The Center for Persons with Disabilities at Utah State University

URLEND trainees visit ASSERT

April 7, 2014 by Sue Reeves

Image of children on playground.

ASSERT students play outdoors.

Five Utah Regional Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (URLEND) trainees spent a week at Utah State University’s Center for Persons with Disabilities recently to learn more about using Applied Behavior Analysis with children on the autism spectrum.

According to Lyndsay Nix, program coordinator for Autism Support Services: Education, Research and Training (ASSERT), the trainees from Utah and Idaho spent the first day observing ASSERT staff and students, then jumped in and began running their own discrete trials.

“Essentially, we give them the same training that our staff gets,” Nix said.

The trainees worked with the children in the mornings and received additional training in the afternoons. Each trainee worked with two children, one lower functioning and one higher functioning.

Training topics included an introduction to autism and ABA techniques, strategies for managing challenging behavior, activity schedules, script training and assessment. The training included role playing

“They were super enthusiastic and excited,” Nix said. “It was great!”

The trainees included a post-doctoral resident in pediatric psychology, a speech language pathologist, a Ph.D. student in education with an emphasis in special education and neurodevelopmental disabilities, a master’s student in early childhood education and a student in special education.

According to a survey completed after the week was over, all of the trainees were satisfied with the knowledge and skills gained from the training, and all of the trainees said that as a result of the training, their knowledge of behavior analysis and working with young children with autism has increased.

“I was thrilled to have a hands-on approach in the morning and then discussion in the afternoon,” said one participant. “By the end of the week, I felt as though I could be hired! I really enjoyed making friends with the kiddos, and the staff was amazing!”

Another participant said, “Overall, the program is well run. I can tell that the staff is well trained and truly invested in the students. Thank you so much for allowing into your world for a week.”

Are you eligible for AT? Free online training

April 4, 2014 by Sue Reeves

uatp logoThe Utah Assistive Technology Program (UATP) will present a free online interactive training, “Eligibility requirements for getting assistive technology,” on Wednesday, April 16 from 3 – 4:30 p.m. MST.

This free training will be presented by Disability Law Center attorneys Rob Denton and LauraLee Gillespie. They will explain eligibility requirements and processes for getting assistive technology in the world of Medicaid, Medicare, Private Insurance, Vocational Rehabilitation and Special Education. This webinar will help people understand what is required to qualify for assistive technology services and common legal issues the Disability Law Center has addressed concerning assistive technology.

Rob Denton is a Senior Attorney at the Disability Law Center. Denton has practiced in various issue areas during his twenty-six years at the Disability Law Center, including access to various assistive devices through Medicaid, Medicare and private insurance, special education and vocational rehabilitation services. Denton has been at the Disability Law Center since 1988.

LauraLee Gillespie, an attorney at the Disability Law Center, focuses her practice in special education and Vocational Rehabilitation disputes. As a former public educator, she brings a unique understanding to her work with the Utah Department of Education. Gillespie received her bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from Weber State University in 1996. While teaching, she received her paralegal certificate at the University of Washington. A 2011 S. J. Quinney College of Law graduate and a 2012 Utah State Bar Licenses attorney, Gillespie has been at the Disability Law Center since 2009.

Participants will need a computer with high-speed Internet access. Interested persons should RSVP by Tuesday, April 15 to Storee Powell via e-mail, or call 435-797-7412. Instructions will be emailed to participants.

Screen reader users or participants who require other accommodations, contact Sachin Pavithran at 435-797-6572 or, no later than Friday, April 11, to make arrangements to participate via phone.

MPRRC facilitates Arizona meeting

April 2, 2014 by Sue Reeves

map of MPRRC service areaOn March 31 and April 1, Part B and Part C teams from the ten states in the Mountain Plains Region and the Bureau of Indian Education (Part B only) met together in Phoenix, AZ to learn about and plan for the State Systemic Improvement Plan (SSIP) that each state is required to submit in February 2015.

The meeting was sponsored and facilitated by the Mountain Plains Regional Resource Center (MPRRC), a project of the Center for Technical Assistance for Excellence in Special Education (TAESE) at Utah State University’s Center for Persons with Disabilities. The meeting included participation by technical assistance providers from other TA Centers including the Region 5 Parent Technical Assistance Center (PTAC), Southeast Regional Resource Center (SERCC), Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center (ECTA), Western Regional Resource Center (WRRC), North Central Regional Resource Center (NCRRC), SRI International, and TAESE. The US Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) was represented by Deputy Director Ruth Ryder, RRCP Project Officer Perry Williams, and Research to Practice Specialist Jennifer Coffey.

The purpose of the meeting was to provide a forum for state teams to gather new ideas and insights specific to submission of a new State Performance Plan (SPP), with specific focus on Phase 1 of the SSIP. The desired outcome was for each state team to leave with an action plan for compiling information and developing Phase 1 of the SSIP for submission on February 1, 2015. The agenda focused on the specific components of SSIP development: Data Analysis, Infrastructure Analysis, Theory of Action, Coherent Improvement Strategies, and Meaningful Engagement of Families and Stakeholders throughout the process.

“This meeting was very important for state teams to be able to meet together and focus on the important work of improving results for infants, toddlers, children, and youth with disabilities,” said Steve Smith, associate director of TAESE.  ”As a result of this meeting, states should be in a better position to select a state-identified measurable result based on data and infrastructure analysis and broad stakeholder input, connect it to the wider work of improving outcomes for all children in their states, develop a coherent set of improvement strategies to achieve the desired results, and tell their unique story in their states. It was evident throughout the meeting that states have been engaged in and serious about improving results, and the SSIP will be a vehicle for focusing the work and sharing the positive outcomes with the public.”

The sessions were designed to provide necessary information about each topic, present a variety of tools that states can use at each stage of the process, and time for state teams to work together to use the tools and plan next steps.

At the conclusion of the meeting, six Part B state teams spent an additional day and a half conducting a data drill-down meeting to further explore their state level data in order to select their state identified measurable result for students with disabilities.

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5 top tools for web accessibility

March 31, 2014 by Sue Reeves

By Jared Smith

Jared and keyboard

Jared Smith displays his #1 tool for web accessibility.

Even though web accessibility can be a complex thing, there are some basic tools you can use to help ensure your web content is usable by people with disabilities.


Many users rely on keyboard or keyboard-like (such as eye tracking, voice control, switch device, etc.) interactions for web content. Many of the most significant accessibility issues on the web are caused by lack of keyboard support. Fortunately, keyboard testing is very easy – just put away the mouse and use the Tab and Shift + Tab keyboard keys to navigate through links and form controls. The Enter key will activate or select items. Make sure you can efficiently accomplish all functions on the page, with primary focus on forms and menus. See this WebAIM article on keyboard accessibility for more information.


WAVE is a free web accessibility evaluation tool. No tool can tell you if your site is accessible, but WAVE can help you identify accessibility issues on your site. Simply type in the web page address to view the page with injected icons and indicators that give feedback on accessibility. A Firefox toolbar is also available.

Alternative Text

Alternative text is presented to blind users in place of an image. Appropriate alternative text concisely conveys the content and function of the image. While there are many nuances to authoring appropriate and efficient alternative text (see these alternative text guidelines for more details), doing so is probably the most important accessibility technique for users with visual disabilities.

Web Accessibility Checklists

A checklist of web accessibility guidelines can help you provide a highly accessible web page. We recommend using the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. It is easy to overlook important aspects of web accessibility, but authoring and evaluating the page while regularly reviewing such a checklist will better ensure you are addressing vital areas of accessibility.

Common Sense

It is easy to focus on accessibility techniques and guidelines, and thus lose sight of the broader user experience. A web page or application can be made technically accessible, while still being functionally inaccessible. It’s helpful to take a step back and consider the entire user experience to ensure that what you are providing is useful, efficiently navigated, clearly presented, usable, and accessible to all users.


Jared Smith is associate director of WebAIM, a nonprofit organization dedicated making websites accessible to people with disabilities everywhere. Check out the new WebAIM website for an example of good-looking, accessible web design. This post first appeared on the EEJ EdNotes blog.

BIAU receives Community Investment Award

March 27, 2014 by Sue Reeves

Image of award presentation

Members of the Brain Injury Alliance of Utah’s board of directors receive the Community Investment Award from CPD director Bryce Fifield (second from right).

The Brain Injury Alliance of Utah was recently named the recipient of the Community Investment Award, given by the Consumer Advisory Council of Utah State University’s Center for Persons with Disabilities.

The CAC consists of 15 members: five family members of persons with disabilities, five members of state agencies or service providers who work with persons with disabilities, and five self-advocates. The CAC meets twice a year for feedback and guidance on CPD programs.

BIAU was nominated by CAC member Adina Zahradnikova, executive director of the Disability Law Center. In her nomination letter, Zahradnikova said, “BIAU is an amazing resource for those who have been affected by brain injury. They have an enormous library of information and connections that can help people with Traumatic Brain Injury find the right answers, from emergency care to finding resources and advocates for their situation.

“Currently, there is no cure for brain injury. Since the 1990s there has been a heightened awareness of this critical problem. Gifts of all sizes are needed to help provide information and resources to survivors, family members, and support awareness and prevention programs. Through community support, the path can be paved for a higher quality of life for people with brain injury and their families.”

According to CPD director Bryce Fifield, the Community Investment Award is an opportunity to acknowledge agencies that serve the disability community. Twice a year, the council goes through the nomination and voting process, and the self-advocates choose the winner.

“They learn to negotiate, make challenging decisions and good choices,” Fifield said. “This go-round we had eight nominations, and the self-advocates got together to dicker and decide who’s doing the best job.”

The BIAU was established in 1984 and is the only non-profit organization dedicated exclusively to education and support for the issues of prevention and recovery of brain injury in the state of Utah.

BIAU has coalitions with major hospitals, governmental agencies, and rehabilitation centers to provide a network of support, information and help.

“We are highly honored for being selected by the CAC,” said BIAU executive director George Gehling. “We want to express our appreciation. It is a great honor, and we are proud to have received the award.”

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