Friday, February 28, 2020

Event highlights issues facing immigrant families

Sachin Pavithran, CPD policy director and UATP director,
spoke to participants about immigrants, disability and
how communities should approach them.

People with disabilities face additional barriers to citizenship

 By Diego Mendiola

 On Thursday at Mount Logan Middle School, community members and refugees gathered to learn about the challenges that are faced for those that are attempting to naturalize in the US, and the difficulties faced while reaching out to immigrant families with members with disabilities.

Immigrant families face increasing hurdles to become naturalized, refugees are denied access to the United States, and insensitivity of cultural differences prevent access to opportunities for those with disabilities.

 “If you feel like, ‘Wow the system is totally broken and I don’t understand anything,’ It’s probably a good thing,” said U.S. immigrantion lawyer Chad Pemberton in his opening remarks about the immigration process. “You’re probably right.”

 The event was held in partnership between the Cache Refugee and Immigrant Connection and the Center for persons with Disabilities at Utah State University.

Although Pemberton said he would try to be as neutral as possible about his presentation, he was open about his bias toward immigrant families. “By nature, the subject of immigration is political.” 

Pemberton said the way immigration issues are portrayed in the media is not helpful for American’s perception of outsiders. He said the media makes it seem that “if you are not a citizen, that means you didn’t try or you don’t care, that you recklessly want to break the law.”

According to Pemberton, the wait time for a person petitioning for a relative to become a permanent resident can take 20 to 25 years to process an application. The government is currently processing applications from 1998.

 “As you can see, the wait times are insane, and they’re only getting worse” he said. “So when people say, ‘why don’t they do it the right way,’ they don’t realize what’s really happening, how backlogged everything is.”

Unless prospective immigrants have relatives who are citizens or they are considered refugees by the United Nations, many people around the world simply have no options to move into the United States in a legal manner. Taking these issues, Sachin Pavithran invited the audience to experience immigration through the perspective of a person with disabilities.

Pavithran is the Utah Assistive Technology Program director and the policy director at the CPD. 

He emphasized the value of interdependence in immigrant families and communities. Sometimes they might perceive independence from the family as a threat to the family unit. “A lot of folks will really push individuals to become independent from their family.” He advised against this tactic. “If you try to push the family away, the person with disabilities will also be gone. Value the importance of interdependence. It’s how many family units work.”

 Furthermore, there is a lack of trust, he said. “Working with government agencies is not the easiest” for immigrant families. Although programs like the Utah Assistive Technology Program do not share personally identifying information, many immigrant-status families do not trust these services. 

Pemberton said policies have made a lot of immigrants fearful of receiving government services. According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website, “Since the 1800s, Congress has put into statute that aliens are inadmissible to the United States if they are unable to care for themselves without becoming public charges.”

 On Aug. 14, 2019, the latest rule change was added. It extended the definitions for who can be considered a public charge, and what services qualify a person to be considered a public charge. Those who use those services may be disqualified from renewing their status within the United States.

That rule, according to Pemberton, does not apply to those who are already permanent residents.

 Find out more on the US Citizenship and Immigration Services website.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Three videos on hearing technology now available

UATP's YouTube channel now has three new videos to help Utahns better understand hearing technology: specifically how they compare to/work with hearing aids, what situations they are most helpful in, and how Utahns can try them out and find ways to finance them (more on that below).

They focus on the PockeTalker:

The Contego:

...and neck loops of various types.

For help with financing, visit UATP's financing page. Many of UATP's reduced-interest loans are for hearing aids, and loans and small grants can also help with the purchase of other hearing technology.

UATP has a PockeTalker available for demonstration and loan at the Logan and Uintah Basin locations. For more information in Logan, contact Dan O'Crowley. For more information in the Uintah Basin, contact Cameron Cressall.

The videos were made with the help of the Division of Services to the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. They also have lending libraries in these two locations:

The Sanderson Community Center
5709 South 1500 West
Taylorsville, UT 84123

Southern Utah Program
1067 E. Tabernacle, Suite 10
St. George, UT 84770

They also have hard of hearing assistants in these counties:

San Juan & Moab
Jamy Bailey  928-369-6952 

Daggett, Duchesne and Uintah
Francy Davis 435-790-1956

Box Elder, Cache and Weber 
Virginia Parker 435-730-5723

Utah County
Andrina Fuller 435-260-9961

Thursday, February 6, 2020

UATP volunteer makes affordable therapeutic trikes a reality

UATP is poised to offer custom-built trikes from the Logan and Uintah Basin locations to Utah families who need them.

UATP thanks the JR Stokes Foundation for supporting the development of this project.

action photo
Crew tries out his bike with UATP Logan coordinator
Dan O'Crowley (behind) and volunteer Mike Stokes (right).
Biking is Crew’s favorite part of physical therapy. “He loves it,” said his mother, Melissa. “For him, it’s playtime.”

But a standard bike—even one with training wheels—wasn’t appropriate for him. Bikes with training wheels teeter, and six-year-old Crew needs more stability. When he rode a bike in therapy sessions, it was on a specialized piece of therapy equipment. 

Melissa looked into getting him one of his own, but sticker shock set in.

“They’re so expensive. That’s not in our budget,” she said.

“For kids that really need support, I don’t know of a trike that costs less than $3000, by the time you get all the parts,” said Shaun Dahle, a physical therapist in Cache County. It’s discouraging for families to spend so much on equipment a child will outgrow all too soon.

He approached Utah Assistive Technology Program volunteer Mike Stokes with the problem more than a year and a half ago. “Shaun mentioned that he’d love to have a less expensive trike made out of PVC. He asked if we thought it was possible,” Stokes said.

“The real drive for me was to create a product that was available to families at a lower cost,” said Dahle. “There are a lot of other costs that these families already have.”

a boy grins from a green PVC bike
Graham tries out a bike that will help him
learn to walk and crawl.
The therapeutic benefits of cycling are significant. It teaches reciprocal movement, Dahle said, which can help children learn to crawl and walk. For some, biking is the only way they can get exercise, and it bothered Dahle that biking activities were limited to physical therapy sessions. “How much more would a child thrive if they could do it at home?” 

Stokes took the project on, working at the UATP lab and in his own garage. “One of the major goals that we set out to do was, we wanted it to be able to be assembled by anyone in the world.” After several months and many prototypes, he settled on a furniture-grade PVC design that UATP can build for around $400.

When the design was final, Stokes and UATP staff made the first two PVC trikes, and they are now with families in Northern Utah. One of them was Crew’s.

“It was amazing to find this,” Melissa said. “I’ve been so excited about it, and he’s been so excited.” Now he can ride bikes with his sister and friends.

“How is it, Crew?” she asked.

His speech is limited, but he gave it two thumbs up. 

Brandy White, who is from Cache County, is looking forward to the difference the bike will make for her son, Graham. “It’s going to help train his brain on muscle memory, how to work his muscles and how to use them,” she said.

She expects the equipment will help the two-and-a-half-year-old boy learn to walk and crawl. “He loves riding his bike,” she said.

Does your family's tot (50 lbs and under) need a therapeutic trike? UATP is now ready to build more of them for other families who need them. They are offered for the cost of materials (around $400). The time to build them is provided by UATP staff, volunteers and students at no cost. For more information, contact Dan O’Crowley in Logan and Cameron Cressall in the Uintah Basin.