Monday, May 22, 2017

Family prepares for a summer of bike rides, thanks to Logan AT Lab

Parker and Chris try the bike out for the first time.

The Layton family likes to bike together. But when Parker, 8, outgrew the bike trailer they were using to tow him, they needed another option; preferably one that would allow Parker to sit in front of the person pedaling for him. (Parker has Down syndrome.)

The Laytons hoped he could ride where they could see him during their outdoor ventures.

They looked online, and found a solution that would work... for $5,000.

So they began networking with other families of Down Syndrome children, in person and on Facebook, "The first hit we got said, 'We're following this because we have the same problem,'" said Christopher Layton, Parker's dad. They found a used bike in Texas, but before they could make arrangements to bring it to their home in Utah, it was gone.

"I thought about a GoFundMe page," Christopher said. When a friend suggested he should contact the Utah Assistive Technology Program's Assistive Technology Lab, he gave it a try.

Within days he was talking to Mike Stokes, a volunteer with the AT Lab. Mike brought in Todd McGregor, another volunteer, and together they began creating something new and wonderful, using parts from five old bikes...

... a high-end jogging stroller and a custom-made box...

... plus a sawed-off chair.

Photo of Atkinson by the chair
Shawn Atkinson with his donated creation.

Shawn Atkinson of Atkinson Furniture & Upholstery covered the chair in Aggie blue and added the U State logo. Jim Kofed at the Logan Deseret Industries donated bikes and other materials.

The two volunteers took it out for a test spin, to make sure it felt strong enough to support an eight-year-old boy.

photo of Mike and Todd, testing the equipment. Mike is riding in the box.

Finally, they finished the project...

...and invited the family over to give it a try. Parker was nervous about the harness, but once he wore the lap belt and experienced a ride, he was smiling wide.

"The biggest reward in volunteering at the AT Lab is seeing the expressions of happiness, and knowing that the person will live a better life when we complete a project," said Stokes.

Photo of Parker, smiling, as he rides with his dad in the new bike.
Parker's first ride, in a slow, controlled environment. He is wearing a lap belt in this photo, and will wear safety gear
as he becomes more accustomed to the new equipment.
"It's been a godsend to us," Chris said. "Everything just fell together, one piece after another."

Monday, May 15, 2017

Construction business grows, thanks to UATF

York Martinez received a loan from the Utah Assistive Technology Foundation to help land his first big construction contract. Four years later, his business is growing and employing others.

York Martinez had experience, a construction business plan and a large contract waiting—but he needed more equipment. He was a veteran with a disability, and he wasn’t having much luck getting a loan from a traditional lender.

He turned to the Utah Microenterprise Loan Fund and the Utah Assistive Technology Foundation, which work together to provide low-interest loans to entrepreneurs with disabilities. Martinez got the loan, bought the equipment, and landed his first long-term contract. “It made it very easy for me, especially when I was trying to start a business,” he said.

Small business loans from UMLF and UATF allow small business owners to apply for a loan and pay the prime interest rate, minus .25 percent. Loans run from $500 to $25,000, and there is no income limit to apply.

Today, more than four years after Martinez came to us, CastraCon LLC is still doing business, working with partners, employing three people full-time, and providing work to many others as construction projects become available. The business is solid and growing, Martinez said. Working with business partners allows them all to keep a pool of good construction workers employed.

For more information on small business loans through the Utah Assistive Technology Foundation, call 800-524-5-152 or visit their webpage.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Know a smart marketing student? Send them to us!

The CReATE initiative seeks a summer intern who is at least a junior in marketing. If you're interested, and you have marketing and marketing research savvy, this is for you! If you go to Utah State University, apply for Job #95466 at Career Aggie. If you don't, contact JoLynne at 435.797.7412 . 

This position is available to candidates from all Utah universities. CReATE is located in Salt Lake City.

This position will last for 12 weeks.

CReATE is an initiative that puts refurbished mobility devices into the hands of Utahns who need them.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Webinar updates: iPad apps and CoughDrop

Our next webinar is tomorrow, Wednesday, April 19. Did you miss the email? It's not too late to sign up, but you must do it today. The video will also be archived on our YouTube channel.

Also, videos from our last webinar are now available. Details below.

CoughDrop webinar

Looking for info on alternative and augmentative information? Join us for a free webinar on Wednesday, April 19 at 3:30 MDT.

The Utah Assistive Technology Program is teaming up with My CoughDrop to present a webinar on cloud-based and affordable alternative and augmentative communication. This will be broadcast on Wednesday, April 19 and will be archived later on our YouTube channel.

Scot Wahlquist joins us on Wednesday, April 19 at 3:30 MDT to walk us through features of CoughDrop.

CoughDrop is an augmentative and alternative communication app that utilizes the cloud and allows teams to access it across multiple platforms and devices.

Scot will be showing several unique cloud features to build a stronger team around the communicator including:
  • Creating, editing, and sharing boards from your laptop, then synching to the device of the communicator;  
  • Goal setting features, data and reporting tools;
  • Modeling across multiple supporters' devices to build a stronger AAC experience for the entire team.
To attend, RSVP to JoLynne at utahat[at] To find the archived version, check back with our YouTube channel.

Videos from iPad apps for reading & comprehension

Our last webinar, iPad apps for reading & comprehension, provided fodder for several short videos now available on our YouTube channel. Please go there for quick demonstrations of Google Read&WriteNotability, the LiveScribe Echo SmartpenCoWriterClaro ScanPen and Prizmo.

Monday, April 3, 2017

A custom-made part keeps Logan man rolling to his job

Johne came to the Logan AT Lab last week because he needed a repair. His wheelchair takes a beating when he pulls it out of his car every day, and the part where the foot pedal attaches to the chair was close to the breaking point.

My insurance ordered it, but that's not helping me now," he said. "I have to go to work."
So he asked AT Lab volunteer Mike Stokes for help.

Johne works as an electronics tester in Logan. He also wants to train for the 5K Run, Walk and Roll race he will be doing with his wife in Salt Lake City to benefit families and survivors of brain injury.

With the weather warming up, he wanted a chair that could survive some extra outdoor use.

Mike found some parts from a different chair and got to work cutting them to fit Johne's needs.

And before the morning was out, Johne had a working wheelchair.

Because sometimes, waiting isn't an option.

Friday, March 10, 2017

CReATE's Tom Boman: a success story that keeps on giving

Tom Boman coordinates the CReATE program in
Salt Lake City.
It’s a familiar story with a surprise twist: Man acquires a disability. Man loses job. Man gets another job. Thanks to this unexpected career change, hundreds of other Utahns get moving again.

Tom Boman has been with UATP since 2013—long enough that his “happily ever after” has some hefty numbers behind it. Since he started with the CReATE (Citizens Reutilizing Assistive Technology Equipment) program in Salt Lake City, he has helped 569 people receive mobility devices that otherwise might have ended up in the dump. Without the program’s help, many, many people would not have been able to move as independently.

His story with the Utah Assistive Technology Program began with the sudden onset of vertigo. “I still don’t have a diagnosis,” he said. “I’ve been to all the rock star specialists in Salt Lake.” With time, he figured out that his symptoms were much better when he was moving around, and that allowed him to stop using heavy medication. But his days of working at a desk were over.

Tom poses with Gideon, a wheelchair recipient.
Boman poses with Gideon, one of  many happy clients.

He started work with Deseret Industries, an employment program that teaches new skills to its associates, first within the setting of the DI thrift store and then, after a trial period, with temporary business partnerships. And that is how Boman first met Clay Christensen, the Assistive Technology Lab Coordinator at UATP. Both CReATE and UATP are part of the Center for Persons with Disabilities at Utah State University.

Christensen put Boman to work in the Logan AT Lab while Deseret Industries paid his wages as part of the internship program. Christensen noticed right away that Boman was comfortable with tools, he had an excellent work ethic and he was able to keep organized in an environment that could easily be overwhelmed with donations.

Rollin Woodward, another client
At the time, CReATE was operating as a UATP initiative in Salt Lake, but it needed a new person to staff it. Someone who was self-motivated, organized and good at tinkering with mechanical things. Christensen offered the position to Tom, who commuted between Salt Lake and Logan for a year before he became a full-time coordinator of the program--and a Salt Lake City resident.

“He went down there and he turned it around,” Christensen said. In 2014 the program was transferring about 10 devices a month. In 2016 the average was around 20.

Boman’s job has helped many, many people along the way. “I can’t sit, but I work with people who can’t walk,” he said. CReATE fills a need that often goes unnoticed in Utah. After all, if people are unable to move independently, they’re not likely to be out on the street where they can be noticed. But their joy at getting their mobility back is unmistakable.

“It’s quite common for some of the mobility devices we transfer to almost become an extension of people’s bodies,” Boman said in an earlier interview. “We refurbished a power wheelchair for a lady that enabled her to continue her work on a medical assembly production line. The power seat on her previous chair stopped working, and she spent months not being able to change her body position for her ten-hour shifts. The power wheelchair we worked on for her has power rehabilitation seating that enables her to elevate herself up to the correct height, and to vary her body position to eliminate fatigue and injury. Seeing that direct impact on people’s lives makes this work very rewarding.”

photo of Daemon
Daemon Wabel
Stacey Webel turned to CReATE when her son, Daemon, outgrew his chair and the $4000 deductible on a new one was just too far out of reach. Boman found a chair that would work, made some modifications so that it would continue to suit the needs of a growing boy. When they introduced Daemon to his new chair, it was a happy moment. He cannot speak, but he communicated all the same. “He screamed with delight,” Stacey said. “He was just bouncing around in there. He loved this chair.”

The need is real. Insurance typically pays for a wheelchair every five years, but they often break down before then. Warranties expire. Children outgrow their chairs. Sometimes, even when insurance does replace a chair, people often have to wait for weeks or months for it to arrive.

CReATE steps in to fill the these gaps, taking donated chairs, refurbishing them and providing them to people who need them, often for less money than an insurance deductible.

The program serves people regardless of age, income or insurance status. It does it on a shoestring, with the help of Boman, a part-time staff member and a group of dedicated volunteers.

Need a wheelchair, knee scooter or other mobility device? Visit the CReATE web page on the Utah Assistive Technology Program website. There, you can find a referral form. To contact CReATE directly, call 801.887.9398.

Want to help? Donations are always welcome. CReATE is working now to deliver a power wheelchair to Jacques, a young disability activist in Burkina Faso, Africa. The wheelchair is ready, but we must raise funds for the shipping. Find out more on the Yembre Go Fund Me page.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Free March 16 webinar addresses apps for reading & comprehension

At the Utah Assistive Technology Program, we are often asked: Are there applications that help students--especially those in special education--with reading and comprehension?

Kent Remund of the Utah Center for Assistive Technology will explore that question during our next webinar. Join us for a one-hour look at iPad apps and a demonstration of the Livescribe Echo Smart Pen. 

This free presentation takes place March 16 at 10 am MST. It will later be archived on the UATP YouTube channel and on this blog.

To sign up--or to get information on how to access the archived webinar: email JoLynne at this address: