Friday, November 30, 2018

UATP's executive director takes national leadership role

Sachiin Pavithran at the AUCD conference

Sachin Pavithran, UATP's executive director, will be serving as a national disability leader in addition to leading the Utah Assistive Technology Program.

He is the current president-elect of the Association of University Centers on Disabilities, after serving for a year on the organization's board. When he began his service, he said his goal was to increase diversity in the organization--a goal he said has begun to be realized.

Still, there is a long way to go. "Accessibility isn't something that we need to discuss, it's something we need to do," he said.

When job seekers with disabilities don't face discrimination, when students with disabilities don't have to wait in line to receive the services or technology they need for success, when people with disabilities are not treated as second-class citizens, then his hopes for the disability field will be realized.

Read more on the Center for Persons with Disabilities' blog.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Logan's UATP gains a new coordinator

The Utah Assistive Technology Program welcomes Garrett Halligan as its new coordinator in Logan.

He brought welding and construction skills with him to UATP. He also has a bachelor's in exercise and sport science from the University of Utah.

Garrett formerly worked at Alpine Medical as a rehabilitation sales representative, with a focus on seating and mobility.

That background will come in handy as he reuses, refurbishes and customizes assistive technology for clients.

As a sales representative, he saw firsthand how some clients need options that are not available off-the-shelf. He worked with former coordinator Clay Christensen to customize a chair for a client, building a joystick that would work for a person with severely contractured hands.

Garrett's main goal moving forward is to make sure people know about the Utah Assistive Technology Program.

"I'm a resource," he said. "Whatever help people need, if I'm not able to to it here, then at least I have the resources to help them elsewhere.

If you live in northern Utah and have an assistive technology need, contact Garrett at 800-524-5152.

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.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Utah Assistive Technology Program moves to Vernal

Young people move equipment off a trailer while a woman in a wheelchair looks on.
Volunteers help finish the move to Utah Assistive Technology Program's Vernal location.

VERNAL--The Utah Assistive Technology Lab has changed its name and address. But when it comes to helping people find the equipment that keeps them independent, coordinator Cameron Cressall remains as dedicated as ever.

"Nothing is changing," he said. "We are still serving Duchesne, Uintah and Daggett counties."

The facility—now called the Utah Assistive Technology Program—has moved to 2574 West 500 North, #2 in Vernal. It remains part of the Center for Persons with Disabilities at Utah State University, and will continue to serve people who come to the office with an assistive technology need. 

The Vernal location has a bus stop nearby.

In addition, Cressall said he will still travel to meet the needs of Uintah Basin clients outside of the Vernal area, though he encourages people to come to the office if at all possible.  “Just call and make an appointment,” he said.

Volunteers from both Vernal and Roosevelt helped Cressall make the move on Tuesday. "I am deeply touched by all the help I received," he said. "We got help from 4-H in Uintah and Duchesne counties, and community members of all ages helped us out, too. They showed up with three vehicles and two trailers. We finished the move in one night!"

action photo with smiling teenagers
4-H volunteers load up a trailer during the move.
"We had a good time and we really appreciate Cameron giving us the opportunity to help," said Traci Frost, 4-H coordinator in Uintah County. Her teen council showed up for some heavy lifting.

"Cameron does so much for a lot of people in the community," said Mindy Mair, who helped coordinate volunteers. "This was a way we could pay him back."

The change of address will help people in Vernal get to know UATP services better as well. The organization’s mission is to put assistive technology—or devices that improve or maintain independence—into the hands of Utahns who need it. Clients can access UATP’s demonstration and loan library to see what devices are available and try before they buy. They can receive refurbished equipment or even work with Cressall to customize AT for their particular needs. Finally, people can apply to UATP for small grants or loans to make assistive technology more affordable.

Over the past year, 214 people received either a loaned, custom-built, adapted or refurbished device from UATP in the Uintah Basin. That equipment helped people's mobility in their homes and communities. It allowed them to adapt their homes to accommodate a disability, to learn at school, or to work independently.

UATP also has locations in Logan and Salt Lake City. The small grants and loans are available to Utahns anywhere in the state.

For more information about UATP in the Uintah Basin, contact Cameron Cressall at 435-767-1719 or visit the UATP website at

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Getting camera-ready: how AT helped a CPD intern work independently

Clay attaches an iPad to modular hose, fixed to Bryson's wheelchair
Clay and Bryson try out an early design
When Bryson Carpenter started work as an intern with the Center for Persons with Disabilities, he had some barriers to overcome. He would be shooting video and photos for the CPD, but it was hard to do that independently at first.

Bryson, a freshman at Utah State University, is on the CPD’s media team.

“The goal was to pretty much have something that I could do entirely on my own,” he said. To make it happen, he needed to operate an iPad. But Bryson needed something to hold the iPad up where he could see it. He also needed a way to operate it without using the touch screen.

So he talked to Clay Christensen at the Utah Assistive Technology Program in Logan. UATP is part of the CPD at Utah State University, and its mission is to help people find assistive technology that improves their independence.

AbleNet Blue2 switch. It's big.
Clay and Bryson used the accessible features already built into the iPad to help Bryson operate it. They added a big-button Bluetooth switch (the AbleNet Blue2). When Bryson touches the switch, it’s the same as tapping on the touch screen.  

Then, they used modular hose to hold the iPad up where Bryson could see it. The modular hose works well in a lot of applications, but this one wasn’t a great fit. “Whenever I would drive it would just slowly fall over,” he said. “I was afraid it would fall off.”

So Bryson and Clay got together again, and they settled on a fixed bar with an attached Velcro surface to hold the iPad up. Clay bolted the arm to the tray already fixed to Bryson’s wheelchair.

“It’s always a bit of trial and error,” Clay said. But the end, customized result worked for Bryson, who uses the arm, iPad and switch it as he shoots photos and videos for the CPD.

The CPD also adapted Bryson’s workspace to make sure his computer screen was the right height. To operate the computer, he uses a tiny mouse called a Sanwa supply ring mouse. A regular-sized mouse won’t work for him, but Bryson said this tiny one works fine—and with it he can access and respond to emails.

“It’s good,” he said. “I like it.”

If you live in Utah and would like to find out more about assistive technology that could work for you, visit the UATP website or call 800-524-5152.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Logan man keeps up with work, avoids injury thanks to loaned scooter

Dean Luthi at work, on his new-to-him scooter.
LOGAN--Dean Luthi had some difficulty standing and walking at work at Lowe's in Logan, where he ran the self-checkout. He talked to his manager and they gave him a parking space close to the store and tried putting a seat in his work station. They put his employee card on a lanyard so that he could easily scan it at the register when he needed to help a customer.

Still, the up-and-down action was difficult. Once, Dean fell and had to miss work. "I was out for seven days and I messed up my shoulder," he said.

Most days, injury or not, he was worn out by the time he went home. He was also having a hard time using the break room--it was just too far away.

His manager, Joey Wolford, knew the problem was real. "Dean's a ray of sunshine. He probably has the best attitude of anybody I've ever met," he said. "If he could work here all the time, he would."

Mike Stokes, who volunteers at the Utah Assistive Technology Program in Logan, saw Dean as he was there at Lowe's, picking up some materials the store had donated for a different UATP project. He also saw Wolford in the store.

"Mike is my old assistant soccer coach," Wolford said.

Stokes and Wolford arranged an introduction with Luthi, and the work began to find a scooter he could use on loan from UATP. They found one, and Luthi began working more safely.

"When I got the scooter I didn't have to worry bout falling," he said.

He also received a walker on loan from UATP to help him walk the halls of Bridgerland Technical College, where he is studying to be an auto and diesel technician.

"My goal is to open my own shop," he said.

Information about equipment available for loan from UATP is available in an earlier post.