The Center for Persons with Disabilities at Utah State University

New option for AAC users

July 2, 2015 by Sue Reeves

Screen shots of Cough Drop, an ACC app.

Cough Drop is shown on an Android tablet and phone and on a Mac laptop. The app can be synched across multiple devices.

A Salt Lake City-based company gave a brief demonstration of its new cloud-based augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) app at Utah State University’s assistive technology lab recently. AAC apps are used on electronic devices by people who have difficulty using spoken language. Users communicate by tapping a picture on the device, which then speaks using an electronic voice. Existing AAC devices and apps can be costly and difficult to customize and use.

The new app, called Cough Drop (“because every voice deserves to be heard”) is a cloud-based subscription service that allows the user, or communicator, to access it from multiple devices. Parents, teachers and selected others, called supervisors, have unlimited access. Updates occur in real time.

This means, company founder Brian Whitmer explained, that a teacher can make changes to a student’s electronic communication board and have it uploaded by the time that student gets home from school. Current technology requires the student to leave his or her device with the teacher, essentially leaving the student unable to communicate with anyone until returning to school the next day.

Cough Drop was founded by Whitmer after his experiences with AAC for his young daughter, who has Rett syndrome and is nonverbal. Whitmer, who received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in computer science, with an emphasis in usability, from Brigham Young University, is also a co-founder and board member of Instructure, Inc., which created Canvas, USU’s learning management system.

Clay Christensen, AT lab coordinator, said he tries to find the best fit in high-tech and low-tech solutions for people with disabilities, and has been searching for a simple, user-friendly AAC app.

“We are just trying to bridge the gaps, and give quality of life back to these people,” he said. “They are intelligent, they’re just trapped inside themselves and we have to figure out how to help them communicate.”

UATP is a program of Utah State University’s Center for Persons with Disabilities.

For more information about Cough Drop, or to start a two-month free trial, click here (for best results, use Google Chrome.)


CPD partners with local cafe on fundraiser

June 26, 2015 by Sue Reeves

Get an Iconic burger and fries plus reserved seating at Morty's for the Freedom Fire show on July 3 for only $20! Proceeds benefit the CAC's Community Investment Award.

Get an Iconic burger and fries plus reserved seating at Morty’s for the Freedom Fire show on July 3 for only $20! Proceeds benefit the CAC’s Community Investment Award.

Morty’s, a popular restaurant located adjacent to Utah State University, has partnered with the Center for Persons with Disabilities for an event that hopes to fund the Consumer Advisory Council’s Community Investment Award.

On July 3, Morty’s is offering an Iconic burger and fries, plus reserved outdoor seating and a parking token, for a great view of the Freedom Fire fireworks show, for only $20 (or gather some friends and get 6 for $100). Reserved seating begins at 9 p.m. on July 3. If you aren’t planning to view the fireworks that evening, Morty’s will donate 10 percent of any purchase made on July 3 to the CAC.

“This is a great way for people to get some delicious food from Morty’s, watch the Freedom Fire show from a fantastic vantage point, and help fund the Community Investment Award, which gives $500 twice a year to a non-profit agency in Utah that provides services for people with disabilities,” said Shane Johnson, associate director of development at the CPD.

Tickets are available at Morty’s or at the CPD Main Office.

For more information on the Community Investment Award, click here, here and here.

Tags: , ,

Up to 3 plans information fair July 18

June 24, 2015 by Sue Reeves

Upto3_PostcardThe Up to 3 Early Intervention program at Utah State University’s Center for Persons with Disabilities will present an Early Childhood Information Fair from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, July 18 at Elk Ridge Park (1100 East 2500 North Meadow View in North Logan). The fair is presented in conjunction with North Logan Parks and Recreation.

The fair will feature information on early childhood community resources for children from birth to age 5 and lots of activities for kids and families, said Sue Olsen, director of Exemplary Services at the CPD. All of the information and many activities are free. Food will be available for purchase. Donations will be accepted to help support the construction of an accessible splash table at the North Logan Splash Pad.

There will be a bounce house and hourly raffles and silent auctions of products and services from local vendors and people from around the community.

DLC produces transition report

June 19, 2015 by Sue Reeves

Image of three students walking, and pushing one in a wheelchair.

Project PEER students at USU.

The Disability Law Center, a Salt Lake City-based non-profit organization that is Utah’s designated Protection and Advocacy (P&A) agency, has produced a report on transition in the state of Utah. In the report, the DLC explores opportunities and barriers to the success of students with disabilities in competitive and integrated employment. It also provides insights from students, parents, rural communities, agencies, higher education, employers, and academics. Promising practices, challenges, and recommendations are provided in each area.

The DLC report recognized successes in school districts and programs that recognized and worked with student strengths and interests during transition planning, worked to increase parent involvement, generated positive employment experiences, utilized the support of state agencies, and programs located at universities, colleges and technical schools. The report mentioned two programs located at Utah State University’s Center for Persons with Disabilities: Project PEER (Post-secondary education, employment and research) and Aggies Elevated.

The report also made recommendations for improvements throughout the state.

To download an electronic version of the report, click here.

To visit the Disability Law Center web site, click here.


Tags: , , , ,

Utah Autism Give receives Community Investment Award

June 17, 2015 by Sue Reeves

Image of check presentation.

Left to right: Gordon Richins, Shane Johnson, Leeann Whiffen, Megan Nickel and Sean Whiffen.

Utah Autism Give, an American Fork-area non-profit, has received the Community Investment Award from the Consumer Advisory Council at Utah State University’s Center for Persons with Disabilities. The $500 award was presented by Gordon Richins, the CPD’s Consumer Advocate, and Shane Johnson, Associate Director of Development at the CPD.

The CAC, which is comprised of five self-advocates, five parents and five non-profit agency representatives, gives the award twice a year. CAC members nominate, advocate and vote for the recipients.

Utah Autism Give was nominated by Laura Anderson, a parent CAC member. UAG is a parent-driven 501(c)(3) non-profit organization giving hope to individuals with autism and their families through programs designed to offset treatment costs and strengthen family relationships.

“The focus is to help pay for services to improve the lives of those affected with autism, and/or their family members,” Anderson wrote in her nomination. “For example, paying for the initial consultation expense to start an in-home behavior analysis program. Or, providing an Apple iPad and language program built to improve those who are non-verbal or struggling with communication. The funds are paid directly to the service providers, or directly towards purchasing the products or services, rather than simply giving any money to families themselves, to ensure effective usage of the funds.”

UAG was started in 2009 by Leeann and Sean Whiffen and Megan Nickel, parents of children with autism who understood the difficulty and expense of finding appropriate therapies and supports for their children. UAG achieved 501(c)(3) non-profit status in 2011.

UAG has no marketing, advertising or employee expenses and very few basic operating expenses, so nearly all donations are directed towards the families who need the help. No funds are distributed outside the state of Utah.

Since most funds that are awarded to families are in the $500 to $2,000 range, “This donation is important. It makes a big difference,” said Leeann Whiffen.

Visit the Utah Autism Give web site here at its Facebook page here.

Tags: ,