Thursday, December 18, 2014

UATF helps restore hearing

By Storee Powell

Pat Markowski said she has been married for a lot of years, but began having communication problems with her husband as she lost her hearing.

"I wasn't hearing him. And I wasn't enjoying TV," Markowski said. "If I turned it up, I was blasting my husband out." 
"You bet hearing is something  we take for granted," Markowski said.
"You bet hearing is something
we take for granted," Markowski said.

But now Makowski is enjoying life again and communicating with her husband because of her new hearing aids she was able to purchase with a low--interest loan from the Utah Assistive Technology Foundation.

"They help me immensely, and my hearing aids have made my life a lot easier," she said.

UATF is a non-profit initiative of the Utah Assistive Technology Program providing alternative finance options to Utahns with disabilities to purchase assistive technology devices like hearing aids, adapted vans, communication devices.

"The loan process was so easy," she said. "It surprised me how reasonable it was."

Markowski had checked on getting a loan through a bank and a credit union, and said the rates were not affordable for her.

"I'm very thankful for the loan. The cost was my first concern - I wouldn't have been able to get the hearing aids without it."

Insurance does not pay for hearing aids, so most people end up paying for them out of pocket. 

"I never realized how bad off I was until I got these," Markowski said.

Learn more about UATF, and find loan applications online at

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Taxi access for people with disabilities

A note from James Weisman, general counsel of the United Spinal Association.

Taxi access for people with disabilities has become a cutting edge advocacy issue.

Dispatch apps, sometimes called TNC's (Transportation Network Companies) need to provide services to people with disabilities and must be held accountable when they do not. Using AbleRoad to rate car services and dispatch apps can help us to accomplish this.

AbleRoad app image
AbleRoad is a website and mobile app that allows wheelchair users to rate and share car services and dispatch apps.

We have three goals:

  1. To assist others with disabilities who need to travel.
  2. To hold taxi companies, and car services accountable.
  3. Most importantly, to have a measurable evaluation of the largely unregulated dispatch app companies, which include, among other companies, Uber and Lyft.

Here's how:
Go to and type in the name of the car service or dispatch app and your location. Since AbleRoad uses the Yelp platform, if it is listed on Yelp, it will appear on AbleRoad and you can write a review and tell fellow travelers with disabilities about the quality of the service and/or accessibility of the vehicle.

If a car service is not listed on Yelp, you can add the business to Yelp using and then add a review. It will appear on AbleRoad.

To download the AbleRoad app on an iPhone go to the App Store and search for AbleRoad; to download on Android go to and search for AbleRoad.

Let's work together to make it happen. Thank you for participating.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Job opening at CReATE in Salt Lake

Position: CReATE Assistant, Citizens Reutilizing Assistive Technology Equipment (CReATE)

Open until Dec. 19th. To apply to this job, go to USU's Career Aggie website, and after making a profile, look for job ID #60678 - CReATE assistant.

CReATE facility in Salt Lake.

Job Description: This is a part-time, non-benefited position. CReATE is a growing, non-profit organization operated through the Utah Assistive Technology Program at the Center for Persons with Disabilities at Utah State University. The CReATE Assistant will possess good office management and customer service skills, as well as basic mechanical skills to refurbish, clean and scrap materials in the warehouse.  

Responsibilities include, but are not limited to:

  • Answer phone calls, emails, and other correspondence and provide timely and accurate responses.  Complete daily paperwork and data entry to various databases and spreadsheets.  
  • Work well in a team environment.  Interact positively and professionally with everyone.
  • Under direction from CReATE coordinator and UATP PR/Marketing specialist, actively participate and promote public relations and marketing initiatives including: 
    • Social media websites, blogs, bulletins, websites, etc.
    • External and internal events (fairs, expos, open houses, etc.) 
    • Coordinate and perform in-services, webcasts, on-site demonstrations, open houses, etc.
    • Assist and coordinate with volunteers.
    • Refer callers to appropriate agencies, non-profits and vendors, if we cannot meet their needs. 
  • Clean, sanitize, and refurbish used mobility devices. Scrap/recycle devices, organize and store usable parts. Transport scrapped/recyclable materials to a recycling center.
  • Deliver and pick up donated devices in various locations between Ogden and Provo.  
  • Provide suggestions and feedback to help ensure continuous improvement.  
  • Maintain, clean, and organize all areas of work environment.
  • Work with clients to help secure funding for specific devices.  
  • Other duties as assigned.

Supervision: Supervised by the Utah Assistive Technology Program (UATP) at Utah State University in Logan, Utah.  Person will report directly to the CReATE Program Coordinator.

Location: Job is located in a warehouse at the Judy Buffmire building: 1595 West 500 South, Salt Lake City.

1. Strong PC skills, ability to operate basic office equipment.  Experience with data entry, database maintenance/management and inventory spread sheets.  Basic familiarity with social media strongly preferred. Public relations and marketing experience a plus.   
2. Excellent written and verbal communication skills.  Ability to fluently read, write and converse in the English language. Spanish language skills are a plus. Ability to follow directions and procedures.
3. Strong customer service experience and ability to positively interact with outside agencies, vendors, and clients in a friendly and professional manner.  
4. Self-initiative with a strong skill set for working with little or no supervision to meet/exceed deadlines.  
5. Experience working with people with disabilities and mobility equipment strongly preferred. 
6. Basic knowledge of power and hand tools.  Knowledge of electronics a plus.
7. Detail-oriented with ability to organize both hard copy and electronics files, wheelchair parts, and tools.  
8. Ability to lift heavy equipment (up to 50 pounds), climb a ladder and stand for up to 4-8 hours per day.
9. Possess a current valid Utah driver’s license. Must be able to complete driver’s training and certification to drive both state (USOR) and Utah State University vehicles.
10. Ability to drive a full-size van and/or pickup truck. Ability to maneuver a utility trailer a plus.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Call for Research Participants: People with disabilities and DIY accessibility

Call for Research Participants from Syracuse University:

Hello, my name is Jerry Robinson and I am a PhD candidate in the iSchool at Syracuse University. I am currently doing research on the “do-it-yourself” like activities of individuals with dexterity and mobility impairments.  

Do-it-yourself (DIY) in the context of my research refers to the self-driven efforts of individuals with disabilities to address accessibility, impairment, and everyday life issues instead of relying on other people or companies to address these issues for them.  

My goal is to draw people’s attention to the issues that surround the utilization and modification of objects by people with disabilities. I also hope to help paint a picture of disability that reflects resourcefulness, creativity, and independence.

All participants will be asked to fill out a brief online questionnaire and meet with me for two separate 60-90 minute face-to-face, telephone, or Skype interviews. During the interviews I will ask general questions about the participant's everyday life and specific questions about the various tools, tips, tactics, and solutions he or she has adopted, adapted, or created in order to take part in everyday life activities. 

An gift code will be emailed to everyone who participates in this study.

I welcome the opportunity to learn more about your experiences. If you would like to find out more about this study then please send me a note with your email address.  I can be reached via email or phone at 315-200-2858.

Please note that this opportunity is only open to individuals who reside in the United States.

Jerry Robinson | PhD Candidate | School of Information Studies Syracuse University
221 Hinds Hall
Syracuse, New York 13244

Monday, December 8, 2014

Help keep the Oneida Narrows open for accessible recreation

The Oneida Narrows (north of Preston) is a popular recreation area in Cache Valley. It is one of the few places that's easily accessible for those who use wheelchairs or have mobility impairments for fly fishing and kayaking/tubing.

Photo Courtesy: USU Hard News Cafe

The proposed dam would flood the canyon, creating a reservoir and another hydroelectric plant. Public comment  is being accepted until December 17. It’s simple to do and could make the difference in saving this area. Please make your voice heard! 

1) Go to

2) Click the large orange button that says “e-comment”.

3) Fill out the short form with your name, address, and email. 

4) The system will then generate an email to you with a live link allowing you to file comments. The docket number you need to enter is P-12486-008. Composing your comments in advance is best so you can just copy and paste them in the text field; otherwise the system may time out while you are working on your comments.

5) Hit “submit” and your comments will become part of the public record. 

More information about the project in these Herald Journal stories and YouTube video:

Keep Oneida Narrows for outdoor recreation

2012 ruling failed to put Oneida dam issue to rest

Assistive Technology DIY Contest

RESNA (Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America) International Special Interest Group (SIG) Do-It-Yourself Contest

Deadline is April 1, 2015 

Those with experience working or living in developing countries know that the assistive device needed is often not commercially available or affordable. As a step toward remedying this problem, the RESNA International SIG is sponsoring an assistive technology DIY (Do It Yourself!) contest. 

We are looking for innovative, low-cost DIY assistive technology that could be replicated around the world. Whirlwind Wheelchair's generous donation will allow us to offer cash prizes including $300 for first place, $150 for second place, and $50 for third place! 
DIY: It's easier than you think.

Please submit a zip folder with ALL of the information below to to be considered for the contest by April 1st, 2015:

  1. Written description of the device that includes: a) how many people around the world you estimate could benefit from this device; and b) a brief description of the beneficiaries (disability, geographic region, age, gender, etc.). 
  2. Drawing of the device.
  3. Pictures of the device.
  4. Video of the device and how to use it, where appropriate.
  5. List of materials required to make the device, where to obtain them and their cost.
  6. Instructions on how to make the device (written acceptable, but good video instructions will usually make your entry more competitive).

Entries can be in English or Spanish. Spanish videos must be captioned in English. Entries with captioning for deaf and hard of hearing or audio for blind and low vision will be awarded extra points.

Scoring System:

  • 10 points for innovative concept (Only DIY projects that have not been published elsewhere are eligible).
  • 25 points for completeness and clarity of description of device and how to use it.
  • 25 points for completeness and clarity of instructions for how to make the device.
  • 30 points for low cost and ease of fabrication.
  • 10 points for number of people who could benefit from this device.
  • Up to 20 extra points for including: 
    • a) ways to enhance the basic design, these may include alternatives, additions, and adaptations (include at least one example); 
    • b) ways to make it simpler if the recommended materials, tools, or skills are not available (include at least one example); and 
    • c) accessibility of materials to deaf/hard-of-hearing and/or blind/low vision individuals.  

Note:  Extra points will only be counted if you score at least 80 in the first five categories. Total possible points = 120.

Questions? Contact the International SIG at 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

AT Awareness Month: The Future of Assistive Technology

To recap Assistive Technology Awareness Month that was in November, director of the UATP, Sachin Pavithran, provides his thoughts on the history and future of assistive technology.

By Bennett Purser
UATP director, Sachin Pavithran.
UATP director, Sachin Pavithran

Assistive technology has come a long way, and devices are developing fast and producing many options for people seeking independence and success. In the last five years, consumers have seen mainstream technology thoroughly embrace assistive features.

Initially, assistive technology was specialized equipment or devices, always tailored to the needs of whichever disability population the products catered to.

Now that assistive technology has merged into mainstream technology, the concept has moved beyond specialization for blindness, deafness or communicative assistance, to having each of these amenities, and more, in a single device.

Sachin Pavithran, director of the Utah Assistive Technology Program, said, “The mainstream technology companies have realized there’s a population out there who could use the equipment if they add certain features to it."

“Down the road when there's more awareness about what these technologies can do, it will first of all decrease the cost of assistive technology,” Pavithran said. “Because that has been one of the biggest challenges, that assistive technology has always been very expensive.”

But the more AT is merged into general technology, it becomes more affordable for average families. 

“Now people are paying a fixed price, when they buy the latest devices, which happens to be accessible,” Pavithran said.

With these great strides, it is easy to see how the buying market for adaptive features is a far cry from what consumers once used. 

Pavithran notes that even consumers without disabilities are owning assistive devices when they purchase an iPad or Android, even Comcast’s television receivers have become accessible to the blind. 
Android Smartphone
Smartphones like this Android are
becoming more and more accessible.

But where Pavithran believes that awareness is still needed the most is in the classroom. With his work at the UATP and throughout the country, he still sees a lack of discussion about assistive technology in schools. 

While the Center for Persons with Disabilities and Emma Eccles Jones college of Education and Human Services at Utah State University has implemented the use of assistive technology in the classrooms on campus, schools nationwide could benefit from having more devices available to students. 

“In education systems, instructional materials within the university environment, a lot more could be done so students can have equally access to information,” he said. “It’s just that universities are not really putting emphasis on what technology is fully accessible, or using it to fullest extent to so students with disabilities could be having the same or equal experience that every other student has on campus.”

He mentioned that Assistive Technology Awareness Month is important for higher education to see their roles in discussing how technology can be included to ensure students equal access to information and an independent educational experience. 

“Seeing the satisfaction that individuals get when they finally find a conclusion to do things independently is always fulfilling," Pavithran said. "A lot of times people want to do things independently, there’s just a lack of knowledge in place.”

Monday, December 1, 2014

UATP Webinar: iPhone apps for the Blind and Visually Impaired

The Utah Assistive Technology Program (UATP) will present a FREE online interactive training, “iPhone apps for the blind and visually impaired,” on Wednesday, Dec. 10, 2014 from 3:00 – 4:30 p.m. MST.

Dancing iPhones.

The iPhone is more than a text machine! It is a great accessible tool for those with vision impairment. Everette Bacon will demonstrate many applications specifically designed for those who are blind or have low vision on the iPhone. These apps can help with independence in everyday tasks and also can assist with school or vocation.

Everette Bacon is the Field Services Coordinator and is over both Technology and Employment Services for the Division of Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired. He began as an Assistive Technology Specialist in 2006. He is also the Affiliate President for the National Federation of the Blind of Utah. Jerry Nealey will assist Everette, and is a Field Instructor for DSBVI.

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, December 9th. 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 Friday, Dec. 5th to make arrangements to participate via phone. 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Salt Lake City Council ruling on ridesharing services impedes access for the blind

Yesterday, Nov. 25, the Salt Lake City Council adopted liability and security rules making business more difficult for ridesharing services Lyft and Uber. Read more on the ruling on the Salt Lake Tribune

By Everette Bacon
Utah Chapter President
National Federation of the Blind

The National Federation of the Blind is the largest organization of blind and low-vision people in the United States. Founded in 1940, the Federation has grown to over 50,000 members. Here in Utah, we have over 2,000 blind, low vision, and sighted members on our registry and we have been an active, not-for-profit organization since 1957.

Uber, Everyone's private driver.
As the voice of the blind community, we oppose the Council’s ground transportation ruling, which imposes onerous requirements on ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft. Ridesharing technologies have had an incredible impact on the blind and vision impaired community, enabling them to live fuller and more independent lives. These transportation alternatives should be welcomed into Salt Lake City in a sensible way that embraces the uniqueness of the model.

Ridesharing apps are lauded by accessibility advocates because of their ease of use and reliability.  Riders can use voice commands and software compatibility to request a ride anywhere in the city. While public transportation can be an option, what makes ridesharing liberating for those with impaired vision is that it offers a safe and reliable ride within minutes of pressing a button. 

Requesting a ride through Uber or Lyft ensures a clean and safe vehicle will arrive at the rider’s location within a matter of minutes.  This eliminates the need to hail a taxi, a process that can be extremely difficult for those with vision impairments. The voice access technology counts down the minutes until a car arrives. Riders can enter their destination in the app prior to the trip and estimate the fare thus ensuring the driver will take them directly where they want to go. Since the fare is charged to a credit card on file, there is no payment friction, there is no handling of cash and there is no worry over getting short-changed.

Because discrimination is one of the biggest issues our community faces, the level of accountability involved in ridesharing is an unparalleled advantage. Also, as direct feedback is submitted after every ride, any questions or concerns can be addressed immediately – a process that can be extremely difficult or impossible with traditional transportation options, like a taxi. 

Salt Lake City Council should remove outdated impediments to progress and embrace the services that consumers want and need, especially services that are making a difference in the lives of so many people facing limited mobility. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

School Tools: Overcoming writing barriers with Co:Writer

By Kent Remund
Utah Center for Assistive Technology

In its most simple form, writing is recording; writing is a powerful way for humans to record and express ideas from an individual’s mind and can be kept for future generations to read. Think of some of our greatest recorded writings from Twain, Dickens, Tolstoy and Dr. Seuss. 

Writing in the school setting has changed over the years. From chalk and slate, graphite pencils, and pens, to typewriters, computers, laptops and tablets. Students with disabilities have some powerful tools to assist them in recording their thoughts today. 

For students with learning disabilities, it can be difficult for them to get the words out.  There's a wall between the idea and writing it out. Word recall is a barrier as well as grammar and spelling can get in the way. One of our favorite tools to help students overcome these barriers over the past decade is Co:Writer from Don Johnston,

If students can write just a fraction of what they want to say, Co:Writer will do the rest. The most basic feature of Co:Writer predicts what students are trying to say, and offers word suggestions in real time.  

Even the worst spelling and grammar mistakes are not a problem for Co:Writer. In addition to prediction is the ability to add topic-specific vocabulary, which it uses to predicts words from. 

Co:Writer has word prediction.
Word prediction is one feature of Co:Writer.
If a student were to write a paper on our solar system, a dictionary specific to the solar system could be added to the words that it will predict. The students starts to type "pl" and Co:Writer will predict “Planet” and “Pluto”.

Co:Writer can have specific dictionaries like this one on butterflies.

Another feature is the ability for it to speak each letter, word and complete sentence as the student types. This allows them to check their writing through auditory feedback.  

Co:Writer is also a great tool for students that lack fine motor skills or range of motion challenges. Many students with cerebral palsy use the program with great success as it eliminates keystrokes with the word prediction.  

Handwriting trouble is not an issue with Co:Writer.

In the past, Co:Writer was only available on the PC for $189.00 per computer. Last year it was released for Apple devices for $19.99! Don Johnston just released Co:Writer Universal, which is $89.00 per year, but has some great features that we love. Co:Writer Universal uses the Cloud to store its information and is available to access on a computer, iPhone, iPad or Chromebook.  

If a teacher were to set up a custom dictionary at school, the student can then login to his/her account at home, and continue working on the same work from school. In addition, Co:Writer Universal now has some powerful data collection features for teachers and parents. It continually tracks which words and sentence the student is writing and compiles it in useful charts and graphs to monitor a full range of qualitative and productivity data. This data will help track writing skills and help set goals for the student. 

Data tracking helps you keep up with writing skills.

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. 

Friday, November 21, 2014

Assistive Technology Awareness with Gold Medalist Muffy Davis

By Bennett Purser

In honor of November being Assistive Technology Awareness Month, the UATP spoke with Paralympic gold medalist Muffy Davis about her career, how she uses assistive technology in sports and her experiences with the 
Utah Assistive Technology Foundation.

For Paralympic gold medalist Muffy Davis, assistive technology isn’t just for competitive sports, but what she uses every day to live her life to the fullest. With November’s celebration of Assistive Technology Awareness Month, Davis shares her gratitude for adaptive sports and the Utah Assistive Technology Foundation, which made some of her devices possible.

Muffy Davis with her gold medals

“For me,” Davis said. “They enable me to have a full life. That’s what assistive technology does, enabling people to be able to do the things they want to do.”

As an avid skier her throughout her life, an accident 25 years ago left Davis paralyzed from the waist down at age 16. After the tragedy of the accident, she was determined to get back back on the mountain and conquer the slopes. 

She taught herself how to ski sitting down and embraced a new realm of competitive winter sports. Since then, Davis continues to be an avid skier as well as hand cycler and mountain climber. She has competed in the 1998, 2000, 2002, 2010, and 2012 Paralympic Games, where she won three gold medals in hand cycling. 

It was 2008 when she first came to the UATP seeking information about low interest loans for assistive technology devices through the Utah Assistive Technology Foundation. A unit within the UATP, the foundation partners with Zions Bank to make new devices a financial possibility.

Davis was interested in putting an indoor elevator in her home after retailers told her that a custom lift would be about the same price as an elevator, she was approved for a low interest loan and had the home elevator installed. 

A few years down the road, Davis returned to the UATF when her car was no longer meeting her needs. With a growing family, it was time to find a more practical vehicle. She was approved for her second loan from the UATF to get a van fit for her wheelchair and her new daughter.  

Davis, who won three gold medals during the London Paralympic games, has gone great lengths with assistive equipment, but it’s the small things, Davis said, that assistive technology influences the most.

“Having this fully accessible van is so much easier. I can do more things, I can go farther,” she said. “It’s the peace of mind, I have a five year old daughter so knowing I can go get her. It’s the little things.” 

Muffy Davis with her daughter

With assistive technology fully implemented in Davis’ home and daily life, she notes the importance of adaptive devices in recreation. The type of devices that make her career and success possible, devices like adaptive skis and hand pedaled bicycles, bring her joy beyond competition.

“Aside from the fact that I love to compete at an elite level and get physical fitness and exercise, just being able to recreate with my family is immeasurable." Davis said. "I can recreate with my daughter, and that’s what I love to do.”

With Assistive Technology Awareness Month, Davis mentions how the youth embraces assistive technology. Those she’s seen skiing in the resorts and biking in the summers, have impressed her with their dedication to perform despite any physical limitations.

“What I think is so wonderful is that assistive technology is not a surprise to them. Kids are growing up and they’re like ‘of course I can play wheelchair basketball,’ or ‘of course I want to swim with adaptive technology, or run or ride a bike,'” Davis said. “So the fact that more kids in wheelchairs don’t even consider that it may not be a possibility.”

She expressed her gratitude to resources like the Utah Assistive Technology Foundation, who provides funds when someone doesn’t have the financial needs, but “the idea and the passion.”

Muffy Davis is in the process of writing her first book, a memoir recalling her experiences as a Paralympian, choosing to do more than survive, but to thrive. The book is to be published within the next year. To learn more about Muffy Davis’ story, visit her website here and for more information on the Utah Assistive Technology Foundation and our partnership with Zions Bank click here.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Life of a Wheelchair at CReATE

In honor of Assistive Technology Awareness Month, the Utah Assistive Technology Program is celebrating the wheelchair, and the many lives it can change. 

CReATE graphic
Ray Rasmussen was stuck. With his wheelchair falling apart, his mobility was limited and his freedom had been compromised. That's where CReATE, Citizen’s Reutilizing Assistive Technology came in. 

Tom Boman, the technician for CReATE, looked at Rasmussen’s needs and turned a recycled wheelchair into freedom for Rasmussen. An ordinary day in the life for Boman, reutilizing assistive technology equipment for the needs of people like Rasmussen. 

It was Rasmussen’s cousin, Jim Graehl, who brought him to CReATE after hearing about the wheelchair services from a local medical school. He recalls the difficulties of finding a chair that could meet all the physical requirements for his cousin, noting a collection of broken chairs at Rasmussen’s home.

"The value of CReATE was really driven home for us when Ray broke his first chair,” Graehl said. “He's not eligible for a new chair from Medicaid for two years.”

There are no waiting periods or disability proof requirements at CReATE, helping fill the need of those unable to get one through insurance. After receiving the new chair from CReATE, Graehl donated three of Rasmussen’s previous electric wheelchairs in need of repair.  

Peggy Naud
Peggy Naud testing out her new chair from CReATE.
"One of the chairs Ray had was a bigger, more industrial chair. Tom [Boman] said it was hard to get, but easy to reutilize,” Graehl said.

Reutilize he did. Boman worked his magic and now Rasmussen’s old chair belongs to another client Peggy Naud. As a resident of downtown Salt Lake City, Naud received her chair after her electric scooter lost power. Learning about CReATE from the United Way, Naud felt relieved when she visited the shop.    

“I walked in that place on my crutches and it felt like there was a million chairs in that room,” Naud said. “When I saw all those chairs it made feel like I wasn't such a sore thumb sticking out in the crowd.”

After consulting with Boman about her specific needs in her mobility chair, she left the shop gleaming in Rasmussen’s donated chair.

“It was an old, Jazzy 1170 wheelchair,” Boman said. “We took that chair and combined with parts of others for Peggy.”

Since many parts of the chairs and scooters are interchangeable, everything either gets scrapped out or refurbished, and goes back to someone. 

“We take a look at whatever chair has the best possibility to meet the client’s needs,” said Boman. “It really is the gift that keeps on giving.”

As Naud explores her downtown neighborhood, new chair in tow, she frequents many of its shops and events. Recently she bought season tickets to the Utah Opera, attending “Madame Butterfly,” as she sat in Rasmussen’s former chair with her daughter next to her in the aisle seat.

“It was marvelous! The chair makes me taller than everyone else around me, so I had the best seat in the house,” Naud said laughing. “Nothing keeps me from getting downtown.”

Graehl recalls similar feelings after discovering the services at the shop.

“The lack of freedom and loss of freedom was really difficult for Ray, but having those guys [CReATE] available to help us is a huge benefit."

Visit the CReATE webpage to learn more about the many wheelchairs available, or call 801-887-9398 to speak with a technician. 

Monday, November 10, 2014

Myth vs. Fact – The Cost of Workplace Accommodations

By Lindsay Boerens
Utah Disability Law Center

Myth: 99% of all green Jell-O is consumed in the state of Utah.

Fact: In 2001, the Utah state senate recognized Jell-O as a favorite snack food and the governor declared an annual Jell-O week. 
Green Jell-O Mold

Myth: Accommodations for employees with disabilities are expensive.

Fact: 58% of accommodations for employees with disabilities actually cost nothing.

A common misconception is that accommodations for employees with disabilities are expensive. 

However, according to an ongoing study conducted by the Job Accommodation Network (JAN) since 2004, employers report that 58 percent of accommodations cost them ZERO dollars. The rest typically cost less than $500. 

Employers often assume that accommodations are expensive, high-end electronics and technology. Many forget that assistive technology can include any item, piece of equipment, software or product system that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities.  

According to JAN, simple items such as tennis balls, headlamps, and even curtains could all be used as a reasonable accommodation in the workplace. 
Assistive technology to help accommodate  workers can be high-tech or low-tech.
Assistive technology to help accommodate
workers can be high-tech or low-tech.

It is important to note that some types of assistive technology (AT) that are more expensive may be necessary. The type of accommodation needed will always depend on an individual’s particular situation – including their job and their disability. 

One thing for employers to consider is that, in some cases, something as simple as putting curtains up to reduce glare on a computer screen for an employee with migraine headaches is much less complicated (and more than likely much less expensive) than searching for the best anti-glare computer monitor on the market. 

So remember, before jumping to the conclusion that an accommodation will break the bank, low cost and effective accommodations do exist. Employers and employees can find a wealth of information on job accommodations on the JAN website:, and check out the JAN search for accomodations by disability gadget on the right-hand side of this blog.

If you are a person with a disability and are in need of an accommodation at work, you can contact the Disability Law Center for more information and, if necessary, legal consultation to help you resolve issues with your employer. Visit us at or call us at 1-800-662-9080.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Augmentative & Alternative Communication: Impacting children with differing disabilities

Assistant Technology Consultant of Saltillo, Jean Bosco Walsh, spoke to the UATP about AAC awareness month and the power of speech.

By Bennett Purser

October is International Augmentative and Alternative Communication Awareness Month, and the ways children with speech disabilities communicate have never been stronger. With fast-changing AAC devices and software reaching a milestone in accessibility, toddlers to aging adults can now make themselves understood with communication devices.

Assistant Technology Consultant of Saltillo, Jean Bosco Walsh, spoke to the UATP about AAC awareness month and the power of speech. 

“It is much more of a mainstream type of device now, anything to do with AAC is so much more commonplace,” said Bosco Walsh. 

The NOVA Chat 10 functions similar to a tablet with its user-friendly touch screen
The NOVA Chat 10 from Saltillo functions as a tablet.
Communication devices in the past were heavy, large machines that had to be worked around, but the increase in accessibility of the devices has made it much easier for people with communication disorders to engage in meaningful conversation with others. Many devices have decreased in size and price, while allowing for more options to be utilized. 

“Now being able to have a tablet, your device can be much more of a daily function. It doesn't have to be this big extra burden,” she said.

With Saltillo's NOVA Chat device and TouchNet, Saltillo’s app for Apple products that can be accessed with iPads and iPhones, Bosco Walsh has seen children’s behavior change drastically as the technology improves their speech capabilities. 

She’s witnessed the hardship of people not being able to speak naturally, while still having the ability to understand others. So when speech through AAC is given to a child, their behavior reflects their relief, influencing the child’s behaviors.

The NOVA Chat 5 functions like a Smart Phone, with its similar size and weight.
The NOVA Chat 5 functions like a Smart Phone.
“The frustration of someone not being able to talk, but being able to really understand," Bosco Walsh said, "behaviors can really be lessened with the use of a communication device."

She notes that people with varying disabilities can benefit from AAC devices. Researchers have seen children with Autism become more comfortable communicating with these devices as they aren’t distracted with the other sensory elements of a conversation. Students with other disabilities also show drastic increase in speech when learning with devices. 

“Sometime students with Down syndrome have the ability to to put two or three words together, but then you put a device in front of them and all of sudden they're speaking with full sentences and using the right tense and parts of speech, which normally they wouldn't be able to do,” she said.

The relief that Bosco Walsh has seen as students engage in AAC has been powerful. She believes that this year, AAC awareness month has brought more attention to children in need of alternative communication than ever before.

“Not being able to speak, does not mean someone doesn't understand,” she said. “So giving someone a voice can really change their life.” 

Utahns can contact UATP to learn more about acquiring an appropriate AAC device for a family member or client. Learn more about AAC devices from Saltillo and watch the Saltillo Webinar by UATP.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

U.S. Access Board Update with Sachin Pavithran

Sachin Pavithran, UATP director, is also vice chair of the U.S. Access Board, appointed by Pres. Obama. The Board is a federal agency that promotes equality for people with disabilities through leadership in accessible design and the development of accessibility guidelines and standards for the built environment, transportation, communication, medical diagnostic equipment, and information technology. This is an update from Sachin on current issues the board is working on:
UATP director, and US Access Board vice chair, Sachin Pavithran.

We currently have 5 active rulemakings and two that are planned. The five active rules are:

1. Transportation Vehicles (buses) - the final rule is at the Office of Management and Budget under review (it was sent on September 9, 2014).

2. Public Rights-of-Way and Shared Use Paths - this will be a final rule; we expect to ask for a Board vote in January 2015 and will then send it to OMB for review.

3. Medical Diagnostic Equipment - this will be a final rule; we expect to ask for a Board vote in January 2015 and will then send it to OMB for review.

4. Passenger Vessels - this will be a final rule; we expect to ask for a Board vote in March 2015 and will then send it to OMB for review.

5. Information and Communications Technology - this will be a proposed rule; the proposed rule is at OMB under review (we expect to publish the rule in October and hold a public hearing during our November Board meeting).

The two rules that are planned include:

1. Self-Service Transaction Machines - we have not decided on a rulemaking approach yet; we just received the market analysis from Econometrica (staff is reviewing it now and will send it to the ad hoc committee once they finish their review).

2. Transportation Vehicles (rail) - this will be a proposed rule after the advisory committee completes its work; they are scheduled to present their recommendations to the Board at the July 2015 Board meeting.

Here's background information on each of the rules:

Transportation Vehicles (buses):
A notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) to revise and update the accessibility guidelines for buses, over-the-road buses, and vans covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), was published in July 2010. Two public hearings were held during the comment period that closed in November 2010. 

One important issue was raised after the close of the comment period. As a result, the Board re-opened the comment period for additional public input related to the late comments. The commenters raised issues about the 1:6 ramp slope requirements and a new design that locates the shallower ramp partially inside the vehicle. This design constrains the maneuvering space within the vehicle at the top of the ramp and at the farebox and creates a grade break within the ramp run. 

During the extended comment period which ended in October 2012, the Board held two information meetings to gather input on these issues. Because we do not want to delay rulemaking for subjects that do not require further development, we plan to move forward with the sections that have been vetted through public comment and that will result in better accessibility e.g., automated stop announcements. The Board submitted the final rule to OMB for review in September 2014. Additional research needs will be identified along with a time schedule for completion of the remaining issues. 

Public Rights-of-Way and Shared Use Paths:
In 2009, we contracted with the Volpe National Transportation Systems Center to assist the Board in finalizing a regulatory assessment for the public rights-of-way rulemaking. An NPRM was published for public comment in July 2011. 

When the Board approved the draft final accessibility guidelines for outdoor developed areas, coverage of shared use paths was deferred to a future rulemaking. Commenters on the outdoor developed areas rule had previously raised concerns about the need for differing guidelines for shared use paths. Commenters noted that shared use paths differ from trails and typically are located in more developed outdoor areas, as opposed to the more primitive trail settings. Unlike trails, they are designed to serve both bicyclists and pedestrians and are used for transportation and recreation purposes. 

In September 2010, the Board held a public information meeting in conjunction with the ProWalk/ProBike 2010 Conference. This meeting provided an opportunity for individuals with disabilities, designers of shared use paths, and others with expertise in this area to share information with the Board to assist in the development of new accessibility guidelines. The Board then published an advance notice of proposed rulemaking for shared use paths in March 2011. 

In February 2013, the Board published a Supplemental Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to include requirements for shared use paths as part of the public rights-of-way rule. An ad hoc committee of Board members and staff are working to develop a final rule.

Medical Diagnostic Equipment:
We are developing accessibility standards for medical diagnostic equipment, including examination tables and chairs, weight scales, radiological equipment, and mammography equipment. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act requires the Board to issue these standards in consultation with the Food and Drug Administration. The standards are to address independent access to, and use of, equipment by people with disabilities to the maximum extent possible. 

In July 2010, the Board held a public information meeting on this rulemaking to gather information from stakeholders, including consumers, equipment manufacturers, the healthcare industry, government agencies, and others with an interest in the new standards. A proposed rule was published in February 2012 and two public hearings were held. The comment period closed in June 2012 and 53 comments were received. 

In March 2012, the Board created a 24-member Medical Diagnostic Equipment Accessibility Standards federal advisory committee to advise the Board on matters associated with the comments the Board received and information it requested in proposing the standards. The committee submitted its report to the Board in December 2013. An ad hoc committee of Board members and staff are working to develop a final rule.

Passenger Vessels:
On June 25, 2013, the Board released for public comment proposed guidelines for passenger vessels. Developed under the ADA, the guidelines provide design criteria for large vessels when newly constructed or altered to ensure that they are accessible to people with disabilities. 

The guidelines address various features of vessel accessibility and include provisions for onboard routes, vertical access between decks, doorways and coamings, toilet rooms, guest rooms, alarm systems, and other spaces and elements used by passengers. The Board's guidelines apply to passenger vessels that are permitted to carry more than 150 passengers or more than 49 overnight passengers, all ferries, and certain tenders that carry 60 or more passengers. 

On July 15, 2013, the Cruise Lines International Association requested that the 90-day comment period be extended by an additional 120 days to review and more fully assess the proposed rule. We extended the comment period to January 24, 2014. An ad hoc committee of Board members and staff are working to develop a final rule.

Information and Communication Technology Update:
In July 2006, the Board created an advisory committee to update and revise the Section 508 standards and the Telecommunications Act Accessibility Guidelines. Forty-one organizations served on the Telecommunications and Electronic and Information Technology Advisory Committee. The committee's membership included representatives from industry, disability groups, standard-setting bodies in the U.S. and abroad, and government agencies, among others. The committee completed its work and presented its report to the Board in April 2008. 

In March 2010, the Board published an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) to update the Board's Information and Communication Technology guidelines and standards based on the committee's report. A second ANPRM was published in December 2011. The public comment period ended in March 2012 and two public hearings were held. Ninety-one separate commenters filed comments or spoke at the hearings. The Board submitted the proposed rule to OMB for review in February 2014.

Self-Service Transaction Machines:
The Departments of Justice and Transportation (DOT) have related rulemakings on self-service transaction machines. As a result, we have worked collaboratively with them to develop a single set of technical requirements that can be referenced and scoped by each participating agency. 

On November 12, 2013 DOT published its rule on Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability in Air Travel: Accessibility of Web Sites and Automated Kiosks at U.S. Airports. The DOT requirements for automated kiosks at U.S. airports are derived from the technical requirements we helped develop and are consistent with our requirements for automatic teller machines and fare machines, as well as the current requirements of section 508 for self-contained, closed products. 

In 2010, DOJ published an ANPRM on Equipment and Furniture that would cover kiosks, interactive transaction machines, and point-of-sale devices, among other things. We have contracted with Econometrica to assist the Board in preparing an environmental scan that will assist us to develop a better sense of the types and numbers of machines potentially covered by this rule. An ad hoc committee of Board members and staff are working to develop a proposed rule.

Transportation Vehicles (rail):
In May 2013, the Board formed a 27-member federal advisory committee as part of its review and update of the ADA Accessibility Guidelines for Transportation Vehicles. The Rail Vehicles Access Advisory Committee will develop consensus recommendations for the Board's use in updating sections of the guidelines that cover vehicles of fixed guideway systems, including rapid, light, commuter, intercity, and high speed rail. 

These guidelines, which were originally published in 1991, serve as the basis for standards that apply to new or remanufactured vehicles required to be accessible under the ADA. The committee's work will not extend to portions of the guidelines that address buses and vans, which the Board is already in the process of updating. The committee is scheduled to present its recommendations to the Board at the July 2015 Board meeting.