Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Logan coordinator departs for North Dakota. It’s hard to say goodbye.

Clay works with a young woman in a wheelchair, on a lift.
Clay works with a client to ensure she receives
a wheelchair that is right for her.
By JoLynne Lyon


This month, the Utah Assistive Technology Program’s Logan coordinator leaves us for North Dakota. The program will continue, but his departure leaves a hole in a lot of hearts—not just among UATP staff but the many people he has served along the way.

Whether he was working with a client or giving a presentation to a US representative, one thing was clear: Clay was invested in his job, not just as a means to a paycheck but as a way to make people’s lives better.

 “Watching someone achieve their personal goals because of a little help we gave them is an emotional experience,” he said following one of his early projects: building a device that helped a six-year-old boy steady himself while he used his Wii gaming system. The stand allowed the boy to steady himself while he played with family members or used Wii Fit to exercise and work on balance.

“This was the first project I ever accompanied Clay on,” said Storee Powell, social media specialist for the Center for Persons with Disabilities. UATP is located in the CPD at Utah State University. “I remember it because it was a such a unique but simple device that enabled this child to be included and get the therapy he needed. Clay wasn't afraid to get his hands dirty or get out in the community. I remember Clay always saying he'd try building or adapting anything at least once, and I believe that was true.”

A young client tries out a new
device in one of Clay's earlier projects.
As a coordinator who runs a fabrication lab for assistive technology, Clay was always trying new things. People would come to him with a need for a device that either didn’t exist or wasn’t in their price range. Sometimes they had already purchased equipment that needed some adjustments before it would work for them. Clay kept working with them until the need was met.

“Clay has a very creative mind,” said Lois Summers, UATP business assistant. “He can resolve simple and complex issues, without getting frustrated or giving up. He has deep compassion when serving everyone, regardless of who they are or what they need.”

It was a pleasure to watch him at work. (I do PR for the CPD, and in writing Clay’s goodbye blog post I’m speaking in first person for a minute.) The fabrication lab was a favorite place to visit because it had happy people in it. They were busy on projects that would help other people reach a goal. Those happy people were there because Clay hired them or invited them to work as volunteers. He supported them and helped ensure the things they made would work for the client.

I’d go into the shop, breathe in the smells of welding smoke or sawdust, take my notes, and leave reassured that there are people in the world who work hard to help other people, every day.

“What I saw with Clay was the direct impact he had with families and individuals with disabilities,” said Sachin Pavithran, UATP’s executive director. “He was able to relate to them in a way that made them more comfortable to talk about what they were going through, so that Clay could get them what they needed.”

We will miss you, Clay!

Clay introduces US Representative Chris Stewart to the Utah Assistive Technology Program.




Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Logan's UATP helps one woman, starts a chain reaction

portrait of Sharon in her wheelchair
Sharon Ross
Sharon Ross met Clay Christensen at the Logan Utah Assistive Technology Program when she had a problem with the foot rest on her wheelchair. Something was wrong with the weld. She tried to get help from the vendor, but when that wasn't working for her she brought her wheelchair to UATP in Logan, and Christensen fixed it.

She remembered her experience--and that UATP helps connect donated and refurbished equipment with people who need it--when a friend with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) was unable to get around. Sharon's friend could not afford a new wheelchair, and her health was very bad.

Sharon visited Christensen and asked if he had anything that would work for her friend. He took her to the used, donated wheelchairs at UATP, and they discovered a reclining chair.

"We took it to my friend and she was elated," Sharon said. Her friend used the chair until she passed away a few months later.

Since then, three of her friends have needed walkers. Again, they didn't feel they could afford a solution, but Christensen found something that would work for them.

That's the mission of the AT Lab, Christensen said. "Most of the time people with disabilities are on a limited income anyway. Insurance isn't covering everything they need."

Now, he is working on another project for her--a lift that will be both customized and affordable. "There are a lot of solutions out there that can be adapted," he said. "Some were not specifically intended for disability use but they certainly have an application for it, with a much kinder price tag."

If you live in Utah and have a need for equipment that would help you be more independent, UATP may be able to help. Affordable fees for service may apply. Find out more on the UATP website.