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.