Thursday, June 30, 2016

Uber and the Disability Law Center team up for better transit

A young man in a wheelchair enters a van via a lift

Wheelchair accessible vehicles introduced in Utah

By Nate Crippes
Utah Disability Law Center

Technology is constantly improving.  This includes assistive technology, as I am sure many readers have seen.  At the Disability Law Center, we advocate for people with disabilities to get the assistive technology they need.  Rarely have we been able to advocate for the improvement of technology.  Over the last few months, however, we received such an opportunity. 

Here at the DLC, we are aware that people who use wheelchairs have little access to taxicabs and similar services.  As we were looking into options to try to force their hands at providing some access, we were put in touch with the folks at Uber.  We were aware that Uber has been operating their Uber Assist program, an option for Uber riders that is able to provide more assistance for people with disabilities, in Utah for quite some time.  While this program can help certain people in wheelchairs, it did not provide access to people who use power chairs. 

The DLC and Uber worked together to find vehicles, and drivers, that were equipped to provide riders to people who use power chairs.  After a few months and several meetings, we were able to get a vehicle provider on board to get Uber WAV (Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles) up and running. 

Last month, Andrew Riggle, DLC Public Policy Advocate, and Ms. Wheelchair Utah, Eliza McIntosh, took the inaugural Uber WAV ride to the Utah Center for Assistive Technology in Salt Lake City.  

Miss Wheelchair Utah and others talk outside an accessible van

In order to request a ride, once you have the Uber app, you just select “Access” on the vehicle icon slider and select WAV.   Unfortunately, vehicles may be limited at this time, until we get more providers and drivers on the app.  However, Uber is aware when rides are requested, and an increased demand will help us get more vehicles on the platform to ensure more access.  

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Video: Accessing Services from the Utah Assistive Technology Program

Do you need an assistive technology device? Do you have a goal for independence and you need to figure out how to meet it? Do you already know of technology that could help you gain independence--or even income--but you don't know how to finance it?

This is for you!

This video offers a brief introduction to the Assistive Technology Lab, the CReATE reutilization program (at 19:09) and loans available through the Utah Assitive Technology Foundation (at 36:31).

Friday, June 17, 2016

Interdisciplinary disability program now available in the Uintah Basin

an IDASL student works on a wheelchair for client Gordon Richins
An IDASL student works on a wheelchair
for client Gordon Richins.
The IDASL program has trained students on addressing disability issues since 2001. Starting in Fall 2016, it will be an option for Utah State University students in the Uintah Basin.

The IDASL (Interdisciplinary Disability Awareness and Service Learning) class is a two-semester, one- to three-credit course available to juniors, seniors and graduate students of all disciplines. Its purpose is to help people from all academic fields work together to find solutions to disability-related issues. The number of credits available depends on the student’s level of involvement.

Cameron Cressall, an alumnus of the program who is now the Assistive Technology Lab coordinator in Roosevelt, took the class when he returned to school after years in construction work and furniture building.

“Of all the classes I’ve taken at USU, that one class had more impact, hands down, than any other,” he said. “It led me to what I do today.” It made his work experience in building relevant in his chosen field: Social work. (As the lab coordinator, Cressall helps people meet their goals for independence by using technology to move, eat or enjoy a favorite activity.)

His lab experience also provided him with a career option that felt right. “I’m building, creating, doing fun stuff and making people happy.  … It’s not hard to be passionate about my job.”
Cressall worked in the AT lab as part of the service learning the IDASL program requires of all its students. Now, the lab he leads will provide similar opportunities to students in a whole new part of the state. Other service learning options in the Uintah Basin are pending.

In addition to service learning experiences, the class requires its students to attend seminars and presentations where they learn about disability in a collaborative, solution-focused approach.
Stipends are available for long-term trainees. For more information, contact Alma Burgess, the project coordinator.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

FREE Webinar: Addressing Reciprocative Conversational Deficits in People with Disabilities

photo of two young women communicating

Communications app training will especially benefit children and adults on the autism spectrum

A free webinar will address teaching communication skills. It takes place June 23 from 3 to 4 p.m. 

Many people make the false assumption that learners/candidates for augmentative and alternative communication have two-way, turn-taking conversational skills in place. Most times, this is not true. The learner must be explicitly guided through the conversational process.

For example, we assume everyone knows that asking someone, "How are you?" would result in the conversation partner replying, "Fine, thanks. How are you?" Most times, early or young AAC candidates do not reciprocate the conversational segment. 

Further, in the case of people with autism spectrum disorder, the learner is often not even aware that they must take a turn in the conversation. Often, false conversations between a person without disabilities and a person with disabilities devolves into a game of 20 questions in a one-way conversation. This is also the case for almost all AAC conversations.

photo of RJ Cooper
RJ Cooper
RJ Cooper, longtime developer of assistive technology and AAC, has developed an app that guides such persons through a conversation. At the conclusion of applied therapy, generalization might even be possible. RJ will be showing video, presenting research, and finally taking questions.

This webinar will be presented by RJ Cooper of RJ Cooper and Associates. 

In order to participate, you will need a computer with high speed internet access.


If you are interested in joining please RSVP by Tuesday, June 21 by contacting Lois Summers. 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  no later than Tuesday, June 21 to make arrangements to participate via phone.

Please feel free to pass this information on to anyone that might be interested.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Q&A with Tom Boman at CReATE

photo of Tom Boman
Tom Boman

CReATE lab coordinator reflects on success in Salt Lake City

Recently, the people at CReATE in Salt Lake City finished a month for the record books by providing 25 devices to people who need them. We asked Tom Boman, the CReATE coordinator, to tell us more.

You had a record-breaking month. Tell me more about it: were the 25 devices you transferred to clients mostly electric wheelchairs?

There was a variety of mobility devices transferred: five power wheelchairs, one scooter, 14 manual wheelchairs, four wheel walkers (rollators), and a wheelchair carrier.  In past years CReATE has almost exclusively focused on power wheelchairs, but we’ve tried to slowly expand our offerings and it’s worked out much better than we’d expected.

How does this compare to the volume of devices transferred a year ago? Two years ago?

In 2015 we transferred an average of 13.1 devices per month, and in 2014 it was 9.8.  Our 2016 monthly average is 20.4. 

What difference do these devices make to the people you serve? Is there a recent example that stands out to you?

It’s quite common for some of the mobility devices we transfer to almost become an extension of people’s bodies.  It can become part of their identity and an integral part of their independence.   We recently refurbished a power wheelchair for a lady that enabled her to continue her work on a medical assembly production line.  The power seat on her previous chair stopped working and she spent months not being able to change her body position for her 10-hour shifts.  The power wheelchair we worked on for her has power rehabilitation seating that enables her to elevate herself up to the correct height, and to vary her body position throughout the workday to help eliminate fatigue and injury.  Seeing that type of direct impact on people’s lives makes this work very rewarding for all of us.

Have you had to make changes in the shop to do this much more business?

Wow, where do I begin…?  There have been a lot of changes in the past three years I’ve been here.  If you’d seen the shop before then and saw it again now, the thing that would probably strike you the most is the level of organization.  We have more than doubled the warehouse racking and added a lot of special parts racks, storage bins, totes, and cabinets to store all the wheelchair parts.  You’d also probably notice that we have a lot more wheelchairs and other mobility devices packed inside the shop.  There’s just not much open space at all, and we have to resort to storing some devices outside.  We also have a lot more tools than we used to, and we’ve worked hard to keep them organized and readily accessible.   New workbenches with a custom-built wheelchair hoist have also helped us get the devices at a comfortable level for the work we do.  A custom-developed MS Access database has enabled us to consolidate all of the information on our client contacts and the all of the devices we have in inventory.  Finally, and most importantly, is the addition of the eight different volunteers that help us out to the tune of 30-50 hours each week.  Our volunteers are the best, and they make a big difference in what we are able to provide the community.

What role do those volunteers play?

Volunteers are absolutely critical to our work here.  Our ability to provide this level of service is due in large part to them. They come from different backgrounds and offer us their unique perspectives on the challenges that we face here at CReATE.  They help at almost every level of work we do here; from refurbishing complex power wheelchairs to scrapping out wheelchairs to cleaning the shop and organizing parts.  

How could the public help you carry on CReATE’s mission?

We can always use more donated devices and more volunteer help.  We have a lot, but are always in need of more devices and parts to be able to help our clientele.  Their need is constant so ours is as well. Volunteers that willing to return on a regular basis can really help us out.  People can also help spread the word about CReATE.  Occasionally we have clients that cannot cover the cost of our modest service fees and cannot secure funding through normal channels.  If someone would like to help cover those costs, that would not only help our clients but would also help us to “keep the lights on” and to continue to serve the community.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Roosevelt’s Assistive Technology Lab at USU opens, welcomes coordinator

photo of Cameron on the Uintah Basin campus
Cameron Cressall is the new AT Lab coordinator in the Uintah Basin.

There is a new face in the assistive technology scene in Roosevelt—and he’s ready to get people rolling.

Cameron Cressall is the coordinator of the new Assistive Technology Lab on Utah State University’s Roosevelt campus. Assistive technology is used to help people with disabilities achieve independence.  The new lab will work in partnership with other providers, including the Active Re-Entry Independent Living Center in Price, to provide customized assistive technology to Utahns in the Uintah Basin.

“It’s not hard to be passionate about my job,” Cressall said. “I’m building, creating, doing fun things, making people happy.”

While the lab is just getting started in Roosevelt, Cressall is not new to assistive technology. He worked in the AT Lab in Logan, where he regularly helped people meet their goals for independence. 

Both AT labs are part of the Utah Assistive Technology Program in the Center for Persons with disabilities, and they do more than just repair equipment. They also customize it to ensure it works for individuals with disabilities.

"We look forward to working with Cameron to continue meeting the needs in the Uintah Basin," said Nancy Bentley, Active Re-Entry's director. "Now we can involve the community even more, because the lab can take used devices, give them another life and put them into the hands of the people who need them."

"The AT Lab on USU's Logan campus has provided services that have helped a lot of people in Northern Utah," said Sachin Pavithran, the UATP director. "We're excited to bring those services to the Uintah Basin, and to provide them in a mobile format to reach people in rural settings."

Before getting involved in the disability field, Cressall worked in construction and building. Eventually he found himself back in school at Utah State University, taking the Interdisciplinary Disability and Service Learning (IDASL) class offered through the CPD and completing a bachelor’s degree in social work. The IDASL class teaches people from all fields of study about disability issues. It also gives service learning opportunities to students, including an option to gain experience in the Assistive Technology Lab on the Logan campus.

“It totally changed my life,” Cressall said. “Of all the classes I’ve taken at USU, that one class had more impact, hands down, than any other. … It led me to what I do today.” It also provided a good blend of tinkering, building, customizing and serving people.

How you can help

Both the Logan and Roosevelt labs need your donations—especially of used assistive technology equipment like wheelchairs, scooters, lifts and power wheelchairs. If you have devices you would like to donate, please call 1-800-524-5152.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Need to get the word out about AT in Utah?

photo of JoLynne Lyon
This summer, JoLynne Lyon will be blogging, Facebooking, tweeting, Google-plus-ing, and communicating with the media and the public for the Utah Assistive Technology Program.

She is a freelance storyteller with expertise in public relations and marketing, and she’s excited to work again with people from the Center for Persons with Disabilities at Utah State University (she was its PR specialist years ago).  “I love the CPD,” she said, “and UATP is such a vibrant program. It’s doing a lot to change the lives of people with disabilities in Utah, and those efforts are growing throughout the state.”

If you want to get the word out on assistive technology issues—especially in Utah—you can contact her via multiple social networks, or through email at gemcache1[at]

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

USU sees changes—but UATP services remain the same on Logan campus

photo of goodbye graffiti on the CPD building
The Center for Persons with Disabilities is decorated with farewell
graffiti. It is scheduled for demolition this month, but UATP's
services to clients will remain the same.
If you’ve been on the Logan campus of Utah State University lately, you’ve probably noticed some changes. The building that houses the Center for Persons with Disabilities was recently covered in graffiti in one last, affectionate gesture of farewell. It is now fenced off from the public and will soon be demolished.

Construction will begin this summer on the new Center for Clinical Excellence, which will house many Center for Persons with Disabilities programs.

Here’s how these changes will affect the people served by the Utah Assistive Technology Program: They  won’t.

Though UATP is a program of the Center for Persons with Disabilities, it is not expected to relocate to the new center, which is scheduled for completion in late fall of 2017.

Throughout the construction period, the Assistive TechnologyLab will go on serving clients from the same on-campus location in the Janet Quinney Lawson Building.

Some administrative UATP offices have moved physically, but they are still located in the Human Services Research Center on the Logan campus, and email addresses and phone numbers remain the same.