Friday, September 30, 2016

Logan AT Lab welcomes new employee

Photo of Dan
Dan O'Crowley
Dan O'Crowley is the newest addition to the Assistive Technology Lab family. It's good news for the Logan lab--which has been remarkably busy--and for Dan, who is working toward a career in prosthetics.

"Growing up I've always loved engineering," he said. He nurtured his own interest in inventing and problem-solving throughout high school and has since gravitated toward prosthetics--a field that will require him to earn a master's degree.

In the meantime his working on a bachelor's degree in biology at Utah State University, and working part-time at the AT Lab. He learned about the lab from his wife Marcy, who did work there as part of her special education coursework.

"When I got married and I started school here, she said, 'Dan, you should go volunteer at this place I know.'"

She knew of his love of tinkering. He was a mechanic for a summer with his brother. He built a wooden fridge--patterned after an old-fashioned ice box--for his dad in wood shop during high school. And when his parents decided to build a house while he was in high school, he drew up the blueprints.

"That was a big learning curve," he said.

Marcy was right when she introduced him to the lab--he enjoyed it. After volunteering for a semester, he received an invitation from lab coordinator Clay Christensen to work there part-time. Now he is there, helping the lab handle an ever-growing workload.

Welcome, Dan!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Great information on the USU-Uintah Basin AT Lab, in 1 minute

Thanks to help from KLCY's Aggie Report in the Uintah Basin, we offer this quick look at the new Utah State University-Uintah Basin Assistive Technology Lab in Roosevelt. Come see us if you're in the neighborhood!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

A guide to accessible voting in Utah

photo of woman holding "vote" signs
By Nate Crippes
Staff attorney, Disability Law Center

“The vote is the most powerful instrument ever devised by man for breaking down injustice and destroying the terrible walls which imprison men because they are different from other men.” – Lyndon B. Johnson

Voting is an immensely important act.  Democracy relies on each and every citizen using their vote as their voice.  Since democracy relies on every citizen, it is also very important that every citizen have access to the polls.  Thankfully, the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA) did a lot to ensure that polling places meet the needs of everyone. 

However, because voting is also an incredibly personal act, access alone is not enough.  HAVA says that each person must be able to vote as privately and independently as any other person.  That is why HAVA requires each polling place to have an immensely important piece of assistive technology, an accessible voting machine.

Now, some of you may have already received a notice about voting by mail this election season.  At this time, 21 of Utah’s 29 counties have moved to vote by mail this year.  So what does this mean for those who may require an accessible voting machine to vote independently and privately? 

The counties that have moved to vote by mail usually have a few polling places available on Election Day.  Contact your county clerk for more information on this.

If you happen to live in a county that does traditional voting rather than vote by mail, you will also have the option to vote early at some polling locations.  These locations will also have an accessible voting machine.  For more information on early voting contact your county clerk’s office. 

If you need help finding your polling place, go to

If you experience any problems with voting on Election Day, whether by mail or traditional means, the Disability Law Center (DLC) will have a voting hotline, (800) 662-9080, to answer your questions while polls are open. 

In addition, if you have any questions or concerns about voting prior to Election Day, please do not hesitate to contact the DLC at the same number or at

Friday, September 9, 2016

Volunteers help make our world go 'round

Photo of a missionary working on a wheelchair battery

Utahns, are you looking for a place to serve? We have three!

The Utah Assistive Technology Program has long taken pride in its volunteers, who have helped us serve Utahns with disabilities for years. We have enjoyed the help of people who have retired but not stopped working; of students and community members; and, most recently, LDS missionaries fulfilling a service requirement.

AT Lab Coordinator Clay Christensen has two messages for those who donate their time to the AT Labs or CReATE: Thank you. And please don't stop.

Lately Christensen has been swamped with wheelchair maintenance requests--perhaps because insurance doesn't always cover the need, maybe because it's hard for patrons to find someone who can do it. He is grateful for the volunteers who help him keep up with the demand while still tending to other aspects of the AT Lab mission: demonstration, training, research and the development of prototype devices that help people with disabilities become more independent.

"It makes a huge difference," he said while two missionaries worked on moving and disassembling wheelchairs. "The labor these guys did today would've taken me five hours." (The two missionaries worked there for two hours that day.)

"It's fun," said Elder Weston, who has been coming twice a week. "It's hands-on, I get to tear things apart, and I help people change their lives."

"It's good to stay busy, and know something good's going to come out of it," said Elder Weston, who worked in the lab at the same time.

They are examples of what CReATE Program Coordinator Tom Boman said is ideal volunteers, because they come in on a regular basis. Boman, too, has benefited from volunteer help, which has eased the demands on his time. The program, based in Salt Lake City, refurbishes used mobility devices and transfers them to people who need them at an affordable cost. CReATE now transfers more than twice the number of devices as it did in 2014.

Volunteers help Boman keep up with the demand and deliver record numbers of mobility devices into the hands of people who need them. CReATE has enjoyed 30 to 50 hours per week of donated time in recent months, but Boman said they could always use more. "Volunteers who are willing to come in on a regular basis can really help us out," he said.

The new AT Lab at USU-Uintah Basin in Roosevelt is already feeling a similar pinch: lots of donated devices that could use some tweaking, lots of need, and not enough hours in a day. Lab Coordinator Cameron Cressall said volunteers would be welcome.

To find out more about volunteering with UATP, contact:

Clay Christensen, Logan Assistive Technology Lab, 435.797.0699
Tom Boman, CReATE, Salt Lake City, 801.877.9398
Cameron Cressall, USU-Uintah Basin AT Lab (Roosevelt) 435.722.1714

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Guest post: Pop culture is showing a welcome shift in portrayal of people with disabilities

Photo of Emily Lund
By Dr. Emily Lund
Post-doctoral Fellow, Boston University Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation, Boston University
2016 Robins Award Winner, Graduate Researcher of the Year, Utah State University

“Sport doesn’t care who you are,” a 2012 advertisement for Samsung announces, showing video of Paralympic athletes doing pushups, lifting weights, swimming laps, and otherwise training intensely for the upcoming games. The ad is one of many that has come out in recent years from Olympic sponsors, promoting not just able-bodied athletes, but their often-under-recognized Paralympic peers. During the 2016 Olympic games, it was not uncommon to see Paralympians like ten-time wheelchair racing medalist Tatyana McFadden featured alongside Olympians in ads supporting Team USA. As the 2016 Paralympic games start in Rio, increasing recognition, public interest, and media coverage is being given to Paralympians.

Also encouraging is the increasing acknowledgement in the media that Paralympic athletes are just that—world-class, talented, and extremely hardworking athletes. The inspiration narrative of the coverage is shifting from one that focuses solely on impairment to one that acknowledges the extraordinary skill of these competitors.

The increasing and changing media coverage of the Paralympic games in recent years represents a shift, however gradual, in how disability is represented in the media. Historically, people with disabilities have often been portrayed in a one-dimensional manner, seen solely as objects of pity or passive inspiration. Telathons portrayed children with disabilities as people who were incapable of living a good, rich, and meaningful life, and TV shows often cast characters with disabilities for “special episodes” where the person with a disability existed only to teach the main characters a touching life lesson and then to disappear again.

Quote: Historically, people with disabilities have often been portrayed in a one-dimensional manner, seen solely as objects of pity or passive inspiration."
Lost in these portrayals was an acknowledgement of people with disabilities as complete people, with rich and varied hopes, dreams, and experiences. Much like the narrative of Paralympic games, that is now changing, as characters with disabilities become more dynamic parts of the television landscape.

The new ABC comedy, “Speechless,” which premieres September 21, focuses on the life of a teenage boy with cerebral palsy, JJ DiMeo, and his family. The ads for the show don’t sugarcoat the experience of disability—JJ’s mother is shown fiercely advocating for her son’s rights to full inclusion in a public school—but they don’t shy away from portraying JJ as a full person, one who is opinionated, adventurous, and very much a teenage boy. He is shown to be as much of a complex and involved character as any other one in the pilot, despite the fact that he is non-verbal and uses a letter board to communicate. Rather than being someone who merely watches the action unfold, JJ participates in it actively. He is more than a plot point—he is truly a part of the narrative.

“Speechless” represents one example of the new disability narrative that is seen on television. Another such example is the popular HBO show, “Game of Thrones,” which features Tyrion Lannister, a man with dwarfism, as a main character. Throughout the show, Tyrion is given substantial character development, both positive and negative, and while his disability and other people’s reactions to it are an important part of the narrative and his character, he is very much portrayed as a dynamic, complex, and complicated character. Although “Game of Thrones” and Speechless” are very different shows that are aimed at very different audiences, they both represent the increasing willingness of writers to embrace disability and characters with disabilities as central aspects of their shows.  Additionally, both Tyrion—played by the Emmy-winning Peter Dinklage—and JJ—played by relative newcomer Micah Fowler—are portrayed by actors with disabilities, thus embracing the “nothing about us without us” aspect of the disability rights movement.

Similarly, the Emmy-nominated reality TV series, “Born This Way,” on A&E follows the lives of seven young adults with Down Syndrome. Their experiences of disability definitely influence the narrative of the show, but much of what the subjects experience—questions of love, friendship, family, school, and work--is familiar to anyone who’s gone through young adulthood, regardless of disability status. In their willingness to show people with disabilities as fully human, these portrayals allow people with disabilities to be active participants in their own stories.

The changing portrayal of people with disabilities in the media, be it Paralympic athletes, characters in scripted TV shows, or reality TV stars, invites the public to see people with disabilities as people whose stories should be told in full. Furthermore, it allows people with disabilities and their family members, both as participants and viewers, to be part of a richer, more complete conversation about what it means to live with a disability.