CPD Legacy Story: Low-interest loans bring independence

March 30, 2012 by cpehrson

A year ago, Colleen Cobia and her husband were not thinking about remodeling their Layton home.  But after an unfortunate horse riding accident last summer, Colleen found herself using a wheelchair and living in a house that was very difficult to move around in.  They knew that, in order for her to maintain her independence and be able to continue to take care of her family,  many changes would have to be made.

Not quite sure where to turn first, Colleen’s husband, who works for the Department of Services for People with Disabilities, remembered hearing of some low-interest loans that were available to persons with disabilities who need to purchase assistive technology that will allow them to be independent, productive and successful.

And that is just what Colleen needed to become.

While Colleen was still in the hospital,  her husband make a quick phone call to Zion’s Bank that started the process for applying for a remodeling loan through the Utah Assistive Technology Foundation. The UATF partners with Zion’s Bank for low-interest loans to purchase not only assistive technology devices, but home modifications, adapted vans, and home-based employment equipment.  Once the application was completed over the phone, and eligibility was confirmed, all the Cobia’s needed to do was go down to the bank and sign the papers. Couldn’t be easier.

With the money they received through their UATF loan, the Copia’s were able to completely remodel their kitchen, lowering the counter tops and installing a stove top and sink that allow a wheelchair to roll underneath. They widened all of the doorways, expanded walls, and built a ramp into the house.  They built a master bedroom and bath downstairs that had a roll-in shower and sink, and expanded the laundry room so Colleen could still use the washer and dryer.  They also had enough money to build an elevator shaft connecting to the second story, but will need to add the actual elevator in the future.

Thanks to the efficient application process for the UATF loan, excellent contractors, and great neighbors and friends who volunteered their services, the Copia’s were able to move into their new, almost fully accessible house within five months of the accident.  Colleen now has regained her independence and can keep on doing the things she loves to do for her family, like cooking the meals and keeping the laundry caught up.

The Utah Assistive Technology Foundation loans have changed many lives through the years.

Woman in a wheelchair with husband and child beside her

The Davis family

Another individual who had received an UATF loan years ago to install an elevator in her home, was in need of a new accessible van.  Muffy Davis once again filled out the Eligibility and Application forms online. The completed application forms were reviewed by the UATF, found eligible, and then forwarded to Zions Bank for the loan approval.  The whole process was approved in three days and all Muffy had to do was go down and sign the papers at the bank.  The money was in her hands within the week.




Muffy ended up purchasing a used van from a friend that already had hand controls installed.  Her old van  had seen a lot of wear and tear from transferring her wheelchair in and out.  With the new van, she can just roll her wheelchair in without even breaking it down.  It not only saves wear and tear on the van, but on her shoulder as well.  She now has total independence once again.

light green van

Muffy's accessible van.








Another life improved because of the UATF program.

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Autism awareness: light it up blue on April 2

March 29, 2012 by JoLynne Lyon

Logo for World Autism Awareness DayOnce again, Cache Valley residents are invited to participate in the Light it Up Blue autism awareness night on April 2. Just go to the area around the tabernacle and the emporium in  downtown Logan, from 6 to 7 pm–and wear blue.

If you’ve got blue glow gear, that’s even better.

“There’s no formal start or finish,” said Jill Drysdale, who is promoting the local event.  “It’s just meant as an opportunity to wear blue and mingle.”

The gathering raises local awareness for autism, which is diagnosed at a higher rate in Utah than in any other state. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 1 in 44 Utah children were identified with autism (1 in 32 boys and 1 in 85 girls). Autism numbers are up nationwide, with a 23 percent increase since 2009. “Some of the increase is due to the way children are identified, diagnosed and served in their local communities,” according to the CDC, “although exactly how much is due to these factors in unknown.”

The local autism awareness gathering gives people a way to participate in a worldwide event. (For a slide show of world landmark buildings that went blue last year, visit the Light It Up Blue web page.)

For more information on the event, visit the CPD Facebook Page and look for a post from Jill.


Missing service dog found safe and sound

March 26, 2012 by cpehrson

One of our CPD Consumer Advisory Council members, Ben Ballam, was featured in the Herald Journal because his service dog, Tennessee, was found after being gone for over a week. 

Here is the complete story from Friday, March 24th’s Herald Journal article written by Matthew K. Jensen:

Missing dog found weary, safe

Community search effort ends in joyous reunion for animal and her worried owner

A compassionate animal control officer and a pair of construction workers helped reunite a Logan family with their aging pet dog. 

Fifteen-year old Tennessee went missing last Wednesday when she wandered from the backyard of a Hyde Park home where she was being watched.  Her owners, the Ballam family of Logan, left the dog with a family friend before going on vacation.

Missing dog posters, neighborhood search and messages posted on Facebook, however, didn’t help bring Tennessee home, and the family feared the worst.

The dog is a retired service companion to the Ballam’s 19-year old son, Ben, who has spina bifida and is partially paralyzed.  The two have been companions since Ballam was 6 and Tennessee was 2.  She regularly helped the boy open doors, pick up things and live a better life. 

Small boy in a wheelchair hugging his yellow lab dog

Ben and his dog Tennessee's first meeting.












The idea of losing her was heartbreaking to Ballam, he said, but their reunion Thursday was a joyous one.

Young man in a wheelchair petting his yellow lab dog

"Tenny's" homecoming

“I think it was the happiest I’ve ever felt in my entire life,” he said.

On Thursday, crews building a home in Hyde Park spotted Tennessee lying in a ditch and called North Park Police animal control for help.

Officer Nolan Krebs arrived and did his best to resuscitate the animal. 

“When I saw her, she wasn’t moving, I couldn’t see her breathing, and her eyes were closed,” he said.  “I went over to the dog and called her name and rubbed her ears, and she lifted her head.”

Krebs said he scooped up the dog and placed her on a nearby lawn before she was taken to Mountain View Vet Clinic.  Veterinarian James Isrealsen said the animal was in surprisingly good shape, having only lost a little body weight.

“She’s eight pounds lighter but is in remarkably good shape given what’s happened,” he said.  “We did some blood work on her, and her organ functions are just fine.”

Ben’s mother, Laurie Ballam, says she’s grateful for the community support.

“In people years, Tennessee’s 105 years old,” said Laurie Ballam.  “For her to survive is nothing short of a miracle.  We’re so grateful for everyone who sent positive vibes and helped look for her and especially the people that were babysitting her who placed posters everywhere.”

Krebs, who had been looking for the dog since last week, said Tennessee has an implanted electronic chip that helped identify her.

Ben Ballam thanked the staff at the Mountain View Veterinary Clinic for their work in reviving and caring for Tennessee.  When she returned home after her ordeal Thursday, she settled down for a long nap.


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Nominate a legislator for Heroes on the Hill recognition

March 19, 2012 by cpehrson

Each year, after the Utah Legislative Session is completed, the Legislative Coalition for People with Disabilities hosts a luncheon that recogizes the legislators who have supported the disability issues and bills that impact people with disabilities and their families during the session.  This year the Heroes on the Hill Luncheon will be held on Thursday, May 3rd, 2012.
The LCPD’s report on the 2012 General Session of the Utah Legislature is available on the LCPD web site. 
To nominate a legislator for the Heroes on the Hill recognition, complete the nominating form below and send in to the LCPD before April 5th.  Completed forms could be emailed to joyce@xmission.com .
Criteria for Nomination (must meet one or more of the following):
1.The nominated legislator sponsored a bill which will have a positive impact on the lives of people with disabilities.
2. The nominated legislator supported funding requests which have a positive impact on the lives of people with disabilities.
3.The nominated legislator actively worked to secure passage of a bill or funding.
4. Regardless of how much you like a particular legislator, in order to be nominated as a Hero on the Hill, she or he had to do more than just meet with you.
Date ______________
LCPD Member Name _________________________________________
(Must be a voting member for 30 days or longer.)
Legislator: Sen. Rep. (circle one) ________________________________
Bill # and Title: ______________________________________________
Issue and Funding Request (s) __________________________________
Describe reason for nomination:

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CAC Corner: The future of the disability advocacy movement

March 16, 2012 by cpehrson

 This CAC Corner blog is written by Gordon Richins,  CPD Consumer Liaison and staff advisor for the Consumer Advisory Council.

Colored photo of Gordon Richins






The following article, written by Alison Lozano, a friend of mine and the Executive Director of the New Jersey Council on Developmental Disabilities,  addresses an issue I have also noticed as I advocate within the state of Utah and on a national level. Read her article below and decide if you agree or disagree when she states, “There is definitely a graying of the disability advocacy community”. 

The future of the “disability advocacy movement.”

By Executive Director NJDD Council, Alison Lozano, Ph.D., MPA

Those of us who are parents, self-advocates, and professionals in the disability advocacy community attend many conferences and meetings per year.  If you sit at the back of the room it is interesting to note how many bald and grey heads there are between you and the dais.  Your conclusion would have to be that there is definitely a graying of the disability advocacy community. 

Many of us became involved with the disability community in the 1970’s and 1980’s when we had to work hard to bring people with intellectual and developmental disabilities out of the shadows and into the mainstream of society.  In many respects we have been very successful, we have downsized many large institutions and visibility for disability issues has become fairly common.   However, we still have a long way to go for individuals with developmental disabilities to truly be part of their communities and society in general.  And, this is the very reason we have to increase our efforts to support and train those who come behind us to be strong and effective advocates.I would suggest the best people for this job are the self advocates themselves.  It is of great importance that we invest in the training and strengthening of self advocates to carry the mantel of the disability advocacy movement   Even those of us who are parents do not understand the issues that affect the lives of those who live with developmental disabilities.  Parents and professionals are so often occupied with caring, protecting and nurturing and we loose sight of the civil rights and quality of life issues that are also important in everyone’s lives.

Therefore, we have to support the development of skills in younger self advocates so they can advocate for themselves and their peers.  We need to make sure there are training opportunities in place so they can learn and nurture their leadership skills.  And, those of us who have been advocates for a while, those of us who are graying, need to step back and let them take the lead.  For many of us it is hard, because, of course, we know best.  But, the only way they will learn is by doing.  If they stumble along the way, or do things differently from how we would do it, then we must endeavor to let them do it their own way.

At the DD Council we have a Youth Leadership program that focuses on teaching youth to advocate for themselves.  These young people are the future of the movement and we need to support them to be the new disability advocacy leaders when those of us with the balding and graying heads take to our rocking chairs.”

Alison Lozano, Ph.D., MBA

We, as advocates within the disability community, pride ourselves in our ability to get involved and help bring about a change in the quality of life for individuals with disabilities.

I would like to hear back from others as to whether you agree or disagree with Alison’s letter. You can make comments on this blog, or  just send me thoughts or suggestions that you have on addressing the issue of the graying of the disability advocacy community.  Feel free to call me at 435-797-2832 or e-mail me at:gordon.richins@usu.edu.


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