Research and Evaluation volunteer honored valley-wide

May 29, 2012 by cpehrson

Three women holding a decorative sign

Mary Kwiek, Volunteer of the Month, center, Irene Welch, CPD staff, left, Mary Ellen Heiner, CPD staff, right.

Twelve years of volunteering for the CPD has earned “Aunt” Mary Kwiek Cache Valley’s “Volunteer of the Month” award. She currently helps out the Research and Evaluation division with its paper-shredding needs.

Aunt Mary’s is a familiar face around the CPD, one that always has a happy smile on it and comes with a kind word that brightens up everyone’s day.  Mary finds a lot of enjoyment helping others and has become part of the CPD family through the years.

That’s what happens when you volunteer at the CPD; soon you begin to feel right at home and before you know it, you’re part of our family.

Volunteering is a great way to give back to your community, and when you volunteer at the CPD you help to make a difference in the lives of people with disabilities and their families.  If you have a few extra hours and would like to do something worthwhile with them, consider contacting Jeff Sheen, the CPD Volunteer Coordinator at 435-797-8113 or  He’ll be sure to find something that will interest you and help you give to others.  You can check out some of the current volunteer opportunities that we have on our website. 

Thanks, Aunt Mary, for brightening up our little corner of the world at the CPD!


My other life: Jared Smith

May 25, 2012 by JoLynne Lyon

Last weekend some of us enjoyed the solar eclipse through a pinhole, projected onto a sheet of white paper.

Not Jared Smith.

By day he’s the associate director of the CPD’s WebAIM project; by night he’s an astrononomy photographer. And last Sunday, he brought his equipment out while the sun still shone.

images of the solar eclipse

Read his interview below.

Q: Why do you photograph stars?

I love nature and enjoy watching the heavens. Photographing stars, galaxies, nebulae, satellites, and anything else in space allows me to capture the scenes so I can enjoy them anytime and share them with others.

Q: What kind of equipment does it take?

Anyone can simply point a camera at the sky and capture some amazing photos. With a telescope, one can just photograph the image through the eyepiece to get a more magnified and detailed photo. To capture deep space objects like galaxies and nebulae, you need a bigger telescope, an equatorial mount that moves to track the object as it moves across the sky (or more accurately, moves to counteract the motion of the earth revolving beneath that object), a nice camera, and LOTS of patience. Most of my galaxy photos are a combination of dozens of exposures that can each be several minutes in duration. Capturing the photos is only half the work – you then need to combine all of the images in complex software to get the final results.

photo of the whirlpool galaxy

Q: What do you have to do to get these photos?

Most good astrophotographs takes a lot of planning, much patience, enduring long, cold, sleepless nights, cooperative weather, hours of post-processing, and a fair amount of luck.

Q: Is it worth the effort?

photo of Jared SmithUsually. Sometimes you can spend hours photographing a galaxy to then realize that your focus was off or your camera was set incorrectly. I only post maybe one tenth of the photos I’ve taken. The worst was when the sprinklers turned on, leaving me and thousands of dollars worth of equipment soaking wet. But when a photo comes together it’s well worth the effort–not only because I’ve captured something so beautiful and awe inspiring, but because it represents an incredible amount of time and effort to get things just right.

We’d like to thank Jared for sharing his photos with us–it was hard to narrow down the choices. If you want to see more of his work visit his website.

 “My other life” is a recurring feature on the exceptional things our people do when they’re not at work. It’s a summer/Friday thing.


The CPD Honors Diogenes Hernandez, 2012 student of the year

May 23, 2012 by JoLynne Lyon

Diogenes HernandezThe CPD Student of the Year for 2012 has literally come a long way to receive the honor.

Diogenes Hernandez came to the CPD from the Dominican Republic, via Utah State University. He’d already started freelancing in web design before he came to USU to finish his two bachelor’s degrees in computer science and mathematics. (He has since earned them and nearly completed work on a masters in business administration.)

When the time came to look for a job, he applied for one at the CPD’s WebAIM project, which was developing a version of the WAVE tool. (If you haven’t checked WAVE out, you should. It gives instant feedback on a web page’s accessibility.) He got the job. Since then, in addition to working on WebAIM he has also worked on projects for the Interdisciplinary Disability and Service Learning class and the Utah Regional Leadership in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities project.

“When I got here and I started… the people at WebAIM showed me a whole new world about why you do certain things,” he said. His focus as a freelancer had been about making websites look pretty. When he talked to the CPD’s Sachin Pavithran and learned how assistive technology helps people with disabilities navigate the web, he understood the need for the accessible web design that made it possible.

As a working student he has enjoyed the advantages and trials of work and study in the same field. “Experience wise it’s excellent because whatever I learned at school I could apply to the job,” he said. But it got hard sometimes to leave a day of study only to do the exact same things at work. WebAIM has always worked with him to make it possible for him to meet coursework deadlines.

Along the way he has gained some rich work experience. He has presented three times at CSUN (an annual international technology and persons with disabilities conference). He is primarily a programmer, but Diogenes also was involved in translation for the Spanish version of the WAVE tool. (He speaks French, too—and English, of course.)

“This is the kind of stuff that people do not see normally in jobs,” he said. “We’re actually trying to make difference, make a change, for people with disabilities and technology.”

He is succeeding. “You have made tremendous contributions to the development of software tools and resources that help make the world accessible for all people,” CPD Director Bryce Fifield wrote in a letter notifying Diogenes of his award. “Thank you for sharing your creativity and passion.  Equally important to us is also the way you have embraced the ideals of inclusion and self-determination that are important to the CPD.”

Diogenes said has enjoyed the support of his family and friends as he continues to study and work so far from home.

“My family has always been there for me. I call them and they support me in everything,” he said. “Without my friends I wouldn’t be here also.”


CAC Corner: AT Lab can be a “moving” experience

May 22, 2012 by cpehrson

This CAC Corner blog was written by members of the CPD’s Consumer Advisory Council, Tina Peck (self-advocate), Gordon Richins (CPD Consumer Liaison), and Connie Pehrson (former CAC member).

Head shot of Clay Christensen, AT Lab Coordinator

Clay Christensen, AT Lab Coordinator

Tina Peck shares an experience she had recently that gave her an opportunity to try out the services offered by one of the CPD’s great programs:  In January I pulled my tendon in my knee and was unable to walk far distances. It was with the assistance of Clay (Christensen), over at the Assistive Technology (AT) Lab, that I was able to borrow an electric scooter in order to make it around campus. The AT Lab is part of the Center for Persons with Disabilities (CPD). The CPD and AT Lab, as well as their employees, are dedicated to assisting people at the University and in the community.

Gordon Richins has made some good friends at the AT Lab and values their knowledge and skills.  They have kept him moving right along:   As the Consumer Liaison here at the CPD, over the past several years I have benefited greatly from the AT Lab for minor maintenance and repair on my power chair. An example of minor maintenance would be when I purchased new tires for my wheelchair and the students working on lab hours at the AT Lab replaced my old bald ones with the new ones, under the supervision of the AT Lab personnel. An example of a minor repair would be when I recently broke the plastic tray attached to my wheelchair. I purchased the necessary Plexiglas and the AT Lab personnel were able to cut the Plexiglas to the necessary shape and size, drill the necessary holes in it, and attach it to my power wheelchair. These are just minor examples of how the AT Lab provides a much-needed and appreciated service to the community and also allows college students to gain some valuable hands on experience under AT Lab guidance and supervision.
Another recipient of mobility devices from the AT Lab, Connie Pehrson, credits them for giving her the ability to continue to work at the University through the years:  When the department I was working in moved to the second floor of a new building on campus, I wasn’t sure if I would be able to move with them due to health and mobility issues that I had.  After receiving my first electric scooter from Options for Independence, I have relied on the AT Lab for repairs, replacement batteries, and eventually traded my faulty scooter in for a reconditioned one.  From Stan Clelland, the former AT Lab Coordinator, to Clay Christensen, the current Coordinator, my needs have always been met.  They have gone the extra mile to make sure that I can retain my independence and get where I need to go safely. 
Thank you AT Lab, for helping to keep us moving along.

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My other life: Storee Powell

May 18, 2012 by JoLynne Lyon

Just in time for summer: We’re starting a new blog feature about the things our people do when they’re not at work. Our first installment is about Storee Powell.

This spring Storee won six awards from the Society of Professional Journalists for her reporting. She works at the CPD as the PR/Marketing Specialist for the Utah Assistive Technology Program. She is also a reporter for Cache Valley Daily and Utah Public Radio, and she has free-lanced for other publications as well.

Her favorite story was a feature she did in 2010 at UPR on the effect the war in the Congo had on its women. “I interviewed a Congo native woman, now living in Utah, about her experiences there. It was the most emotional interview I’ve ever done, and I realized at that moment how important it is to use journalism as a tool to help tell people’s stories,” she said.

Here’s what she says about her Other Life:

It is chaotic, disappointing, exciting, and sleepless. I’m a voyeur, what can I say? I will be driving down the road and see flashing lights and I follow. I always have my press pass with me. I just have to know what is going on.

Covering fires on the Westside of the Valley is sort of a specialty of mine, and I have to say, the raid siren in Mendon seems to only go off in the middle of the night. And yet I can’t seem to stop. …

Here comes the soapbox. I truly believe in the legitimacy of the quote by Thomas Jefferson: If I had to choose between a government with no press, or a press with no government, I wouldn’t hesitate to choose the latter.

 Yes, print newspapers are dying, but people are consuming more news today than they ever have because of new mediums. No, there is not a sustainable model for online journalism – yet. That does not mean news and journalism dies. It means it evolves, and journalists must evolve with it.

 The great thing is, this brought me to the CPD, the UATP. I’ve really learned here about a social issue on which I knew too little of (disability, of course). It really has helped me have a new and better perspective in my writing and my life. People first language is my new mantra.


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