comment in July 2011. 

When the Board approved the draft final accessibility guidelines for outdoor developed areas, coverage of shared use paths was deferred to a future rulemaking. Commenters on the outdoor developed areas rule had previously raised concerns about the need for differing guidelines for shared use paths. Commenters noted that shared use paths differ from trails and typically are located in more developed outdoor areas, as opposed to the more primitive trail settings. Unlike trails, they are designed to serve both bicyclists and pedestrians and are used for transportation and recreation purposes. 

In September 2010, the Board held a public information meeting in conjunction with the ProWalk/ProBike 2010 Conference. This meeting provided an opportunity for individuals with disabilities, designers of shared use paths, and others with expertise in this area to share information with the Board to assist in the development of new accessibility guidelines. The Board then published an advance notice of proposed rulemaking for shared use paths in March 2011. 

In February 2013, the Board published a Supplemental Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to include requirements for shared use paths as part of the public rights-of-way rule. An ad hoc committee of Board members and staff are working to develop a final rule.

Medical Diagnostic Equipment:
We are developing accessibility standards for medical diagnostic equipment, including examination tables and chairs, weight scales, radiological equipment, and mammography equipment. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act requires the Board to issue these standards in consultation with the Food and Drug Administration. The standards are to address independent access to, and use of, equipment by people with disabilities to the maximum extent possible. 

In July 2010, the Board held a public information meeting on this rulemaking to gather information from stakeholders, including consumers, equipment manufacturers, the healthcare industry, government agencies, and others with an interest in the new standards. A proposed rule was published in February 2012 and two public hearings were held. The comment period closed in June 2012 and 53 comments were received. 

In March 2012, the Board created a 24-member Medical Diagnostic Equipment Accessibility Standards federal advisory committee to advise the Board on matters associated with the comments the Board received and information it requested in proposing the standards. The committee submitted its report to the Board in December 2013. An ad hoc committee of Board members and staff are working to develop a final rule.

Passenger Vessels:
On June 25, 2013, the Board released for public comment proposed guidelines for passenger vessels. Developed under the ADA, the guidelines provide design criteria for large vessels when newly constructed or altered to ensure that they are accessible to people with disabilities. 

The guidelines address various features of vessel accessibility and include provisions for onboard routes, vertical access between decks, doorways and coamings, toilet rooms, guest rooms, alarm systems, and other spaces and elements used by passengers. The Board's guidelines apply to passenger vessels that are permitted to carry more than 150 passengers or more than 49 overnight passengers, all ferries, and certain tenders that carry 60 or more passengers. 

On July 15, 2013, the Cruise Lines International Association requested that the 90-day comment period be extended by an additional 120 days to review and more fully assess the proposed rule. We extended the comment period to January 24, 2014. An ad hoc committee of Board members and staff are working to develop a final rule.

Information and Communication Technology Update:
In July 2006, the Board created an advisory committee to update and revise the Section 508 standards and the Telecommunications Act Accessibility Guidelines. Forty-one organizations served on the Telecommunications and Electronic and Information Technology Advisory Committee. The committee's membership included representatives from industry, disability groups, standard-setting bodies in the U.S. and abroad, and government agencies, among others. The committee completed its work and presented its report to the Board in April 2008. 

In March 2010, the Board published an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) to update the Board's Information and Communication Technology guidelines and standards based on the committee's report. A second ANPRM was published in December 2011. The public comment period ended in March 2012 and two public hearings were held. Ninety-one separate commenters filed comments or spoke at the hearings. The Board submitted the proposed rule to OMB for review in February 2014.

Self-Service Transaction Machines:
The Departments of Justice and Transportation (DOT) have related rulemakings on self-service transaction machines. As a result, we have worked collaboratively with them to develop a single set of technical requirements that can be referenced and scoped by each participating agency. 

On November 12, 2013 DOT published its rule on Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability in Air Travel: Accessibility of Web Sites and Automated Kiosks at U.S. Airports. The DOT requirements for automated kiosks at U.S. airports are derived from the technical requirements we helped develop and are consistent with our requirements for automatic teller machines and fare machines, as well as the current requirements of section 508 for self-contained, closed products. 

In 2010, DOJ published an ANPRM on Equipment and Furniture that would cover kiosks, interactive transaction machines, and point-of-sale devices, among other things. We have contracted with Econometrica to assist the Board in preparing an environmental scan that will assist us to develop a better sense of the types and numbers of machines potentially covered by this rule. An ad hoc committee of Board members and staff are working to develop a proposed rule.

Transportation Vehicles (rail):
In May 2013, the Board formed a 27-member federal advisory committee as part of its review and update of the ADA Accessibility Guidelines for Transportation Vehicles. The Rail Vehicles Access Advisory Committee will develop consensus recommendations for the Board's use in updating sections of the guidelines that cover vehicles of fixed guideway systems, including rapid, light, commuter, intercity, and high speed rail. 

These guidelines, which were originally published in 1991, serve as the basis for standards that apply to new or remanufactured vehicles required to be accessible under the ADA. The committee's work will not extend to portions of the guidelines that address buses and vans, which the Board is already in the process of updating. The committee is scheduled to present its recommendations to the Board at the July 2015 Board meeting.

Free trainings: A Guide to Success: Serving People with Disabilities of Various Cultures

The Center for Persons with Disabilities will be presenting the following training, A Guide to Success: Serving People with Disabilities of Various Cultures, and everyone is welcome.

Learn how to serve people with disabilities of various cultures in Tooele and Salt Lake.

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 


Salt Lake City, November 3rd, 1:00 to 4:00 p.m., SL County, 2001 So. State, Room N 3005.

Tooele, October 30th, 1:00 to 4:00 p.m., USU Tooele Regional Campus, 1021 West Vine Street, Room #159.

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

Looking for a fun Halloween event? NFB has the solution!

The NFB Halloween Costume Carnival will be Oct. 25 from noon to 4 at the CPD.