Michelle Hoggan brings a parent’s perspective to the Consumer Advisory Council

August 9, 2017 by JoLynne Lyon

photo of mother and daughter

Michelle, right, with her daughter Sarah

Michelle Hoggan came to the Center for Persons with Disabilities as the new parent of a nine-month old girl. Doctors told her not to expect her daughter to ever walk or talk.

“I think doctors don’t want to get your hopes up,” she said. But she’s thankful to occupational and physical therapists from the Up to 3 program, who set out with her to find out what her daughter, Sarah, could do. “The CPD was my very first contact with any professionals who were trained to work with people with disabilities.”

Today, Sarah Hoggan is twenty years old, she’s walking and talking, and she’s giving Michelle plenty of input. Michelle has joined the CPD’s Consumer Advisory Council as a parent member so that she can funnel that information back to the CPD. “I have a grown daughter with disabilities and she’s pretty good to tell me how she feels about things,” she said. “I thought I would add the right perspective.”

Hoggan is from Cache Valley, and it’s a great community, she said. “I’ve been really positively surprised at the services that have been available to her. My daughter has loved school, the education that she’s gotten there has been great.”

Sarah has also been involved in the Cache Employment and Training Center, which has taught her job skills and given her a place to socialize and do activities. Organizations like the CPD and the CETC support not only the people with disabilities, but their families, too, Michelle said. It helps them find others who are going through the same experience and realize that they are not alone.

“I think the CPD gives people a lot of hope, and a positive start,” she said.

Michelle, welcome back to the CPD!

Adventures in accessibility: How I spent my summer vacation

August 7, 2017 by JoLynne Lyon

photo of Mary Ellen

Mary Ellen Heiner at Devil’s Tower

By Mary Ellen Heiner

My name is Mary Ellen Heiner and I have been working at the Center for Persons with Disabilities since 1984 as a staff assistant/office manager, and now even an instructor. I was involved in a farming accident at the age of two that left me paralyzed from the waist down.

This year, for the first time EVER, I, my sister, and my two brothers and their wives went on our first family vacation. Having grown up on a farm in Wyoming, our “family vacations” consisted of an evening at the swimming pool up Snake River Canyon or fishing and a picnic in the mountains—as long as we left after the milking was done in the morning and we were back by 4:00 to do it again at night.

So, let’s start with Day One of our family vacation. My sister and I were in my car and my brothers and their friend were on their Harley Davidson motorbikes. Our first stop was at a beautiful spot called Mesa Falls, ID—just outside of Island Park. There was a beautiful, PAVED area where I could easily view the majestic falls up close and personal.

From Mesa Falls we went to West Yellowstone, where I had made reservations at a motel that said it was wheelchair accessible. And it was—up to a point. I could get into the room but there the accessibility ended. Not only did one of the two beds in the room block wheelchair access to the bathroom but after moving the bed as far as the room would allow, I discovered that my wheelchair, which is a regular standard size wheelchair, wouldn’t fit through the bathroom door. Minor detail.

Then came the challenge of trying to get into the bed! Beds these days have such high mattresses. These beds were higher than the arms on my wheelchair, making it impossible to slide from my wheelchair to the bed. There happened to be a sturdy chair by the doorway that we moved over to the bed. I found that if I slid from my wheelchair to the chair and then twisted my body so I was leaning over the bed, with my sister’s help, I could pull myself onto the bed—kind of like leap-frogging from one lily pad to another. That figured out, I was still left with the dilemma of what to do when I needed to use the bathroom. Luckily, I did come “prepared” for just such a circumstance. Let’s just say that I had to get out of my wheelchair and crawl into the bathroom—nuff said. Then once I crawled back to the chair by my bed, my sister had to help lift my legs while I lifted with my arms until I was in the chair and then again from the chair into the bed. I refrained from drinking anything for the remainder of the night in the hopes that I wouldn’t have to get up during the night to use the bathroom!

Day Two of our eight-day vacation was not much better. We visited Yellowstone National Park—having grown up in Wyoming, I had always wanted to go there and see the sites, particularly Old Faithful. The Park is very considerate to have numerous Wheelchair Accessible walkways and “restrooms” scattered throughout. However, what they don’t take into consideration is that when an individual who is in a wheelchair transfers from their wheelchair to the “accessible” toilet, they have to slide from one seat to the other. The seats on the toilet were not designed for that kind of movement and as I would transfer, the seat of the toilet would go sliding off the side. I would slide back to my wheelchair and move the seat back onto the toilet and then try sliding over again, with the same result. I eventually gave up and went in search of regular restroom in the building with the souvenir shop. Problem solved.

The second night of our vacation we stayed at a chain motel in Powell, Wyoming. Again, they assured our friends who made the reservations that they had a room on the first floor that was accessible. I ran into the same problems as the first hotel—that is, the wheelchair couldn’t fit through the bathroom door and the beds were too high. Unlike the first night, however, there wasn’t a chair in the room that I could slide over to the bed that I could use. So my brother and I went to the front desk and explained the dilemma and we asked if there were any rooms where the beds weren’t so tall. She very politely apologized and said that the beds were all the same. I asked her if they had any roll-away beds. She said they did but they were all located on the second floor and they couldn’t bring them down to the first floor (there was no elevator).

I then asked if it would be possible to take the mattress off the roll-away bed and then move me and my sister to a room with only one bed in it so that there would be room to put the mattress from the roll-away bed on the floor and I would just sleep on the floor. She said they would be happy to do that. I “made do” with the bathroom situation that same as I did the first night. Then my sister and I went through the same ritual of getting me into the wheelchair the next morning—meaning she lifted my legs while I lifted with my arms and then she turned my body until I was finally in the wheelchair. On the bright side, it was a great cardiovascular workout.

Mary Ellen and her sister in front of Mt. Rushmore

Mary Ellen and her sister, Suzann, at Mt. Rushmore, looking very presidential

Each of the following nights we made sure that we stayed at some of the better quality hotels, such as Marriott, where their wheelchair-accessible rooms were truly wheelchair accessible—almost. The beds were still too high, but each of the rooms had good, sturdy chairs that I was able to “leap frog” from one to the other and then to the bed. The restrooms were a dream—I was able to roll into the showers and take wonderful showers and wash my wheelchair at the same time! Each stop we made after that to tour, fill up with gas, or to eat, we made sure had regular wheelchair accessible bathrooms—beginning with Devil’s Tower, Mt. Rushmore, Sturgis, Deadwood, Independence Rock, and Martin’s Cove.

An overall amazing trip with a few hiccups along the way. Enough hiccups that I question whether I want to do it again next year. It also tells me that as far as we have come with the enactment of the American’s with Disabilities Act, we still have a way to go to make things truly accessible for all individuals.

On the bright side (and everybody knows that there is a bright side to everything—if you look for it), it opened up my brothers’ eyes to the frustrations I face on a regular basis when it comes to accessibility. They both realized just how inaccessible their homes were for me when I come to visit and they have both told me that they were going to make changes.

photo of Mary Ellen's family

Mary Ellen poses with her family during the trip.

Travel tips for the future

If I were to do this again—and given time to recover from the sometimes frustrating and embarrassing situations I encountered due to inaccessibility issues, I just might—I would do a few things different.

First, when making hotel reservations and I requesting a wheelchair-accessible room, I would question the reservation clerk more thoroughly about what their definition of accessible was.

Second, I would ask that they actually measure the doorways of not only the sleeping room but also the restroom so that I would know if a wheelchair could fit through it. When possible, I would ask to actually see the room to make sure that it was acceptable to me and would accommodate my wheelchair.

Third, I would not be quite so amenable to the substandard amenities I encountered (if any). While on the trip my attitude was “I’ll make do—it’s only one night.” I shouldn’t have to “make do”—I’m entitled to having a wonderful experience just like anybody else is.

And fourth, I would make sure that the management knew how displeased I was with the inaccessibility of their “accessible” rooms. My sister checked us out of all of our hotels and when asked how everything was, she said it was fine. I will also write a review of my experience in these two “accessible” hotels on Trip Advisor so that those who may be looking for accessible accommodations will know that they are NOT wheelchair accessible.

Don’t get me wrong, the hotels themselves were very nice—if you didn’t have any special needs. But I personally feel that I shouldn’t have to pay more to stay at a higher-end hotel just so that the “accessible” room was truly accessible. Like anybody else, I need to watch my pennies.

CPD access road closes August 4-9. Here’s how to find us.

August 2, 2017 by JoLynne Lyon

Coming soon: a road, repaved.

It’s been a construction-intensive summer. The next round to hits the road south of the CPD on August 4, when 850 North is closed for repaving. It will remain closed through August 9.

Traffic will be re-routed to Aggie Boulevard (700 North), then to the access road between Richards Hall and Edith Bowen Laboratory School.

Thanks for your patience, and enjoy the summer!

Dickeys’ DSL Scoop: July 2017 Edition

July 31, 2017 by JoLynne Lyon

photo of Sara and Ryan

Sara and Ryan Dickey are our new bloggers as DSL

Here at the Developmental Skills Lab we have a NEW blog tag team.  They are Ryan and Sara Dickey! No, they aren’t married but they are brother and sister!  Sometimes they ACT like brother and sister too!  Here is a quick bio:

Ryan- Ryan is 37 years young and has lived in Cache Valley for years.  He has been at DSL for the past year and a half.  Ryan lives in Nibley with his aunt and uncle.  Ryan has a job at Malouf in Nibley.  He has worked there about a year.  He works two days a week.  Ryan’s favorite part of his job is sweeping.  Ryan has an infectious positive attitude and loves to help everyone!  His favorite activities at DSL are going on outdoor adventures, going to movies, and cooking!  Ryan is so excited to report on the goings on here at DSL. (Note: we’re including a video of Ryan and his co-workers at Malouf in Logan.)

Sara- Sara is an independent working woman who also works at Malouf.  Sara works three days a week.  Her favorite part of her job is wiping off the tables in the cafeteria.  Sara lives in a group home and enjoys being independent.  Sara likes to color, cook, shop, go to movies, swimming, and participating in Special Olympics.  She has also been at DSL for a year and a half.  Sara’s favorite thing at DSL is to go shopping for supplies and cooking.  Sara is a friend to everyone!

This month in July we were very busy!  We were able to celebrate seven birthdays- that’s a lot of cake!! We had a big 4th of July bash on the 3rd– we had hamburgers and hot dogs and lots of fun.  We were also able to go swimming several times this month at Logan Aquatic Center and the HPER building.  We were able to improve our cooking skills by making many yummy healthy recipes including black bean salsa.  Our garden is growing and we hope that we can make some salsa with our very own tomatoes.  We also did many fun activities with Common Ground.  We did Dutch oven cooking, cycling, and a trip to Stokes nature center.  We also went to the movies and saw Despicable Me 3 and had a great time!  We also had taco day for our Becca (staff) who is moving to Boston on her new adventure.  We will miss her.  Good Luck Becca!  We also lived through the painters painting the rooms down the hallway- it looks so fresh and clean now!! We hope everyone had as much fun in July as we did here at DSL!

Interview with a SKI-HI alumnus

July 26, 2017 by JoLynne Lyon

Andy signs in front of a big screen.

Andy talks to a friend via technology, which helps him read and communicate.

Blogger’s note: I “met” Andy Prouty via an email interview while working on a story for Utah State Magazine about the CPD’s SKI-HI Institute, and its contributions to education for deafblind children. (USU alumni, watch your mailboxes for that story in August!) Andy was born with hearing loss and very limited vision in one eye. His family came to Utah in the 1980s to take advantage of intervener services made available through SKI-HI. Interveners work one-on-one with children with impaired vision and hearing, similar to the way Anne Sullivan worked with Helen Keller.

When he was three, Andy and his father testified before the Utah Legislature about the need for teachers trained to work with children who had both sight and hearing impairments.

Since then, SKI-HI’s mission has evolved and its influence has spread nationwide. The Prouty family has moved to other states, and now they reside in Minnesota. In this email interview, Andy reflects on those early days of his education in Utah, the higher education he is pursuing now, the technology he uses and the milestones that led to the independent life he enjoys today.

Q: What was your early schooling like? Did you spend most of your time at school, or at home? (Note: Some children with sensory impairments went–and still go–to residential programs while they are young.)

My parents knew it was important for me to have direct access to communication, so I went to schools that had programs for the Deaf. I had teachers who were either Deaf or fluent in sign language. I lived at home with my family and did not live in a dorm.

Q: Do you use technology to communicate or shop at a store? Do you have go-to gadgets?

Yes, I have different technology to allow me to communicate with people around me. At work, I use a one-on-one device called UbiDuo. This device has a pair of keyboards with screens on each. When one person types something on the first screen, the text would be instantly sent to the second screen on the keyboard. This allows me to communicate smoothly with a hearing person. In stores, I use my iPhone, mostly to ask workers to help me find what I am looking for.

Q: Tell me about your first job. How did you feel about working when it was still new to you?

When I was 16 years old, I was a dishwasher at a bakery in my community. At that time, I had a dream of becoming a baker, so thought that job would get my foot in the door. After about five years of repeated requests to work as a baker, it finally came out that the baker was illiterate and would not be able to communicate with me. I normally communicated with hearing people using a pen and pad of paper, but this person couldn’t spell or read, so that was very ironic.

Q: Tell me about your current job.

I have worked as a mail clerk for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for the past 15 years. However, as people are communicating more and more through electronic means, I am not as busy as I once was. I tried out some administrative assistant duties, but my low vision made it hard for me to catch every detail necessary. Once I receive my degree, I know it will open new doors for me.

Q: What was it like to move away from home?

I had mixed feelings. I was worried that I might not have enough money, but on the other hand, I was thrilled to live on my own and can do anything I want to do! I’ve been living in my own apartment for almost 11 years. The location is perfect because I am close to restaurants, banks, stores and my favorite, Target.

Q: How do you feel about gaining a higher education?

I feel good. I am willing to take challenging classes in order to receive a BA degree in order to qualify for a better job in my current career. I am now a senior at Metro State University [in Minnesota], where I plan to finish my bachelor’s degree in 2018.

Q: What are you studying, and what are your career aspirations?

I am majoring in an individualized degree in communication and culture. Since I already have 15 years of experience in the federal government, I would like to transfer to a position like human resources, where I can use my degree.

Q: What advice would you give other young people who are deafblind, who are planning their own careers and independence?

I could suggest to young people to go to a summer transition program where they can learn and practice independent living skills, mobility skills and practice on a job before moving on into the real world.

Q:What would you like the world to know about people who are deafblind?

I would like the world to view deafblind people as equals. We might have disabilities, but we still can do everything with modern technology and services. Don’t assume that deafblind people need help without asking.