Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Happy National Assistive Technology Awareness Day! Here's a look at the future of AT.

March 27 is National Assistive Technology Awareness Day--and it's a great opportunity to celebrate the past and future of assitive technology. (Take a look at UATP's history at the bottom of this post.)

Chance paints using a prosthetic arm with an attachment to hold a brush
Chance with Version Two of a
UATP-designed device
As for the future, UATP has taken its first steps into 3D printed prosthetics--and it's exciting times here at UATP!

UATP was approached by teachers at Arrowhead Elementary in Santa Clara, Utah, who wanted Chance to be able to color with his friends at school. He would color by holding the crayons in his mouth. The system was working pretty well, especially if he switched to markers, said Chance's father, Richard Hirschi. Still, "All our crayons at home keep getting bitten in half."

Richard said his family likes to let Chance work through problems on his own. "We let him get as far as he can before we give him the next tool to get over the next barrier," he said.

Richard and Chance gave a new tool a try in February, when they met UATP's Logan Interim Lab Coordinator Dan O'Crowley and volunteer Mike Stokes in Salt Lake City. (Chance's wheelchair was being serviced at Shriner's Hospital.) Dan and Mike tried out their first prototype of a prosthetic arm. They quickly decided Version One was too long, but they modified it on the spot, made some more observations, then returned to the lab to work up Version Two.

"We realized there was a learning curve to that first design that was too long," said Dan. "Version two is very simple. We hope that once he learns to use it, we could maybe incorporate a little more sophistication into future designs."

Chance tried that one this month at school. The video below shows him using the next prototype to write on the computer.





UATP in Logan will continue working with 3D printed prosthetics. "3D printing is amazing, but it's not going to solve all the problems," said Dan. "This bridges the gap to make designs that an insurance company will not pay for." Sometimes a client's needs and desires are very different from the device insurance will cover, but 3D printing allows for an inexpensive, individualized alternative.

Since 1989, UATP's focus has always been on connecting people to the devices that help them gain or retain independence. Technologies come and go, but UATP continues helping people to find affordable solutions.

Here's a quick look at our history:


  • In 1989, Utah was one of nine states that received funding to establish a statewide program for assistive technology. The Utah Assistive Technology Program was then established at Utah State University, as part of the Center for Persons with Disabilities. From these beginnings, assistive technology programs became available nationwide.
  • In 1991, the UATP's financing program was established to help make AT affordable to Utahns. These services are available to clients statewide. 
  • In 1993, the AT Laboratory was established in what was then the Industrial Technology Education department at Utah State University. It was soon made part of the Utah Assistive Technology Program, where devices are modified, customized or built from the ground up to serve individual needs. These services are offered in addition to UATP's device reuse and demonstration and loan programs. The lab has also provided training to students who 
  • In 2006, UATP established its Salt Lake City location (formerly CReATE). The SLC facility focuses specifically on the reuse of mobility equipment by refurbishing donated devices and transferring them to people who need them, for an affordable fee. 
  • In 2017, UATP opened its Uintah Basin facility. Like its counterpart in Logan, UATP in the Uintah Basin provides demonstration and loan, device reuse, customization and financing services to Utahns in the region.
Rick leans over a project, wearing safety glasses. Power tools are in the background.
Rick Escobar, one of UATP's earliest employees, works in the AT Lab.


1 comment:

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