Tuesday, July 5, 2011

UATP in the The Herald Journal

"Assistive Technology a help at work, school"
By Miranda Marquit

Reprinted with permission of
The Herald Journal (Everyday Tech column)
Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Many of us find that technology can help us do things that we might not otherwise be able to do. This is especially true of assistive technology, which is designed to promote independence. A wide range of community members use assistive technology in school, at work and for recreation. However, sometimes it can be difficult to pay for the assistive technology, and that is where the Utah Assistive Technology Program comes in. I spoke with Sachin Pavithran, Assistive Technology Specialist and Disability Law and Policy Coordinator, at the Center for Persons with Disabilities, about some of the ways that assistive technology can promote independence. “I am legally blind,” Pavithran told me, “I use assistive technology every day.” Pavithran’s technology includes a Braille keyboard, a portable Braille notebook and mobile devices outfitted with audio that can read out what is on the screen.

“Apple has done a good job of making assistive technology available out of the box on their devices,” Pavithran said. “But assistive technology can be expensive. Not everyone can afford to buy it.”

The Utah Assistive Technology Program does not purchase devices for community members who need them, but the program does help people purchase assistive technology on their own through low-interest loans. “I took advantage of such a loan to get my notetaking unit,” Pavithran said. “Tech adds up fast. You might be surprised at what some of it costs, especially hearing aids.”

The program partners with Zions Bank; the Utah Assistive Technology Program screens community members, and the bank offers loans at the prime rate. The program does help out by contributing enough in interest that community members who need assistive technology are able to get loans at half the prime rate.

“We do have to make sure that there is a way for our clients to repay the loans,” Pavithran said, “but this program helps many afford the technology they need, but might not otherwise be able to afford.”

Pavithran noted that there are other resources available to clients at the CPD, and one of his jobs is to direct them to these resources. One of the resources is the Assistive Technology lab. Storee Powell, media and PR working specialist at the center, explained that the lab specializes in designing custom solutions for clients: “The people in the A.T. Lab can make items specific to the client. There are a number of programs available at the Assistive Technology Lab, and the public is welcome.”

With resources from the CPD and the Utah Assistive Technology Program, greater independence for many can be achieved through technology. For information visit www.utahatprogram.blogspot.com or www.utahatlab.blogspot.com.