Dickey’s DSL Scoop: August 2017

August 30, 2017 by JoLynne Lyon

by Ryan and Sara Dickey

In August we were able to do many fun, new and exciting things here at DSL! Summer Program came to an end on the August 19th.  We celebrated the end of summer by having the 2nd Annual DSL Summer Olympics! Some of the events included:  Bean Bag toss, a watermelon eating contest, water balloon toss which is just a nice way to say WATER FIGHT!!! We also had pizza and drinks and had a terrific time.

 

 

We also went to the park many times in August.  We had many water fights.  We played water balloon baseball, and Frisbee throwing.

 

A participant smiles under the pavilion.

 

We were very busy in the kitchen!  We made fruit salsa with tortillas, and graham crackers, it was delicious!  We also made peanut butter cookies, pumpkin cookies, and a milk can lunch.  Our milk can lunch consisted of smoked sausage, potatoes, corn, carrots, and cabbage, Justis was in charge and it was DELICIOUS!

We went swimming at the Logan Aquatic Center and HPER building, a great way to cool off! We did many activities with Common Ground: Cycling, fishing, and a Dutch oven lunch of mac and cheese.

We tried something new this month at the movies. We decided that we would choose between two different choices at the movies.  We could go see Spiderman or the Emoji Movie.  That worked really well, everyone loved their movie choice.

Some of our staff and participants went to the CPD picnic and had a great time eating and swimming.

We also had random act of kindness day.  We painted rocks with kind words. We will distribute them in different parks.  Looking forward to fall weather and September!

Meeting changing needs: how Roosevelt’s demonstration library helped a Vernal couple

August 22, 2017 by JoLynne Lyon

Cathy and Jerry Johnson, January 2017

Cathy and Jerry Johnson walked a long and difficult road after Jerry received a diagnosis of multiple systems atrophy: a rare degenerative, neurological condition. MSA brought with it some medical challenges and rapidly-changing needs.

Cathy works for the Utah Schools for the Deaf and Blind, and that connection made her one of the first in the Uintah Basin to hear of the local Assistive Technology Lab, which came to the Utah State University campus in Roosevelt last year. The lab is part of the Utah Assistive Technology Program at the Center for Persons with Disabilities. Cathy asked the lab for help, and that is how she met Cameron Cressall, the Roosevelt AT Lab Coordinator and made use of the lab’s Demonstration Library.

“I wasn’t familiar with the diagnosis, so I did some research and tried to educate myself,” Cressall said. “Given the uniqueness of their situation, we tried to provide helpful solutions, whether it was a device that they could use or giving them a contact with a vendor who could give them the help that they needed.”

The Demonstration Library at the AT Lab is available for people who want to see how assistive technology is used. (AT is any device, high- or low-tech, that allows people with disabilities to improve or maintain independence.) The library and lab are part of the Center for Persons with Disabilities’ Utah Assistive Technology Program. Its purpose is to give the families of people with disabilities a better idea of what devices are available on the market. It also has items available on loan, so clients can try them out and determine if a device is a good fit.

Together, the Johnsons and the AT Lab worked to find equipment that would help them adjust to the effects of MSA, including adapted eating utensils and communication boards to help him express his needs when speech was difficult. Cressall and Clay Christensen, who coordinates the Logan AT Lab, provided grab-bar options that made the bathroom safer. The family used the space they had and meet Jerry’s needs for a time.

It was also valuable to the family when an item from the demonstration library did not work. They tried out a Hoyer lift—a piece of equipment used to help move people with very low mobility from a chair or bed. It can cost thousands, but the Johnsons—and the professionals working with them—thought it would help. “I was looking to purchase one,” Cathy said. “I believed it was our best option.” But Jerry’s decline was so rapid at that point, it ended up not working out.

Because they were able to try the equipment before the purchase, they did not go through that expense.

“Ideally, people will find the right solution on the first try,” said Cressall. “But until people actually use a device or see it in use, I think it’s more challenging to know what they need or what’s going to work for them. The demo library gives them quicker access to the things they need, and if an item doesn’t work, at least they know that before they buy it from a vendor, or order it off the internet and wait for it to ship.”

Jerry passed away earlier this year. The support from UATP made those last months easier, Cathy said. “I’m just so grateful to have them out here and have them available.”

For a look at items available at the demonstration libraries in Logan and Roosevelt, visit the Utah Assistive Technology Program’s blog.

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!