Monday, December 2, 2019

Can't hear on the phone? Here are some options for Utahns.

golden, old fashioned phone
Can't hear on the phone? It's time to upgrade!
We at UATP recently interviewed representatives of several services for people who have trouble hearing on the phone. Relay UtahCapTel and CaptionCall. It’s been enlightening for us to learn how many resources are available, and how many of those resources are free. Here’s are some answers to common questions.

What are some captioning options if I’m having trouble hearing people on the phone?


CaptionCall phone
Captioned phones are available at no charge, with no income restrictions, to people who qualify. Clients must be certified to need the equipment by an audiologist or hearing professional, but once they have that certification, the phone and the captioning service are both free. 

Providers include CapTel and CaptionCall. Both services have representatives in the state who can help with the installation and trouble-shooting of the equipment.

Relay Utah loans amplified phones, captioned telephones, and mobile accessories at no cost to people who meet the income (200 percent or less of US poverty guidelines) and medical requirements.

Applications are available at Relay Utah.  

CapTel phone
Where can I get a demonstration of phones for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing?


Relay Utah offers two demo centers, one in Salt Lake City and one in St. George. These centers offer a variety of devices and options for Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and Speech challenged individuals. 

The Sanderson Community Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing also has an AT demonstration lab in both Salt Lake City and St. George, where people can find out what options are available not just for using the phone but for other situations. Equipment can be loaned on a short-term basis to people who live in the state of Utah. In addition, the center can bring equipment to demonstrate for those who cannot travel. 

UATP in Logan has phones from both CapTel and Caption Call. UATP in the Uintah Basin has a CapTel phone. These phones are for demonstration only; from there we can refer you to the providers.

Are there any mobile options for captioned phones?


Yes. CaptionCall offers a captioning service that works on an iPad, essentially turning it into a captioned phone. It allows the user to view captions on an iPad via wifi or cellular data. The app is free; the user must provide the iPad.

CapTel offers captioning on mobile devices through a third-party app. 

Relay Utah has a limited pilot program to explore the feasibility of using wireless devices to address telecommunication needs for Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and Speech challenged individuals. The devices are available on a first-come, first-served basis, and they are subject to income (200 percent or less of US poverty guidelines) and medical requirements. 

Where do I go for technical support for a captioned phone?


Both CaptionCall and CapTel offer in-home installation and support. Both services offer some troubleshooting on their websites and on the phone.

This information is to help inform Utahns of assistive technology options. UATP does not endorse any one service or technology provider.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Chair modifications come in the nick of time

portrait of Steven in his wheelchair
Steven Bryggman in his modified chair
SALT LAKE CITY—Steven Bryggman has used a wheelchair for nine and a half years, at home and at work at Kroger Stores’ Data Integrity Center. But when his new motorized wheelchair came with some built-in obstacles, it was a real threat to his independence.

The problem was in the chair’s arm rests. He could raise them, but they wouldn’t stay up. If he tightened the screws, they became too tight to move. If he loosened them, they were too loose to hold the arms up. And that made transferring from his new chair to the bed or the toilet or the shower bench just about impossible.

“I live alone. I’m trying to remain as independent as I can,” he said. “I rely on my chair to help me through everything.”

He heard about the services offered at the Utah Center for Assistive Technology, and went there to ask for help. They referred him to Tom Boman at the Utah Assistive Technology Program. Boman is UATP’s Salt Lake City coordinator, and last year his shop refurbished more than two hundred wheelchairs. 

Armed with that experience, Tom looked at Steven’s wheelchair. It’s unusual for UATP in Salt Lake City to do customization work, he said. (UATP in Logan and the Unitah Basin both offer customization services.) The bulk of the work in the shop he coordinates is focused on refurbishing chairs and getting them into the hands of people who need them. Often, it’s easier to supply a refurbished chair to a client, who rolls away with a better, newer model that works.

Still, “If it’s necessary for someone, we’ll give customization a try,” Tom said. And in Steven’s case, the customization was clearly needed. Steven still had years to wait until his insurance would pay for another chair, and the one he had wasn’t working. He’d held onto his former chair, too, but it was more than seven years old. It was developing problems. 

Tom took on the challenge and delved into the parts inventory at the warehouse. “We happened to have two linear actuators that were the right size,” he said. “Not only does it have to extend to the right length, but it has to retract.”

He used the actuators to modify Steven’s wheelchair so its arms were motorized, activated by a switch. They would go up and stay up until the switch put them down again.

The changes made it possible for Steven to transfer from his wheelchair again. And the modifications were completed just as Steven’s old chair broke down.

“What a godsend,” he said. “It happened at the last moment.”

Tom and Steven plan to have his old chair refurbished there as well, so he will have a reliable back-up.

“He’s a great guy,” Tom said. “He was gracious, and very patient.”

“What these guys do is incredible,” Steven said. “I have a new chair that’s reliable. I still have my independence.”

To find out more about how UATP reuses and customizes equipment, visit our website.

Want to get involved?


UATP in Salt Lake City transfers donated and refurbished chairs to people for an affordable fee—usually less than an insurance deductible. It does not matter whether a client is insured, but the work depends heavily on volunteers. 

The Salt Lake City location is looking for more people to help them supply affordable chairs to those who need them. More volunteers would mean fewer people on the waiting list. If you are a person who likes to tinker, who is able to come into the shop on a regular basis, we’d love to hear from you! For more information, contact Tom Boman.


Thursday, October 31, 2019

UATP presenters reflect on “proving” disability


Sachin smiles, a microphone in one hand and a white cane in the other.
UATP Director Sachin Pavithran at the "Disrupt" event.
Two UATP presenters spoke at the “Disrupt” 2019 Inclusive Excellence Symposium at Utah State University on Wednesday. While their presentations were very different, they both spoke of the frustrating and sometimes infuriating need to “prove” their disability—or their ability. 

This led to some reflection on whether people who use UATP services need to prove their disability. (The short answer is mostly no, they don’t—but keep reading.)

Proving ability


UATP Program Director Sachin Pavithran was once confronted by a professor after he turned in a major paper. Pavithran was studying information systems at the time, and the project was a paper on how to structure software design. It was a major project that counted heavily toward his grade, and because Pavithran is blind, the professor was convinced he had plagiarized. 

“I was called into his office and he asked, ‘Who did your project,” Pavithran said. “Not, ‘How did you do your project.’ His assumption was, ‘Who did your project?’”

In an interview this morning, Pavithran said he isn’t sure if the professor didn’t believe he could type it up himself, or if he just thought Pavithran couldn’t have conceptualized it. He is sure the professor wanted him kicked out of the program. Pavithran ended up in a meeting with the professor, his own academic advisor, the department head and the director of the disability resource center. The professor questioned not only the paper but the tests Pavithran had taken at the DRC. 

Pavithran's academic advisor had a daughter who was blind, and she was a fierce advocate for him. The disability resource center director outlined the steps her center had taken to make sure the tests were fair. And in the end, Pavithran remained in the program, with a C in the class. He remains convinced the final grade—which was based on two nearly-perfect tests and that one project—was assigned to him because of suspicion, not because he earned it.

Social Media Specialist Storee Powell at the "Disrupt" event

Proving disability


In a separate presentation later in the day, Social Media Coordinator Storee Powell described how draining it is to have an invisible disability that she must prove to others, again and again, as they seem to expect her to justify the need for services or accommodations.

Powell looks young and healthy, but she was diagnosed with Ehlers Daniels Syndrome in 2018—after 10 years of misdiagnoses, chronic pain and a host of other worsening symptoms. 

It was a long, painful wait for a correct diagnosis. “If you don’t have a name for what you have, you kind of don’t exist,” she said. “It was really hard to explain it to the people around me.”

Powell urged her listeners not to ask anyone—even those who look healthy—why they need an accessible parking stall or bathroom stall, or why they use an elevator or need extra bathroom breaks. People with disabilities often have to ration their energy, she said; it’s best not to make them spend it justifying why they need accommodations.

Will you have to “prove” a disability to receive UATP equipment?


The short answer is no. UATP has locations in Logan, the Uintah Basin and Salt Lake City. None of the locations deal with insurance. They simply don’t work with insurance companies.

The facilities in Logan and the Uintah Basin offer devices to people who need them through the reuse of refurbished equipment, or by customizing a device to fit individual needs. Sometimes fees are charged to cover the cost of the materials. Both locations also have demonstration and loan libraries that allow people to learn more about available technology, and even try it before they decide what to purchase.

Coordinators don’t need a doctor’s note or a diagnosis to provide these services. If they ask their clients questions, it is with the goal of matching the person’s needs to the right assistive technology.

The Salt Lake City facility focuses just on refurbishing mobility equipment like walkers and wheelchairs (at last count, their inventory was more than 400 devices). There, too, a diagnosis or doctor’s note isn’t necessary. 

About our financial services…

UATP also offers financing to help people afford assistive technology devices. Proof of disability is not required for UATP’s small grants or reduced-interest assistive technology loans. 

Proof of disability is required for UATP’s reduced-interest, small business loans to entrepreneurs with disabilities. These loans are often used to start or expand a business. While they may be used for purchasing equipment, they may be used for other purposes, too. 

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Customized bike pedals prevent injury in Logan

action shot
Wyatt Goodwin, using his customized pedals
LOGAN--Wyatt Goodwin likes having some transportation, and his physical therapist likes him to ride his recumbent bike. But when his foot slipped off the pedal last year, the bike kept rolling forward. Its crossbar rammed into Wyatt’s leg and dragged it under the bike, breaking his tibia and the growth plate that goes into the ankle.

“I had a lot of outdoor plans,” he said. He’d been looking forward to camping, hiking and biking over the summer. Instead he had to take some time off his leg to heal. 

This year, physical therapist Shaun Dahle told the Goodwins that the Utah Assistive Technology Program in Logan can make customized bike pedals, designed so the foot doesn’t slip out of them.

The Goodwins already knew about UATP, because they’d gone there for help with a scooter Wyatt had used in the past. They went back and started working on the pedal project with UATP employee Brandon Griffin.

Velcro straps wrap around the foot
Wyatt tightens the pedal's straps
“We traced the shoe onto a piece of paper,” Griffin said. “Then we transferred the pattern of the shoe onto three-eighths inch plywood.” They added a “lip” from thermal plastic, molded to fit around the heel portion of the pedal. They designed some Velcro straps after consulting with Dahle, making sure the straps fit around Wyatt’s foot and held it to the pedal for added security.

The customized pedals can be adjusted for a sharper or shallower angle, and they can be removed and attached to different bicycles. UATP in Logan charges for the cost of materials in customization projects. In this case, the bill came to $10.

“They did it just perfectly,” said Heather Goodwin, Wyatt’s mother. “It’s a huge difference.”

Today, Wyatt can ride his bike with confidence, and without injury. So is the exercise for fun or therapy? 

“It’s both,” he said.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

2 new videos explore AAC apps

Both can be checked out from UATP library

UATP has added five augmentative and alternative communication apps to the devices in our demonstration and loan libraries in Logan and the Uintah Basin. These devices are available for checkout to families who want a little more background on the technology. These apps range from $100 to $300, so this is a good way to get more information before making a purchase.

We have also added two videos that give a quick introduction into two specific apps: TouchChat + WordPower and LAMP Words for Life.

TouchChat with WordPower is an AAC app that includes options for people who already have communication skills, those who are just beginning to talk, and those with aphasia.



One of LAMP (Language Acquisition through Motor Planning) Words for Life's main features is semantic compaction, or the use of multiple-meaning symbols to help the user access a lot of language on a single page, and to quickly access related words. It also helps the user by making words available in only one location in the app, so they know exactly where and how to find it.




In addition to these two apps, the UATP demo and loan library has added Snap + Core, Predictable and ProLoQuo to Go.

For more information on checking out the iPads with these programs, contact Cameron Cressall in the Uintah Basin and Dan O'Crowley in Logan.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

UATP inducts some new members into the 200 Club


 
devices grouped on a table
Pictured: the C-Pen reader, iRobot Roomba,
Liftware, My Notifi and Victor Reader Stream
We hear it again and again: disability is expensive.

So UATP is adding items to its demonstration and loan libraries in Logan and the Uintah Basin. Our hope is that people try a device and see if it works for them before they buy it. 

This summer, several items were inducted into not only the libraries, but the more exclusive 200 Club (that’s a group of devices that cost around $200 or more). They are available at both the Logan and Uintah Basin locations. To borrow an item from UATP in Logan, contact Dan O’Crowley. To borrow one from the Uintah Basin, contact Cameron Cressall. For a comprehensive look at our demonstration and loan library inventory, visit our website.

Here’s a look at the devices, what they do and how they might help. (None of the information below is intended as an endorsement—just information that might help in your assistive technology decisions.)

C-Pen Reader

This device can scan single words and define them, or scan whole lines and read them aloud. Useful for people with learning disabilities and reluctant readers. The Codpast offers a video review so you can see it in action.

iRobot Roomba 690 autonomous vacuum

We added this item after talking to professionals who serve seniors, who told us vacuuming can be a source of strain and injury to sensitive backs. This model will work with Alexa. 

Liftware silverware

These specialized silverware items have been in our libraries for a couple of years now. They come in two varieties. One, the Liftware Level, keeps the spoon or fork level for people with contractured hands (see this video review from Spashionista). The other, the Liftware Steady, helps counteract hand tremors. UATP did a quick introduction of both devices in 2017. 

My Notifi fall detection*

Worn like a watch, this system sends out a notification if it detects a fall. It also suggests exercises that can build strength and help prevent falls. KSAT 12 offers a video review.

Victor Readerstream

This pocket-sized device will access Library for the Blind materials, as well as DAISY books, MP3, MP4 and EPUB files. It is a pocket-sized device with large, high contrast buttons. To find out more, watch a video introduction on the Statewide Vision Resource Centre’s YouTube channel.

*A version of this system costs less than $200. 

Friday, September 6, 2019

Magna woman rolling again, thanks to UATP and friends

Karon poses on her wheelchair,  holding up a soft drink refill she got on her own.
Karon Duckworth loves the independence that comes
with her new wheels.

Three agencies worked together for a quick solution

MAGNA--Karon Duckworth was going home on the bus one day when cars were parked in the bus’s unloading zone. The driver let her off at a different spot; one that required Carol to motor in her wheelchair through some rough ground.

 “My chair got stuck and it bottomed out trying to get through the grass,” she said. The bus driver tried to help, but by the time she got back to the pavement, her chair was scraped up and it barely moved. Over the next 35 minutes, she crawled past five businesses.

 She enlisted her daughter and her daughter’s boyfriend to help out. “During that time it was flipping gears. It would speed up and go really really fast and then it would just stop.” They eventually manhandled the chair into her house. “There was no way I was going back outside with it,” she said.

 Duckworth's story has a happy ending. She came in contact with the Utah Transit Authority’s ADA Compliance Officer, Cherissa Alldredge. Alldredge knew that a non-functioning chair is a serious thing--and that patrons, especially wheelchair patrons--should only be let off at an official stop. “I immediately suggested she contact our claims department to file a claim,” she said.

 Alldredge then discovered that Duckworth knew Tom Boman, the Utah Assistive Technology Program’s Salt Lake City Coordinator. In fact, the chair Duckworth had been driving was from UATP. They talked about getting her a loaner chair from UATP while her broken chair was repaired.
 Then Duckworth found out a chair was ready for her right away.

 “And I said, ‘What? You mean a loaner, right?" Duckworth said. "And they (Boman) said no, we have a chair for you.”

 The new-to-her replacement chair came through UATP in Salt Lake City, though the Utah State Office of Rehabilitation. Sharry Jolley, a vocational rehabilitation counselor in Richfield, knew its history.

 “It was returned to us by a client,” she said. He couldn’t use it because he needed a head rest, and that chair didn’t have one. So he found a different wheelchair that would work for him at UATP in SLC, and returned the one that didn’t work to the Richfield Office.

 The Richfield office donated the client’s chair to UATP, and Boman knew it would be a perfect fit for Karon. UATP’s service fee was covered by UTA, so Duckworth didn’t have to pay for her new wheels. She was rolling again. Her old chair went back to UATP to be scrapped for working parts. And the new-to-her chair is better than her old one was, pre-incident.

 “It’s a little bit newer than I had,” Duckworth said. “I took it out and on the bus, and it was so easy to get on the bus with it and I went up hills with it… It’s the difference between night and day.”

 The new wheels mean she can continue going where she needs to go on the bus, shop, attend appointments or roll down the street for a drink refill.

 “The silver lining in this is that the new device is better than the old one she used to have,” Alldredge said.

 It is also the result of three agencies working together for a fast solution. 

“I’m so independent in it. I feel like a movie star," Duckworth said.

If there's a moral to the story, it's this.

Automobile drivers, please don’t park in a bus unloading zone. UTA drivers are trained not to drop clients—especially those who use a wheelchair—off at a place other than the official bus stop, Alldredge said. It should not have happened. But now and again, automobile drivers park in a loading zone, and that causes problems.
 “We are working on painting the curbs red,” she said. But since UTA doesn’t own the right-of-way, the process is complicated and piecemeal.
 So please, motorists, park courteously.