Thursday, July 18, 2019

Independence, unboxed: UATP small grant gives mobility

Scooter “will allow me to once again get out and enjoy life”

scooter on a wooden floor
A small grant from UATP facilitated
the purchase of this scooter.
ST GEORGE--This thank you note regarding a small grant from the Utah Assistive Technology Program was reprinted with permission from Kathryn Naron.

Dear Lois,

Red Rock Center for Independence recently assisted me in applying for a Utah Assistive Technology Program small grant in the amount of $400 to go towards the purchase of an electric mobility scooter. I received word on Tuesday that the grant was approved, and the scooter was ordered today.

I want to thank you and all those who participated in the grant approval process. It means more to me than I can possibly describe, but I will try.

Prior to my retirement from the Foundation of Dixie Regional Medical Center in 2012, I enjoyed a full life in spite of pain stemming from multiple degenerative, inflammatory, and neurological ailments. After retirement, I tried to maintain a certain level of activity and sense of purpose by volunteering in the community, serving on boards or committees of several non-profit organizations, and being a member of a professional choir. 

However, over the past 5 years, my body continued to deteriorate and pain increased. The last two years brought mostly immobility. Dropping out of every activity I had previously enjoyed caused feelings of despair. Self-imposed isolation became increasingly frequent. I was unable to stand for more than a couple of minutes or walk any distance, and life came to a screeching halt.
The decision to go anywhere at all had to be measured by how far I would have to walk or stand in a line. More often than not, knowing how much pain I would endure prevented me from going. 

I purchased a used transport chair hoping to get out more, but that requires asking someone to push me. For an independent (and perhaps a little too prideful) woman, that’s a difficult ask. It was just easier to sit at home and mope.  

The UATF grant of $400 that facilitated the purchase of an electric mobility scooter will, singularly, allow me to once again be more functional at home, be active in the community, and to get out and enjoy life. I will not only regain mobility, but quality of life and a renewed sense of purpose.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. From the bottom of my heart, the deepest appreciation.

Sincerely,

Kathryn Naron

Thursday, July 11, 2019

UATP appreciates its summer interns!

It’s summer at the Utah Assistive Technology Program—and that means we are enjoying a new crop of interns. Here’s a quick introduction.

Three men bend over a table in the AT Lab
Ray (right) works with volunteer Nick Wolford (far left) and employee Brandon Griffin.

Raymond Emmart, Logan


Raymond Emmart is a 14-year army veteran with a combat disability. After completing an associate’s in general technology, he is now a student at Utah State University working on a bachelor’s in tech systems with an emphasis on controls, robotics and automation. 

His internship in Logan is voluntary. He has put in more than 300 hours since May. The experience will look good on his resume, and more than that, he’s enjoyed it.

 “I’m having a lot of fun here,” he said. His work with the lab means that he is sometimes present when people receive a device that makes a difference in their lives. Recently he saw the reaction when a man received a wheelchair ramp and was almost in tears. “It’s very touching when you see stuff like that,” he said. 

Ray’s mother was a nurse, so he gained a lot of exposure to the disability field. The internship was the first time he worked in it himself, though. 

“His experience has been very beneficial here. He’s helped us streamline and get organized,” said Dan O’Crowley, Logan’s UATP coordinator. “He’s got a very good engineering mind, so when we tackle a project, he brings a lot to the table. He is good at looking at it from a different perspective, which can be very helpful. It’s been very nice not to have to train him.

“His background as a veteran has been very helpful as we’ve worked with them. He’s been able to connect with veterans because of that common experience.”

action shot
Noah operates at power drill at UATP in the Uintah Basin.

Noah Sadlier, Uintah Basin


Noah Sadlier started as a volunteer and is now a paid intern at UATP in the Uintah Basin. “I’m organizing tools and putting in new wheelchair batteries,” he said. “I’ve also been cleaning up, sweeping, taking out trash, vacuuming.”

He has learned to shine up an old wheelchair and take measurements, too. 

Noah comes to us through a partnership with the Community Employment Placement Program with the Uintah School District. The program teaches work, vocational and daily living skills to students and adults with disabilities. “Noah’s a very fast learner and he’s worked hard,” said Sarah Chandler, the program’s coordinator. “We’re really proud of him.”

“He is developing a comfort zone in knowing what needs to be done, and gets busy on his own,” said Cameron Cressall, UATP’s Uintah Basin coordinator. “He’s getting that confidence that he knows he’s doing a good job. I hope he realizes that it’s not just a job. He’s helping people. He gets to see the difference that he’s making in people’s lives."

Welcome. interns! 

Friday, July 5, 2019

UATP’s new Logan coordinator is a familiar face

portrait
Dan O'Crowley
The Utah Assistive Technology Program welcomes a new coordinator in Logan.

Dan O’Crowley started with UATP in the spring of 2016 as a volunteer in the AT Lab, then became a lab technician. He is now a junior in mechanical engineering at Utah State University.

“Growing up, I had a mind for mechanical engineering. I always thought I would go in that direction.” he said. “I realized at one point I wanted to work with people, not just objects. This lab has been a great combination of those two.”

Dan has already seen the difference assistive technology can make in people’s lives, both on the long- and short-term. “A lot of people come to the lab with a lot of frustration. It’s great to be able to have the tools on hand to solve that problem.”

Once, a man who broke his ankle came in after getting around on crutches for a week. “He was just exhausted, trying to do that,” Dan said. “At a sports event he saw someone else with a knee scooter, and then he came and borrowed another one out from us.”

UATP’s fabrication capabilities have also helped people with long-term needs. Dan and UATP volunteer Mike Stokes worked to make a 3-D printed prosthetic device for a child to help him color, paint and use an iPad. That ongoing project has helped the boy be successful at school, and he has taken the device home to use it there, too.

action shot
Chance paints using a 3D printed device
from UATP in Logan.
The Logan program is working with physical and occupational therapists to collaborate, use their expertise and offer solutions to clients, Dan said. The goal is to provide AT in affordable, practical ways to the people who need it.

“Generally speaking we prefer people to come to us,” Dan said. “If they’re a long distance away, we will try to Skype and work out most or as many of the details and plan sometime in the future to cross paths to transfer the device to them.”

For more information on UATP and its services, visit our website.

_____________________

Are you a Utahn with an assistive technology need? UATP has locations in Logan and the Uintah Basin that can help you find ways to maintain or improve your independence. Both locations also have a demonstration and loan library where items can be checked out, compared to similar devices and used before a purchase is made. Devices can also be refurbished, reused, customized and built from the ground up to suit a particular need.

UTAP’s Salt Lake City location focuses on putting refurbished mobility devices into the hands of people who need it, for a fee that is usually less than an insurance deductible. 

UATP also offers small grants and low-interest loans for the purchase of AT. This service is available to Utahns statewide.

Monday, July 1, 2019

Independent living center serves more people, thanks to UATP


Ricardo Mora received a chair from UATP in
Salt Lake City, through a referral from
Ability 1st. It raises and lowers, which helps him
access the higher-up items in his house.
PROVO—Independent living center staff members know the pattern: receive assistive technology budget money once a year, use it to help as many clients as possible. When it’s gone, it’s gone—and often they run out of money before they run out of budget year. 

But Kathy Tucker and Shelly Lund at Ability 1st in Provo have found ways to keep providing mobility devices to people who need them, even after the money runs out. The Utah Assistive Technology Program has played a big part in that strategy.

“Tom’s a lifesaver,” said Kathy, who is the equipment manager at Ability 1st. “If it wasn’t for him, we wouldn’t be able to help as many people throughout the year.”

Tom coordinates UATP’s Salt Lake City location, which focuses specifically on mobility equipment. His shop receives donated wheelchairs, refurbishes them and transfers them to people who need them for an affordable fee. The cost is usually less than an insurance deductible.

Shelly, the center’s assistive technology coordinator, said they have often used both small grants and equipment from UATP in Salt Lake City to help clients receive a refurbished wheelchair. Sometimes the clients don’t have insurance. Sometimes they do, but they need a loaner chair so that they can get where they need to go while waiting for the necessary medical and insurance approvals—which can take months.

One family had been so tapped out by medical bills that they could not afford the deductible on a new chair for a ten-year-old girl with a chronic illness. They turned to UATP’s small grant program for funding, and to UATP in Salt Lake City for a chair.

“I know the mom was really happy that Tom was able to find a color of the chair that she liked,” Shelly said.

They referred another client, Ricardo Mora, to UATP. Now he has a motorized chair that lifts him so he can reach the cupboards in his kitchen. 

Clients have also been able to use devices from the Ability 1st loan bank, thanks to help from UATP. It started years ago, when the independent living center swapped several broken-down chairs for one working, refurbished one.  “That’s how we were able to loan out equipment,” said Kathy. “That helped out because sometimes I wouldn’t have power wheelchairs for months.”

People now donate equipment to the center, but sometimes it needs some help to get working properly. Tom has helped with that, too, either parting out wheelchairs that are not usable or talking them through repairing a chair that can still be used. “If there’s a power chair and it’s not running, a lot of time we can call Tom and he can tell us what’s wrong with it,” Kathy said. It helps a lot when they don’t have the budget money to send a chair to a vendor for repairs.

He has helped train them on basic wheelchair repairs as well—and they’ve passed that knowledge on to clients.

“They’ve been really good to partner with,” said Tom from his office in Salt Lake City. “They’re good at helping us follow up with clients in that area and exchanging information.” 

They have also donated equipment to UATP in Salt Lake—chairs he can refurbish or part out. “They collaborate with us pretty well.”



Friday, June 7, 2019

UATP prepares boy for summer fun (and therapy)

action photo of boy smiling on therapeutic trike
Kobe tries out his new trike

ROOSEVELT—Thanks to a donated, therapeutic trike, 7-year-old Kobe will be able to work on therapy and hang out with siblings and friends, all at the same time.

Kobe’s doctor recommended that he do some bike riding to help build up his leg strength and work his hips. He has a rare genetic condition called CDG-PMM2, and it affects his muscles, brain and balance, so a therapeutic trike was a good—but expensive—fit. (A quick google search for therapeutic trikes netted several examples, starting at $1000.)

“We needed something that had a seat back and seat belts and something that could snap his feet in,” said his mother, Raquel Labrum.

She talked to Utah Assistive Technology Program coordinator Cameron Cressall. They began looking into options. Then Cameron learned a therapeutic trike had been donated to UATP. He picked it up, did a little cleaning and refurbishing, and called Kobe’s family out to see how it would work for them. 

“He rode it when we got it that day,” said Raquel. Then they took it home and he rode it some more at his dad’s work. “He’s very social and he likes to play with friends, so this will give him another tool that he can use.”

 
Mother pushes the boy, who is wearing a seat belt. His foot pedals are strapped to his feet.
Kobe and Raquel

Do you need affordable equipment? Do you have used equipment to donate or sell? UATP has several options for you, including our new Classifieds feature. Find out more on our website.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

UATP financing helps veteran receive a van to fit his spirit

action photo
Bryan and Kim demonstrate the lift in his new van.
SANDY--As an outdoor enthusiast, Bryan Rowe skied, snow-boarded and mountain biked through Utah’s stunning landscapes. As a member of the US armed forces, he went to northern Iraq after the Gulf War to help provide comfort, build roads and manage refugee camps. As a custom woodworker, he has literally left his mark in many Utah landmarks, including the Utah State Capitol, the Salt Lake Library, the First Presbyterian Church of Salt Lake City and the Coffee Garden on 9th and 9th. 

As an army veteran with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), he needs some customization of his own. The degenerative, neurological disease has affected his movement, and getting in and out of his truck became more difficult. 

In the fall of 2018, Bryan and his friend Kim Olmore began looking for an adapted van that could transport him and the wheelchair he received from the Veterans’ Administration. (When this interview took place in May 2019, the ALS had affected Bryan’s speech. Kim offered some background and interpreted for him.) They knew he would also need financing that would help pay for the modifications, which would drive the price of the van well above its blue book value. 

They learned of the Utah Assistive Technology Program’s reduced-interest loans and began working with Lois Summers, UATP’s financing coordinator. UATP is part of the Center for Persons with Disabilities at Utah State University.

Summers and UATP partner Zions Bank put together a loan that financed the van Bryan wanted—a Ram Promaster. 

The conversions were done in a way that would not affect the van’s warranty, Kim said.

They bought the van from a dealer in the Midwest. The dealership manager’s father drove it out to them over the Thanksgiving holiday, free of charge. “It’s just a unique breed of people when it comes to this type of situation,” Kim said. “It was amazing customer service.”

The van features a lift system that allows Bryan to keep a lower profile in his wheelchair, so he can see out of the windows. It also has a back bench seat that allows for the transport of additional passengers. He’s used it to see friends and attend barbecues, and he hopes to make a trip to the Oregon Coast to see his parents. 

The van purchase would not have happened without UATP, Bryan said. “I got the van to fit my spirit.”

Bryan, Kim and Elsie, Bryan's Vizsla dog.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

USU's engineering design night features low-cost trike

students pose with the bike
Student designers from left to right: Nathan Linville,
Zachary Wilson, Connor Toone and Liz Housley
Students from Utah State University's College of Engineering partnered with the Utah Assistive Technology Program and Intermountain Pediatric Rehabilitation to build a therapeutic trike. This ongoing project could open up more opportunities for families to work on a youngster's physical therapy at home.

Students from USU's Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering department, UATP volunteer Mike Stokes and Intermountain Pediatric Rehabilitation physical therapist Shaun Dahle collaborated on the project. They showed it off during Senior Design Night at Utah State University.

Several versions of therapeutic trikes are on the market, but they are more expensive and less adjustable than the prototype created by the engineering students. The group consulted with Dahle and UATP volunteer Stokes as they crafted their design. "We've used every kind of trike, so we know [what works]," Dahle said.

"There is a need for families to have a lower-cost alternative to these special needs trikes," said Stokes. "The goal is that through the [UATP] lab, we'll rebuild these based on need. The students will be giving us a set of plans, they kept track of where they bought the parts. We will just build as many as there's a need for."

UATP, which is part of the Center for Persons with Disabilities, paid for materials used in developing the trike. The plan now is to use donated time, labor and equipment at UATP in Logan to construct additional trikes for families who pay for materials. "We're looking at families who cannot afford or do not have insurance, and we will build it... we can save them money," Stokes said.

The bike project is currently awaiting the university's approval before the design can be used off-campus.

The trike could benefit children who have not yet walked or crawled, Dahle said. "I've taken kids that you'd think would never ride a bike... This actually teaches kids how to reciprocate their legs." The act of pushing one pedal after the other is similar to the motion needed for walking or crawling, he said. "A lot of kids that don't do those things can ride this bike."

The trike can be made for $580 in material and parts (expertise and welding equipment not included).   The plan would make the equipment available at 40 to 15 percent of the cost of therapeutic trikes that are currently on the market.

The students' design also includes some built-in, improved usability.

"We took cues from existing designs," said Nathan Linville, one of the project's team members. One feature their trike had that existing designs did not: a seat that could be adjusted up and down, forward and back. It also allows the child to power the bike by pushing the pedals, or to "freewheel" while the parents push. This would allow the parents to still push a child home if the child's legs became tired or stiff.

The students who worked on the project included Linville, Liz Housley, Connor Toone and Zachary Wilson.


The project's people cluster around a version of the trike
Project manager Derek Scott, volunteer Mike Stokes and the four students work on a version of the trike in the metal factory at Utah State University. Photo courtesy of Intermountain Healthcare.





"