UATP is a federally-funded program serving individuals with disabilities of all ages in Utah. We provide assistive technology devices and services. We also train university students, parents, children with disabilities and professional service providers about AT. Our goal is to increase independence and quality of life for people with disabilities. Learn more at www.uatpat.org.
Friday, November 17, 2017
AT Lab enriches intern's experience while he helps others
Heber Morse shows off a slanted desk he helped design.
Heber Morse is new to the Assistive Technology Lab in Logan.
Dan O’Crowley, a student employee who works a lot with Heber, is new to working
with interns. This fall, they have learned a lot from each other.
Morse came to the Utah Assistive Technology Program through
Aggies Elevated, a residential higher education program for students with
intellectual disabilities at Utah State University. He started at the AT Lab
after a two-month stint at UATP’s CReATE program in Salt Lake City, where he
worked on wheelchairs. While he still works on mobility equipment in his
current position, the move to the AT Lab exposed him to a much wider variety of
“At first I was kind of confused,” he said. “But as I slowly
came to know what various machines do, I felt comfortable.”
“I feel like Heber is really good at not just thinking of [a
problem] in one way,” O’Crowley said.
“He doesn’t limit himself in the way that you can solve a problem.”
In an interview at the lab, Morse showed off an item he made
for O’Crowley’s wife, who teaches special education and needs a slanted lap
desk. She also wants it to store flat.
“I came up with the idea of putting hinges on it so it would
close easier,” he said. They also added a removable piece of wood to keep the
sides from collapsing while in use, and Velcro to attach the piece to the
bottom of the desk so that it could be easily stored. “It worked really nicely.”
O’Crowley remembers a project they took on for a woman who
needed to carry a walker on her scooter. “We had to scratch our heads and engineer
something, and Heber was very involved in that process. … I didn’t tell him
what I thought was the best way, and I’m glad I didn’t.”
They ended up with a simple design of PVC pipe and square tubing
to give the walker a place to ride on the scooter. It was secured on top with a
hook. The design was simple enough that it could be used by the client, who
needed a solution that did not take a lot of hand strength. The whole time, O’Crowley
was there to provide support, but Morse did the project.
O’Crowley has learned that Morse’s approach to a problem may
be different from his own. Sometimes it takes Morse longer to arrive at a
solution, and O’Crowley has learned to let him work through things at his own
pace. O’Crowley has enjoyed the collaboration. “Being able to work with someone
and bounce your ideas back and forth, you make it a lot farther and it turns
out a lot better… You’ve got to get outside of your own brain.”
“It’s so much fun,” Heber said. “Dan actually brings a lot
of great ideas, and he’s the most wonderful, hardworking person I’ve met.”
The internship’s benefits go so far beyond learning to work
with tools. Aggies Elevated Career Success Coordinator Sue Reeves said the
program’s students learn job-related skills: being on time, finding productive
things to do, following directions and accepting criticism. In addition, they
may learn specialized skills they may need in their chosen career. The
internships give them work experience to refer to as they go into the “real
world” after graduation.
“As a program, our
employment rate at 90 days past graduation is 78 percent,” Reeves said. “The employment
rate in general for people with disabilities is only about 19 percent. Our
internships, and the skills our students learn from them, are a huge part of
The Logan AT Lab has
contributed to that success, thanks in part to coordinator Clay Christensen’s
willingness to make it a meaningful experience for Aggies Elevated students.
Morse has been good
for the AT Lab, too. O’Crowley said he has the friendly, helpful nature that is
But more than that, Reeves and O’Crowley agreed they’ve seen
Morse’s confidence and problem-solving savvy grow. “There’s something about
building something or fixing something and making it work,” O’Crowley said. “For
me it’s been really neat to see the amount of progress he’s made in two and a
half months. There’s a lot more confidence.”
Morse said he loves to see the smiles on the faces of people
he has helped to find solutions. “What really brightens up my day is to fix
that problem. The gratitude they show is wonderful.”