Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The volunteers behind CReATE

A good volunteer is like a good hair stylist - they can be hard to come by! But volunteers at CReATE ( are dedicated and effective. We'd like to publicly acknowledge their awesomeness.

These volunteers help CReATE get more low-cost wheelchairs to Utahns who need them. CReATE has two new volunteers: Justin Favero is an occupational therapy student from the University of Utah that has chosen to use volunteer hours here at CReATE as one of his electives; and Jim Olive is a retired forklift technician and business owner. Jim's knowledge of electric forklifts makes him a real asset.

Volunteer Kenneth Whitledge.
Volunteer Kenneth Whitledge.
Kenneth Whitledge is a workhorse that helps us every Monday and has become quite adept at scrapping out wheelchairs. He usually scraps out at least three chairs every Monday.

Volunteer Ed Patillo.
Ed Patillo is another volunteer that is a retired computer network technician that is great at cleaning and refurbishing wheelchairs. Ed and Tom really enjoy listening to jazz here in the shop.

Volunteer Steve King.
Volunteer Steve King.
Steve King is another volunteer who is a retired artist and technician that has been great at helping us get more organized. Steve also donated a MIG Welder and shelving for us to use.

Our sincere thanks to these people, as CReATE works to expand our capacity to improve people's lives.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Free webinar: Accessing services from the Utah Assistive Technology Program

The Utah Assistive Technology Program (UATP) will present a FREE online interactive training, “Accessing services from the Utah Assistive Technology Program,” on Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2015, from 3:00 – 4:30 p.m. MST.

There are many components to the Utah Assistive Technology Program including demonstrations, evaluations, funding options, device loan, fabrication and maintenance. Who qualifies? What are funding options? What kinds of devices can be loaned? Can you fix my device? These questions and more will be answered in this webinar by the UATP team. We’ll share some awesome stories of success of previous clients, and answer your questions live. UATP wants to serve all Utahans with disabilities and those that work with them.

Four hands forming a square: UATP team answers your questions!
The UATP team will answer your questions!
This webinar will be presented by Clay Christensen, Utah Assistive Technology Lab coordinator; Tom Boman, CReATE program coordinator; and Lois Summers, Utah Assistive Technology Foundation business assistant.

In order to participate, you will need a computer with high-speed Internet access.

RSVP: If you are interested in joining please RSVP by Tuesday, Nov. 3rd. Contact Storee Powell via email, 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, no later than Monday, Nov.  2nd to make arrangements to participate via phone. Please feel free to pass on this information to anyone that you think might be interested.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Easy fundraising for CReATE

CReATE needs your help! As a fundraising effort CReATE has partnered with Smiths Community Rewards Program. 

We ask that you please take a moment to enroll in support of "Citizens Reutilizing Assistive Technology Equipment" (aka CReATE). 

Smiths Community Rewards poster

Each time you swipe your rewards card, CReATE earns! Enrollment will not affect your fuel points or coupon discounts. You can enroll at

** After you have registered/signed in, go to your "account summary" by clicking on your name in the top right hand corner of the screen. Scroll to the bottom of the page where you'll find an option for "Community Rewards". Just enter CReATE's code: 32788**

Thank you for your support of CReATE! Together we help keep Utah moving with low-cost wheelchairs and other mobility equipment.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Free online webinar: Low-tech AAC (Augmentative or Alternative Communication) for children

The Utah Assistive Technology Program (UATP) will present a FREE online interactive training, “Low-tech AAC for children,” on Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2015, from 3:00 – 4:30 p.m. MST.

Man attempting to make a call using corded phone while wearing headphones.
Is your AAC method working?
Augmentative or Alternative Communication (AAC) is any device, system, or method that improves the ability of a child with a communication impairment to communicate effectively.  Fancy devices with a lot of features have their place, but low tech is often easier to use, more diversified for different users and a larger variety environments (and don't have batteries that die). Our session will focus on low- to mid-tech communication styles, which will include different techniques and demonstrate a variety of devices that can be used for successful communication. 

This webinar will be presented by Kent Remund. He has worked in the field of assistive technology for the past 15 years in a variety of settings.  He is the current project director for the Utah Assistive Technology Teams (UATT) as well as an assistive technology specialist for the Utah Center for Assistive Technology (UCAT). He has extensive experience assisting, evaluating and assessing children and adults with the appropriate selection of assistive technology tools.   
Kent Remund of UCAT.
Kent Remund inspecting FDR's wheelchair.

In order to participate, you will need a computer with high-speed Internet access. 

RSVP: If you are interested in joining please RSVP by Tuesday, Oct. 20th. Contact Storee Powell via email, 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, no later than Monday, Oct. 19th to make arrangements to participate via phone. Please feel free to pass on this information to anyone that you think might be interested.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

ADA and cake at USU during Disability Rights Weeks


Posted on CPD BLOG September 16, 2015 by Sue Reeves

USU ADA cowboy hat logo
Learn the history of the hat logo.
To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Center for Persons with Disabilities at Utah State University will present its inaugural Disability Rights Week Oct. 5-8. The week-long celebration is co-sponsored by the Disability Resource Center and USUSA, and includes an information fair, birthday cake and a free comedy show.

Justin Dart’s cowboy hat is being used as the iconic image for this year’s event. Dart is remembered as “the father of the ADA,” and he was famously photographed with President George H.W. Bush, and the hat, at the ADA signing.

“Disability rights are civil rights,” said Shane Johnson, associate director of development at the CPD and one of the event organizers. “Twenty percent of the population of Utah identifies as having a disability, so chances are good that every person on this campus either has a disability or has a friend or family member with a disability.

“The 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act occurred in July, but we wanted to wait until more people were on campus to commemorate the event,” Johnson said. “We have some fantastic events planned.”

The week begins with yard signs marking the accessible features of the USU campus—curb cuts, automatic door openers, elevators, etc., and a window display at the Campus Store.

On Thursday, Oct. 8, an information fair will be held at the TSC in the Sunburst and International Lounges from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. “Lives Worth Living,” a documentary about the disability rights movement that led to the ADA, will run on a continuous loop, and the CPD’s disability history posters will be on display. Visitors to the information fair will be treated to birthday cake from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in celebration of the ADA. This is an Aggie Passport event, so come and get your passport stamped!

On Friday, Oct. 9, America’s Got Talent runner-up Drew Lynch and his partner Sam Conroe will make you laugh in the Sunburst Lounge at 6 p.m. This is a FREE event and open to the public.

In addition, there will be displays by campus and community partners including the DRC, USUSA, Common Ground Outdoor Adventures, AgrAbility, Options for Independence, Up to 3 Early Intervention, the Interdisciplinary Disability Awareness and Service Learning class, Aggies Elevated, Utah Assistive Technology Project, the National Federation for the Blind, WebAIM, the Emma Eccles Jones College of Education and Human Services, Special Olympics/Best Buddies, the Disability Law Center, the Counseling and Psychological Services office and the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Watch the CPD Facebook page for additional details.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

A DIYAbility Webinar: Using an iPad as an Assistive Technology Device

iPad used with a switch

Join DIYAbility on October 14th for an educational webinar.

Learn about the iPad and how it can be used as an assistive technology device or tool.

The iPad has an extensive amount of accessibility built into its operating system.  We will explore these modifications as well as discuss applications to assist with communication needs, computer access, and home automation.

Register today!

Wednesday, October 14th, 3:30 PM - 5:00 PM

General registration cost is $35.00.
AOTA Member: $31.50 - AOTA CEU credits for all Occupational Therapists that participate.

By the End of the Webinar Learners Will be Able to:

  • Discuss various disabilities and how the resulting impairments can affect iPad us
  • Discuss accessibility options that are part of the OS in the iPad
  • Identify at least three applications to meet a variety of needs, from computer access to home automation (and then some)
  • Identify three pieces of hardware for access of the iPad including mounting

Who should participate?

  • Occupational, physical, speech, music and recreational therapists.
  • Parents, relatives and family friends of individuals with physical impairments
  • Anyone curious to learn about accessibility and iPad use

Contact Hours: This course will provide 1.5 hours of contact hours, .15 CEUs will be awarded at the end of a quiz that will be delivered electronically.  A passing score of 70% is considered passing.  Once a passing score is obtained a certificate of attendance will be emailed to the learner.  Full attendance is required for completion and CEU obtainment, in addition to passing the quiz (signed in at the beginning of the webinar).

Can't make the live event? DIYAbility will have this webinar archived on our website for continuing education credits four weeks after the live event.

Contact with questions.

DIYAbility is an organization for empowering people with and without disabilities to Make their world. Read more about DIYAbility on the website,

Friday, August 21, 2015

Assistive Technology on the YouTube

YouTube videos can be a great way to lose track of an afternoon, but they can also be a fantastic source of information for all things assistive technology.

YouTube Generation logo

Of course there's the UATP channel where you can find archived webinars on a variety of AT topics, presented by field professionals: UATP YouTube Channel.

And here are some of our other favorite YouTube channels for AT information:

  • Assistive Technology Center: Watch stories of people successfully using all kind of assistive technology. Good source for an overview of available AT.
  • Family Center on Technology and Disability: The 'AT in Action' series shows school-aged children using AT to make school and home life more accessible. Good source for teachers and parents.
  • INDATA Project: The Indiana AT Program offers short demos and introductions to many kinds of AT devices.
  • ICATER UIowa: The Iowa AT Program channel is the holy grail of app demos and reviews. 
  • LIW Accessible Productions: Channel of the DATT show (Disability and Assistive Technology Today) hosted by wheelchair user and AT enthusiast Jeremy Murray. 
What are your favorite YouTube channels for getting the scoop on assistive technology? Share it with us so we can pass it on! Tweet us @utahATprogram or email us at 

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

In the news: UATP director talks 25 years of the ADA

In case you missed these informative pieces from UATP director Sachin Pavithran regarding the 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, here they are archived online:
UATP director, Sachin Pavithran
UATP director, Sachin Pavithran

ADA 25 logo
Utah Public Radio, Aug. 11: Access Utah: 25 Years of the ADA

Salt Lake Tribune, Aug. 8: Op-Ed: Today's Congress lacks the resolve that created the Americans with Disabilities Act

Monday, August 10, 2015

Accessibility survey participants needed

A study determining accessibility of accomodations in facilities is being conducted by the College at Brockport of the State University of New York. 

Accessibility route sign

Dr. Lauren Lieberman and Dr. Ozkan Tutuncu from the Department of Kinesiology, Sport Studies, and Physical Education are conducting a study to determine the accessibility of accommodation facilities with the life experiences of people with disabilities. 

They are ready to send the questionnaire out to people with disabilities, their families and traveling companions. It should take about 10 minutes to complete the questionnaire. Results are expected to help improve the accessibility of tourism facilities.

The survey can be accessed at

Thursday, August 6, 2015

After the ADA: Poverty for people with disabilities still a problem

There is no question after 25 years, that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has helped people with disabilities have better access to employment and education. 
ADA logo

However, poverty is still linked with disability in America. From bureaucratic barriers to transportation barriers to social barriers, obtaining employment and maintaining a base of financial savings for people with a disability is difficult to say the least.

Former football player Emeka Nnaka of Oklahoma tells NPR (full story below) that before he had an adapted van, he used to spend three hours a day in transit to get to work.

There is an estimated employment rate in Utah for adults aged 21 to 64 with a disability of 42.2 percent. This is in contrast to 77.5 percent among people without a disability in Utah.

There are multiple ways to combat unemployment for people with disabilities, and one of them is providing access to adaptive technology like Nnaka's van. Accessibility to transportation, communication devices, computers and more, break down many barriers and increase independence of people with disabilities. 

The Utah Assistive Technology Foundation helps people with disabilities get the technology they need with a loan and grant program. So far this year, UATF has provided 62 grants to Utahans with disabilities to purchases devices ranging from hearing aids to iPads. 

UATF is working to increase funds available for these grants, and contributions can be made to the fundraising campaign through Razoo. All donations support the UATF grant program, helping make Utahans with disabilities independent. 

Monday, July 27, 2015

Get Utah Moving: The Power of a Small Grant

What can $400, a toy car and dedicated professionals accomplish? Just watch this test drive to find out!

Utah toddler, Trinity, was struggling to interact with her environment because of a disability. But with the plans for a Go Baby Go car, the Utah Center for Assistive Technology helped Trinity get moving. 

Go Baby Go is a project developed to get kids with disabilities moving and interacting with their environment. Trained professionals modify toy cars to be accessible for children with limited movement so they can drive the car themselves. This allows them to increase exploration, social and motor skills. 

To help Trinity's family with the purchase of the car and needed parts, the Utah Assistive Technology Foundation provided a small grant. These $400 grants are used by Utahns with disabilities of all ages to purchase technology, like the Go Baby Go car, to help them be more independent and have a higher quality of life.

You can help Utahns like Trinity get moving by donating to the UATF online fundraiser, supported by Paralympian Muffy Davis. Simply visit our Razoo webpage to donate and learn more. Your support does make a difference!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Happy 25th Anniversary ADA! Disability in Utah today

Twenty-five years ago, on July 26, 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law, the good changes it has brought about are undeniable. But Utah has some room to improve disability rights.

ADA 25 Utah logo

One of those changes has been shining a light on what it means to live with a disability in the U.S. According to the Census Bureau, about 56.7 million people — 19 percent of the population — had a disability in 2010, according to a broad definition of disability, with more than half of them reporting the disability was severe.

And while changes to access to technology, accessible environments, employment discrimination law, and other things have improved lives of Americans with disabilities, equality is still yet to be achieved. 

Adults age 21 to 64 with disabilities in the U.S. had median monthly earnings of $1,961 compared with $2,724 for those with no disability, according to the 2010 report.

How does the Beehive state stack up? In Utah, 16.5 percent of adults aged 21 to 64 with a disability had a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to 30 percent of people without a disability (according to Cornell University’s Disability Statistics 2013).

There is an estimated employment rate in Utah for adults aged 21 to 64 with a disability of 42.2 percent. This is in contrast to 77.5 percent among people without a disability in Utah.

Better access to employment and services, increasing the public's understanding about living with a disability, and continued work with law makers are ways to improve these numbers. Because at the end of the day, these are family, friends, community members and people - not just numbers. 

Finishing what was started 25 years ago is possible. What will you do to help?

UATP director & Access Board Chair attends Whitehouse ADA 25 celebration

Sachin Pavithran (left) with Vice President Joe Biden.
Sachin Pavithran (left) with Vice President Joe Biden.

Pres. Obama Monday during a speech commemorating the 25th Anniversary of the ADA.
Pres. Obama Monday during a speech commemorating
the 25th Anniversary of the ADA.

Sachin Pavithran at the Whitehouse Monday.
Sachin Pavithran at the Whitehouse Monday.

The 'fight isn't over' Pres. Obama said Monday during a commemorative speech for the upcoming 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

UATP director and U.S. Access Board Chair Sachin Pavithran attended the event at the Whitehouse. Read more about the speech on Disability Scoop.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

What does the ADA mean to you: Tamara edition

By Tamara Wulle
CReATE Assistant

In 1990, when the Americana with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law, I was just 7 years old. But because my parents had disabilities, I saw firsthand how it impacted people’s lives as I grew up. It brought an excitement to our home as it offered hope for a more accessible community in the (hopefully) not too distant future and protection against discrimination.

Not that it was actually renovated before I moved on from there, but my elementary school was only accessible to wheelchair users through a loading dock. Nobody else’s parents had to enter the school in that way, and I remember conversations about how, “Now, because of the ADA, they’ll probably have to fix that!” 

And such was the situation in numerous other locations, facilities, and activities that regular families (which is what we were) might normally attend or participate in without second thought.
Utah ADA 25 logo

Regarding the protection the ADA brought, though there still is a stigma about this, I will admit that there was a bit of fear prior to 1990 that parents with disabilities were not capable of raising children, and in some cases they were actually forced to give kids up to the foster care system, based solely on the fact they had disabilities - a draconian and punitive perspective I know, but a fact nonetheless. 

In my case, my siblings and I were well cared for and that never really developed, but there was nothing, really, to have protected us from the arbitrary opinion of someone in a position of power if it had come up. Under the ADA, however, that is completely illegal, as it should be if there are no other grounds on which to make a decision. 

Yes, I can say that I was born at just the right time and into the perfect set of circumstances to truly appreciate The Americans with Disabilities Act, not to mention Justin Dart Jr., ADAPT, and the millions of people who advocated for its passage.

What does the ADA mean to you? It is the 25th Anniversary of the ADA, and we want to hear from you! Send stories to

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Utah Autism Give

Benefits available through Utah Autism Give range from $500 to $2,000 per recipient.  Currently, recipients may only qualify for a one-time benefit.  Benefits are currently offered for various treatment costs, or an Apple iPad device with special communication application.  Any/all benefits provided will be paid directly to the professional provider of services.  Apple iPads will be paid for and shipped by Utah Autism Give.

Autism Give logo

To apply for benefits, please print and complete the application below and be sure to include the listed items in your application package. You will not receive a response from UAG unless your application is accepted. Incomplete application packages will not be considered.

UAG Family Benefits Application Form

In addition to the completed and signed application, please include the following:

  • Proof of diagnosis (evaluation from qualified clinician)
  • Previous year’s IRS tax return
  • 2 most recent pay stubs for all employed household members
  • Information on professional service provider(s) you intend to use or are using
  • Statement of the program/services/benefits being sought and how being a recipient will help your child

Please mail entire package to:
Utah Autism Give
PO Box 1165
American Fork, UT 84003


Scan and email it to:

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

CReATE highlighted on Utah Public Radio

Nonprofits in Utah were highlighted today on Utah Public Radio, including CReATE, the wheelchair re-utilization program of UATP located in Salt Lake. 

CReATE inventory of wheelchairs.

Tom Boman, CReATE coordinator, gave an overview of the program and talked about how community members can participate and benefit from the program. Hear the story on UPR, with Tom's interview starting at 39:45 minutes. 

If you are interested in donating wheelchairs and scooters to CReATE, call 80-887-9398. For monetary donations, learn more on our website

Learn about volunteering at CReATE. 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

UATP director talks Assistive Technology on Utah Public Radio

UATP director Sachin Pavithran
UATP director Sachin Pavithran
Today on Utah Public Radio, UATP director and U.S. Access Board chair Sachin Pavithran talked with host Tom Williams about assistive technology and why it is important to dream big about the future. Listen to the interview, starting at 32:30, at UPR

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Cardboard and PVC pipe put together with love

Tri-wall cardboard and PVC pipe can give many commercial assistive technology devices a run for the money.

Certainly that was the case when the Utah Assistive Technology Lab built a specialized chair in partnership with the Utah Center for Assistive Technology (UCAT) for four-year-old Emma.

Emma needed a device that would support her posture while sitting so she can work on developmental activities. UCAT's super handyman Ed Whiting sent Emma's measurements to Clay Christensen at the AT Lab.

Using tri-wall cardboard, Clay built a reclined v-back floor sitter made specifically for her height and size. Also built was a tray using cardboard and PVC pipe to fit the size of the chair, providing Emma a platform to eat and play on.

In the rough: a v-back tri-wall chair built by the AT Lab.
In the rough: a v-back tri-wall chair built by the AT Lab.
The chair was then sent to UCAT for phase two, where the chair and tray were painted and a harness was added. 

UCAT finished the chair and tray table.
UCAT finished the chair and tray table.

 Then it was try time. The device fit Emma perfectly, and best of all, the device is lightweight making it easier to travel with than a heavy wood or plastic model. 

4-year-old Emma in her new chair.
4-year-old Emma in her new chair.

A few hours on each organizations part, and $10 to $20 of materials provided a much-needed device. Similar products bought commercially range from $300 to $500.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Resource guide for assistive technology inventors

Have you got an assistive technology invention you think could help others? The RESNA Catalyst Project has developed a resource guide just for that purpose. You can view the guide below, or access it from our website.

Monday, May 11, 2015

USU students create 'following' wheelchair

By Zach Waxler and Storee Powell

Old technology met the 21st century when three Utah State University students developed a specialized wheelchair designed to better assist persons with disabilities.

The students created a 'following' wheelchair - essentially the device allows a person unable to control their wheelchair themselves to follow a caretaker without any assistance. 

Jeanne Munk, Clint Fernelius and Tyler Travis are engineering students working on their senior project for electrical and computer engineering. 
The following wheelchair developed by USU students.
Munk said, “We make both of them more independent. The person can walk along side of it and talk and have a conversation with the person in the chair.” 

The students went to the Utah Assistive Technology Lab's Clay Christensen for assistance on the disability aspect as well as to learn about the mechanics of the power wheelchair. 

"We talked about what types of disabilities this chair could benefit, like Multiple sclerosis or ALS," Christensen said. 

He helped the students with the mechanical aspect of the chair to create an ideal foundation.

"I used an Invacare wheelchair and took the motors off, and put on Pride motors. It was a very custom job," Christensen said.  

The students took it from there to do the electrical work. Munk said the most challenging aspect of the project is the technology used in the chair. 

We are basing the following technology on image processing,” Munk said. “How it works is we have a leader badge and there is a camera that determines the distance from that badge.” 

In layman terms, the chair uses sonar sensors to ping its location. For example, if the chair gets too close to a wall, the sensors move the chair the other direction. 

While some experimental prototypes of this kind of device exist, there really isn't anything on the current market like it, Christensen said. 

Munk said the new chair has capabilities of improving the lives of both individuals involved. The team believes that this project is a great building block for the next generation of wheelchairs. 

The Utah AT Lab plans to do just that - Christensen wants the chair to go through a second-phase design. 

"This time around, we want input from community members with disabilities that could benefit from such a device," he said. "Their opinion of the performance of the device is the one that matters most."

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Free Webinar: Technology for Varying Types of Hearing Loss

The Utah Assistive Technology Program (UATP) will present a FREE online interactive training, “Technology for Varying Types of Hearing Loss,” on Wednesday, May 6, 2015, from 3:00 – 4:30 p.m. MST.

NOTE: This webinar will be live captioned.

We are living in a time of great technological advancements. With these advancements, individuals with hearing loss have much to gain when it comes to communication and connecting with their peers. Those without hearing loss have no justification not to try! In this presentation, we will share the types of technology available for different levels of hearing loss and how everyday devices can be used to help hearing individuals to communicate with hearing aid and Sign Language users.
Ear and ear drum.

Webinar will cover:
1) Demographics
2) Different types of listening devices
3) Alert devices
4) Communication technology for Deaf/HH
5) Communication strategies

This webinar will be presented by Mitch Moyers of the Utah Division of Services for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. Mitch is an outreach and assistive technology program director. He was born deaf, and grew up in California. Mitch attended Brigham Young University. He is fluent in American Sign Language.

In order to participate, you will need a computer with high-speed Internet access.

RSVP: If you are interested in joining please RSVP by Tuesday, May 6th. Contact Storee Powell via email, 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, no later than Monday, May 4th to make arrangements to participate via phone. Please feel free to pass on this information to anyone that you think might be interested.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

‘Stitching’ together business opportunities

By: Anna Tuckett

Quitting work due to health issues left Valerie Shaw wanting to be able to continue making money from home using skills she developed all of her life.

In July of last year, Valerie Shaw was approved for a small business loan from the Utah Assistive Technology Foundation and the Utah Microenterprise Loan Fund that helped her start her new sewing business, Personal Touch Tailoring.

“It’s hard to live on social security when you’re not prepared for it,” Shaw said. “I wanted to earn some money from home.”

 The skill of sewing has been passed down in Shaw’s family from generation to generation.

“My grandmother taught my mother how to sew, and then they both passed that knowledge down to me,” Shaw said. “One of my first jobs was as a seamstress.”

The loan that Shaw received was essential for facilitating and financing her business.

“I used the $3,000 to buy the machines I needed to meet the demands of customers,” Shaw said. “I also used the loan to buy visual aids.”

Shaw is a seamstress for individuals and local businesses alike, including The Coral Pear, a company based in Utah that sells baby moccasins.

“My new machines make it much easier to sew shoes for the company.” Shaw said.

UATF partners with UMLF to get small business loans for Utahns with disabilities and health concerns, like Valerie Shaw, to help them be as independent as possible.

Find more information on UATF small business loans and the application process at

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

AAC apps for iPad

URLEND has put together a great list of free apps for iPad to assist people with communication disabilities. For a PDF version of this information, visit the UATP website

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

School Tools: Your wish is my command!

By Kent Remund

If you grew up in the 70’s and 80’s, you dreamed of the possibilities of controlling things through voice.  

From the Jetsons, to Star Trek and Knight Rider, I imagined how cool it would be to be able to speak some commands and have powerful actions taken place. For the most part, those days are happening now.   

Speech recognition for computers has been around for the past 10 -15 years, but it has made significant progress in the past couple of years through smartphones and even the ability to talk to your car.

Speech recognition enables an individual to turn their speech into text to operate their phone, tablet and computer using voice commands, e.g., create documents, send email, text messages and control applications. 

For students who struggle with the writing process because of physical limitations, vision impairments or specific learning difficulties, this software has proven to be a successful assistive technology solution. 

There are typically 4 different methods used to evaluate and assist individuals with voice to text. These include Windows Speech Recognition, Dictation for Mac, and Dragon Naturally Speaking.  

These three programs work best using a USB microphone which allows for a “cleaner” audio input for the computer to process. The fourth program uses tablets or smart phones.   

Let’s look at each in more detail:

Windows Speech Recognition: Microsoft began including speech recognition in their operating system (OS) beginning with Vista and has continued to do so through their OS. This recognition works quite well for speech to text but really excels in providing variety operations using a windows computer through voice for those with limited mobility and limited mouse/keyboard use. 

Windows speech recognition can be launched through the accessibility/ease of access features. Once a short microphone compatibility test is done, Windows Speech Recognition works well. Typically, there's upwards of 80 – 85% accuracy for the average individual with a strong, consistent voice. Microsoft provides good usability and best of all, FREE with all windows computers.
Screen shot of Windows Speech Recognition.
Screen shot of Windows Speech Recognition.

Dictation for Mac: Speech recognition has come a long way over the past couple years from Apple. Yosemite operating system made a huge jump with dictation that comes with every Cac computer. There are many computer commands built in, and it has the ability for the individual to create new dictation commands. 

Accuracy levels are typically above 90 percent with most individuals and are easy to launch by pressing the left function (fn) key twice. Apple provides great usability and best of all it is FREE with every new Apple computer.  
Mac Dictation screen shot.
Mac Dictation screen shot.

Dragon Naturally Speaking: Dragon was one of the first voice recognition programs. It was created in 1997, and has been the leader in voice recognition through the years. Dragon comes as a full software install on a computer. Once an individual trains their voice with dragon, it is extremely accurate at 99 percent. Dragon will continue to learn and grow with the user and their voice commands. Dragon for PC and Mac starts as low as $99.00 and is an excellent choice for someone that uses voice commands on a daily basis. 
Dragon Naturally Speaking screen shot.
Dragon Naturally Speaking screen shot.

Tablets and Smart Phones: Many individuals are simply using their tablets and smart phones for speech to text and other voice activation commands.  Android, Apple and Microsoft added a microphone button to the keyboard when it is present on the screen.  

Simply press this microphone and dictate into an email, text, notes or any area that you would normally enter text. Many other commands are available such as asking the weather conditions, checking stocks and hundreds of other commands through Siri, Ok Google or Cortana. 

The drawback to using this technology is that the user must be connected to the internet or a data plan for their speech to be converted to text. There is also a limit in how much can be spoken into the devices at one time. Typically this is a short paragraph before needing to press the microphone button once again.  
Smart phone speech to text microphone key.
Smart phone speech to text microphone key.

Overall, there are many variables in how accurate each of these systems converts speech to text for each individual. These are a few of the alternate solutions for students to complete coursework that seems to work well for many with learning disabilities and other writing challenges. 

Kent Remund is part of the Utah Center for Assistive Technology serving Utahns with disabilities, and a member of the Utah Assistive Technology Teams serving Utah school districts.