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.

Coming full circle with A.D.D: Highlighting hope for Learning Disability Awareness month

How one man's experience with A.D.D. became a resource for others.

By Bennett Purser

With the roar of saw blades and welding torches, the Assistive Technology Lab at the UATP is rarely a quiet place. As steel sparks and sawdust fill the air, the team of builders are busy creating custom devices, helping people to live, learn and cope in unimaginable ways. 

Clay Christensen, coordinator of the UATP AT Lab
Clay Christensen, coordinator of the
Assistive Technology Lab for the UATP
With the guidance of Clay Christensen, the AT Lab’s coordinator, the lab also provides high-tech computer equipment for people who experience learning disabilities from Autism, Dyslexia or Attention Deficit Disorder. 

As October is National Learning Disability Awareness Month, Christensen has been busy providing new software and creating custom devices. But, he’s also taken time to reflect on his own personal experience with learning disabilities.

Diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder at a young age, he remembers having trouble focusing, especially during lessons. He knew there was a lot for him to learn, back when assistive technology wasn’t as accessible.  

He also remembers being the only student in his college classes who used a recording device during the lecture, a device then that was big and noticeable.

“It was awkward, it was a little bit embarrassing,” he said. “I would sit down in class and set out this recorder on top of the desk and people would look at me like ‘Why does he need that?’”

But using that recorder and tools that were available at the time were what helped him to learn efficient study habits, which led to earning his degree in psychology from Utah State University. An achievement he accomplished with hard work and the help of assistive technology.

LiveScribe Smart Pen
A LiveScribe Smart Pen, programmed
to digitally record notes easily
uploaded to a computer.
Today, as assistance is much more accessible with iPads and computers, when students come to the lab, he introduces them to smart pens, iPads and apps, and all the computer software for their specific needs, serving as a resource for students and community members who also find themselves battling with a learning disability. 

“Sometimes I see the look of discouragement on their face, because they’re struggling,” Christensen said. “It’s been interesting for me to come full circle and say ‘I know how you feel, let me show you some things and share my experience with you, what I did to overcome this.’”

Reflecting on his younger self, he said he’s always had an interest in human behavior. Working now with persons with disabilities, the connection of the mind and the body through disabilities, has been fascinating. When he first became part of the UATP, he recalls feeling like he was introduced to a “new world” when he met the community of people with disabilities.

Christiensen modifying a walking device
Christiensen modifying a
walking device in the AT Lab 
“Until you work with this population, this group of wonderful people, you don't know what it is they’re going through or what it’s like to be in their shoes. I just fell in love with it almost instantly.”

Free online webinar: GoBabyGo: Power mobility for children with disabilities

The Utah Assistive Technology Program (UATP) 
will present a FREE online interactive training, 
“GoBabyGo: Power mobility for young children,” 
on Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2014 from 3:00 – 4:30 p.m. MST.

Kids just want to have fun, and GoBabyGo wants to make sure that all kids have that opportunity.  

Cole Galloway assists a child in GoBabyGo car
Cole Galloway assists a child in their GoBabyGo car.

Launched in 2006 by pediatric researcher and designer Cole Galloway, GoBabyGo collaborates with engineers and fashion designers, and parents and grandparents, to provide mobility to kids who have trouble moving on their own.

What started as custom robot-driven devices, then later developed into modifying off-the-shelf toy race-cars, GoBabyGo provides mobility for children with crawling and walking problems, empowering them to be part of the action at home, in the daycare center and on the playground.

By joining our webinar you will learn how to convert your own power toy car into a mobility device to promote play, exploration, and socialization. 

Kevin Christensen graduated from the University of Utah in 2013 with a Masters in Occupational Therapy. Currently, he works at the Utah Center for AssistiveTechnology (UCAT) as an Occupational Therapist and Assistive Technology Specialist. UCAT has been leading the way on the GoBabyGo project for Utah. Kevin primarily specializes in adaptive driving, seating & positioning, and workstation ergonomic assessments.
In order to participate, you will need a computer with high-speed Internet access.

RSVP: If you are interested in joining please RSVP by Monday, Oct. 27th. Contact Storee Powell via email storee.powell@usu.edu, or call 435-797-7412. Participant instructions will be emailed to you.

If you are a screen reader user, or need any other accommodations in order to participate in the training, please contact UATP Program Director Sachin Pavithran at 435-797-6572 or sachin.pavithran@usu.edu, no later than Friday, Oct. 24th to make arrangements to participate via phone. Please feel free to pass on this information to anyone that you think might be interested.

Assistive Technology reaches orphanage in Vietnam

How Assistive Technology from the UATP touched the lives of Vietnamese children. 

A child enjoys a therapeutic massage
A child enjoys a therapeutic massage.
Low-tech devices are sometimes the best solution to help an individual with a disability. That was certainly the case when UATP friend and colleague, Sheri Newton of the Disability Law Center, took some devices made in the AT Lab to Vietnam during a vacation in June.

While planning her trip, Sheri approached UATP about getting a few low-tech devices, from adapted eating utensils to adapted writing utensils, that she could take easily on the plane.

Sheri spent some time volunteering at a orphanage for kids with disabilities while in Vietnam, showing them the AT devices, helping with therapy and just spending time with the children.

Unfortunately, assistive technology, even the most inexpensive like these low-tech devices, is still unknown or not accessible in many parts of the world. UATP would like to thank Sheri and all of those that work to make those connections so people with disabilities the world over can have a higher quality of life through assistive technology.

Read on below to hear more about Sheri's experience. 

Dear Storee:

I'm writing with gratitude to the Utah Assistive Technology Program (UATP) for providing some simple assistive devices for me to share with orphans in Vietnam. After traveling to that beautiful country this summer, I have a cherished memory of spending a few hours volunteering at an orphanage for children with disabilities.

Sheri comforts a child while the other children test their new cots and chairs
Sheri found this child while everyone else in the room
was in adaptive chairs or laying on cots.

"He actually has strength in his legs and he liked
it when we held him so he could put his weight on
them," she said. "With the stretched resources at the
orphanage, I expect he will rarely have the chance
to exercise his legs or learn how to walk.
As he gets bigger, I'm afraid he will be
stuck in the cot or chair as well."
The facility I visited was small compared to the state-run school that holds over 300 children with disabilities. Upon entering, I found children sitting on the tile floor or ambulating with simple walking aids. They kids greeted us with excitement and immediately gathered around. They loved to touch my skirt or grab my hand to steal a moment of individual attention.

Upon climbing the stairs to another room, my companions and I were deeply moved. Children lay on cots or sat in adaptive chairs lined up in rows. A few toys in plastic shoe boxes were nested high on shelf. A couple of attendants kept the 14 children there clean and fed. That is all they had time for. It was impossible to distinguish between girls and boys. They all had their hair cut short. Some had fingernail polish or simple bracelets, gifts from another group. 

We learned later that this was still not an indication of gender, just of preference. When an aide who spoke English came along, I asked, "How old are the children here, between about 3 and 10?"

She explained that the children were up to age 23. I was astonished. Pointing to a child that I had assumed was four or five, she stated that he was 17-years-old. His 4-foot cot provided him plenty of room.

We spent the next couple of hours talking and singing to, holding, stretching and massaging the children. It was extraordinary and emotionally painful to have something as simple as stroking an arm or stretching a curled leg have such a profound effect. They hungered for it and they rewarded us with beaming faces and affection. The way that they lived was heart-wrenching to us; however, the strength of their spirit was magnetic.

We found that the adaptive spoons and writing tools were best suited for the circumstances. Most of the children must wait their turn for aids to feed them. A German woman with a little background in therapy working there was excited to have the tools to help some of the children to eat on their own or express themselves with crayons or markers.

"I wanted him to have love in his life," said Sheri, about her experience with this child.
"I was so drawn to this child," Sheri said.
"I thought she was a girl, but I believe they said she was a little boy.
He was happy and engaging,
I wanted to take him outside to feel the rain and the breeze,
to show him the world, to experience beautiful music,
to swim and play games. I wanted him to have love in his life."

I returned to the states with the aids for putting on shoes and socks (they didn't have any) and items to hold books in place. The only book I saw was one of my favorites, Susan Laughs that I had translated into Vietnamese and left at the home as a gift.

Thanks again UATP for providing me the opportunity to give something meaningful to these children and the exhausted 
workers who care for them. 

Your support is wonderful.

Sheri Newton
Disability Law Center of Utah

Meet the Blind Event: 1964 Reporter for the Beatles

If you are a Beatles fan, the Utah Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind has an event for you!

Every October, NFB sponsors a Meet the Blind Month event. These events are designed to highlight what people who are blind do, and the many great programs that NFB supports.

On Oct. 10th, Art Schriber, a blind writer who toured with The Beatles in 1964,will be presenting on his many stories and a new book that he has just published. 

This will be an outstanding event that demonstrating blind people are capable of many things and many careers. The event will be at the Redwood campus of Salt Lake Community College, 4600 South Redwood Road. Located in the Oak room on the second floor, inside the Student Center Building. 

Tickets for this event are $25 per person. Contact Karl Smith at 1-866-824-7885, or Everette Bacon at 801-631-8108 for tickets.

From the dorm room to classrooms: USU students experience assistive technology

How two students at Utah State University are embracing college with the help assistive technology.

By: Bennett Purser

As most students graduate high school with ambitions of college, those with intellectual disabilities have fewer options to make the transition from high school to higher education or a career. But at Utah State University, a college education for these students is becoming a reality with the new program Aggies Elevated and its use of assistive technology. 

Aggies Elevated, a unit of the Center for Persons with Disabilities and the Emma Eccles Jones College of Education and Human Services, at Utah State UniversityA fully inclusive, two-year post-secondary education certificate program,
Aggies Elevated is one of fewer than 250 such programs in the country to bring a college experience, and the necessary devices, 
to students transitioning from high school special education services. Housed in the Center for Persons with Disabilities, a unit of the Emma Eccles Jones College of Education and Human Services, the program is the only of its kind in the state of Utah.

But for Natalie and Amity, two of the eight students in the program, assistive technology devices are impacting everything from their dorm room to their classroom, making the adjustment a lot easier. Along with learning to live away from home, attending class, joining clubs and watching college football, their iPads have become part of their daily campus routine.

Natalie, who hopes to study in the arts, has not only utilized her new iPad for creative purposes, but uses its innovative educational features. While reading “Frankestein” by Mary Shelley, the required reading for all USU incoming freshman, Natalie said listening to the audio book on her iPad helped her to grasp the content. 
Natalie uses her iPad to make digital art
Natalie using her iPad to make digital art.

“It does flip the page by itself, it highlights the words and that’s actually how I understand Frankenstein,” she said. “It was actually a really great listen.”

She also frequents the iPad’s ‘speech to text function,’ while taking notes during lectures. This allows her to vocally record information thats translated into text and saved automatically for studying.

Amity, who struggled with navigating from class to class, created a virtual map of her route with the help of a Go-Pro camera. Now she watches videos of her destinations on her iPad as she makes her daily treks across campus. 

She also uses an app that assists with making sure she accomplishes all of her daily priorities. By setting alarms to remind her to do her homework, even to turn it in, her iPad helps her to remember all the small details. 

“I have really bad short term memory loss, so the only way I can get anything to click or make sense is by a checklist,” she said. “So if I’m making my bed, I have sheets and then covers, and the pillow.”

Amity paying her guitar at a student picnic
Amity playing her guitar at student picnic
Uploaded to the app are photos of Amity performing all of her morning steps, from making her bed, to grabbing her backpack and breakfast before she leaves her dorm room, there’s a checklist for everything. 

With a passion for music, Amity is also an avid writer, and guitar and piano player. She’s turned to her new iPad to record music and videos of her performances.

As Natalie and Amity continue their first semester, they’re engaged in all the great aspects of college. From joining clubs and discovering their interests, and certainly their education, they’re doing it all with assistive technology.

Free online webinar: EagleEyes: Eye-Control Mouse Technology

The Utah Assistive Technology Program will present 
a FREE online interactive training of 
“Eagle Eyes: Eye-Control Mouse Technology,” 
on Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014 from 3:00 – 4:30 p.m. MST.

The innovative technology of EagleEyes allows individuals to control a computer mouse simply with the movement of their eyes. Developed at Boston College, the eye-controlled computer mouse makes using a computer possible for individuals unable to properly use their hands for standard computer use. 

It is a unique device that serves a specific demographic of individuals who experience limited dexterity or complete paralysis, and/or lack full purposeful head movement. 
Because of its unique technology, it’s a device that will work for many individuals when other devices have failed. 

How it works:

By placing electrodes around the user’s eyes, the computer detects their eye movement and gives them the ability to control the computer’s mouse with the actions and rotations of the eye. It also allows for free head motion and can actually be augmented with purposeful head movements. 
EagleEyes can be used for recreation, communication and education. 

Developed at Boston College 20 years ago, there are over 270 systems distributed throughout the U.S. and Canada. Since 2006, this life changing technology has been available to the public, manufactured and distributed by The Opportunity Foundation of America, a 501(c)3 nonprofit.  

Andrew Loeffler will be presenting the webinar. He is the Director of Operations for The Opportunity Foundation of America, the sole manufacturer, distributor and trainer of the EagleEyes technology. Andrew has experience as an educator as a Chief Flight Instructor and adjunct faculty at Utah Valley University, where he developed unique and innovative curriculum and implemented standardization of teaching and training. 

He has been involved with the EagleEyes Project for three years starting out as a volunteer before becoming Project Developer and Director of Operations to enhance the service, support and accessibility of the EagleEyes technology. His background in business, technology and education brings a unique perspective to the special needs community. 

Join us to learn how EagleEyes works, how to use its service, the audience it serves, its comparison to other devices and how it’s being used in schools, homes and care centers to change lives, that in many cases, have never been able experience the operation of a computer. In order to participate, you will need a computer with high-speed Internet access. 


If you are interested in joining please RSVP by Tuesday, Sept. 30thContact Storee Powell via email storee.powell@usu.edu, or call 435-797-7412. Participant instructions will be emailed to you.

If you are a screen reader user, or need any other accommodations in order to participate in the training, please contact UATP Program Director Sachin Pavithran at 435-797-6572 or sachin.pavithran@usu.edu, no later than Monday, Sept. 29th to make arrangements to participate via phone. Please feel free to pass on this information to anyone that you think might be interested.