The Center for Persons with Disabilities at Utah State University

UATP opens second Assistive Technology Lab

June 13, 2016 by Kelly Smith

Published with permission from the Utah Assistive Technology Program blog.Cameron Cressall is the coordinator of the new Assistive Technology Lab on Utah State University’s Roosevelt campus.

There is a new face in the assistive technology scene in Roosevelt—and he’s ready to get people rolling.

Cameron Cressall is the coordinator of the new Assistive Technology Lab on Utah State University’s Roosevelt campus. Assistive technology is used to help people with disabilities achieve independence.  The new lab will work in partnership with other providers, including the Active Re-Entry Independent Living Center in Price, to provide customized assistive technology to Utahns in the Uintah Basin.

“It’s not hard to be passionate about my job,” Cressall said. “I’m building, creating, doing fun things, making people happy.”

While the lab is just getting started in Roosevelt, Cressall is not new to assistive technology. He worked in the AT Lab in Logan, where he regularly helped people meet their goals for independence.

Both AT labs are part of the Utah Assistive Technology Program in the Center for Persons with disabilities, and they do more than just repair equipment. They also customize it to ensure it works for individuals with disabilities.

“We look forward to working with Cameron to continue meeting the needs in the Uintah Basin,” said Nancy Bentley, Active Re-Entry’s director. “Now we can involve the community even more, because the lab can take used devices, give them another life and put them into the hands of the people who need them.”

“The AT Lab on USU’s Logan campus has provided services that have helped a lot of people in Northern Utah,” said Sachin Pavithran, the UATP director. “We’re excited to bring those services to the Uintah Basin, and to provide them in a mobile format to reach people in rural settings.”

Before getting involved in the disability field, Cressall worked in construction and building. Eventually he found himself back in school at Utah State University, taking the Interdisciplinary Disability and Service Learning (IDASL) class offered through the CPD and completing a bachelor’s degree in social work. The IDASL class teaches people from all fields of study about disability issues. It also gives service learning opportunities to students, including an option to gain experience in the Assistive Technology Lab on the Logan campus.

“It totally changed my life,” Cressall said. “Of all the classes I’ve taken at USU, that one class had more impact, hands down, than any other. … It led me to what I do today.” It also provided a good blend of tinkering, building, customizing and serving people.

Both the Logan and Roosevelt labs need your donations—especially of used assistive technology equipment like wheelchairs, scooters, lifts and power wheelchairs. If you have devices you would like to donate, please call 1-800-524-5152.


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CAC Corner: You can make a difference

June 13, 2016 by Kelly Smith

The CPD Consumer Advisory Council (CAC) is composed of Utah individuals with disabilities, family members, and staff liaisons and advises the CPD director about the Center’s impact on systems change, advocacy, and capacity building. This month’s CAC Corner was written by CAC member Matt Bone.

Time flies.

Several years ago I received an email asking if I knew anyone who would be interested in serving on the Consumer Advisory Council (CAC) for Utah State Universities Center for Persons with Disabilities (CPD).  I did not know anything about it, so I did a little research and decided I wanted to know more.

One thing led to another and soon I was serving as a family representative on the CAC for the CPD. The CAC is made up of three types of members; People with Disabilities, members of their families, and organizations that help people with disabilities.

I found out how many services Utah State University is providing through the CPD.  I was delighted to be involved with this organization.  After a while I was asked to serve as Vice Chair during my second term as a member of the CPD.

graphic of the word "Utah" with rd rocks.I have seen several excellent people serve on the CAC. I have seen the work the CPD does.  I have made recommendations for ideas I think will help, and have felt my time has been used well.  As my term on the CAC is coming to an end, I thought I would write to encourage any of you who might be interested in serving to contact the CPD, and submit an application. You do not need to live in Logan. (I live in West Valley and our Chair lives in Price).

It does not take a lot of time to serve. There are two meetings annually that involve the entire CAC, and there are committees you can serve on based on the amount of time you have.

The CPD Consumer Advisory Council is currently seeking new members. An online application is available here. If you have questions, please contact Gordon Richins at 435-797-2832 or email  at



Success for Sam – a mother’s story

June 1, 2016 by Kelly Smith

Reprinted with permission, written by Jennifer Seamons, a local mother in Cache Valley.

Sam SeamonsThis amazing young man graduates from High School today.  There’s so many things that just make me in awe of this moment.  Yet, they seem so ordinary now.

Everyone expects their son or daughter to graduate from High School.  Right?  No big deal!  I mean I’ve already had one graduate 4 years ago, so this shouldn’t be anything new to me.  But in some ways, today marks a huge triumph for this young man……and for us, his family!

Fourteen years ago I dragged this cute little four year old from special clinic to specialist in a search for some much needed answers…….afraid to know the truth, but wanting some explanation about how our world had been turned upside down.

I looked at this cute little boy with the amazing blue eyes and wispy blond hair and wondered what had happened to the happy go lucky baby I had carried around just a few years earlier.  When did he begin to refuse to meet my eyes?  Why did he begin throwing violent fits of banging his head on the floor, the wall, anything that would make my heart lurch? When did he begin hiding in closets,, endlessly stroking his over-stuffed duck.  How had he become a stranger to me…….this sweet toddler who seemed content to follow his older brother around?  What had happened to change him from a good natured baby to a silent, anxious, hysterical, escape-artist toddler?  I needed answers……every day I felt that he drifted a little further away from our family and I panicked,…… wondering if we would lose him all together.

Answers came…….Autism…….on the spectrum……..but they came, because I felt I had to push for them.  Was I wrong?  Was I sentencing him to a label…….a life different from his peers?  Guilt washed over me as I struggled under that label……..knowing I was the one that helped fix it there. What did it mean for Sam?  What did it mean for us?  What would it do to our family?  Where would Sam end up?

For Sam, it meant finally getting some amazing people in our lives that offered help.  ADA therapy, nutritional diets, nutritional supplements, modifying his environment, making people aware of his needs, special teachers, special aides, setting him apart from other ‘normal’ children.  It meant explaining what ‘echolalia’ is to others when they asked why Sam repeated all of his sentences back. It meant aides who although trying to help him in class, actually separated him from his peers.  For Sam it meant that his big brother was continually embarressed by his lack of social barriers and social graces and his outbursts at social events.  It meant labels, such as ‘developmentally delayed’, ‘autism spectrum disorder’, speech difficulties, ‘behavioral disorders’………labels for everything that didn’t seem ‘typical.’

For us, it meant listening to a psychiatrist diagnose him as functioning on a 6 month old level when he was 4 and telling us to ‘get used’ to him falling behind his peers,  ‘Put away’ those dreams of his future….he’s just going to get worse.  It meant going to endless IEP meetings that lasted for hours, offending educators, being offended myself, trying to find someone who wanted to understand my son and help him.  Putting him in special classes, bussing him to Preschool every day, finding aid and applying for endless programs that required an amazing amount of paperwork, taking him out of school and home schooling, holding him back in school, having an IEP, not having an IEP, notes to teachers, principals, administrators.  It meant finding money for conferences, workshops, special intervention services, supplements, diets, more information.  Endless nights of searching the internet for information, reading other stories of parents that ‘cured’ their child, looking for that miracle for my family, for my son.

For our family, it meant eating weird food, holding Sam down before he got on his Preschool bus to shove fish oil down his throat and hope that he wouldn’t throw it back up.  It meant always feeling ‘different’ because we always felt panicked whenever we went anywhere with him.  Would we lose him because of his amazing ability to get away from us?  Would he tantrum relentlessly during programs, recitals, meetings, church, etc?  It meant disapproving looks from older people in church, who watched me let my 4 year old eat bags of chips all over the bench during church, because he was on a gluten free/casein free diet and potato chips were the only food he would eat or that would keep him in one spot for a few minutes.  It meant asking the Bishop if there could be a ‘gluten/casein’ free sacrament tray (no), asking for special helpers in church, at school, at home.  It meant neighbors who would kindly find him over a few blocks from our home and slip him through our front door……when I didn’t even know he had slipped away while I jumped in the shower, assuming he was watching TV.  Everything we did with Samuel at the beginning of his diagnoses seemed to scream at us…..he’s different, put away your dreams, fix him, cure him,……. give up!  Yet every year we saw a little piece of Samuel come back to us.

And now……as I see my handsome son getting ready to walk across the High School graduation stage,……..all I can see is triumph.

He is Samuel……..same incredible blue eyes and crooked smile……a member of the National Honor Society, former member of the school ACADECA team, a State Solo Winner, a Wrestling Champion, a Football lineman, a track runner, a Seminary Council Member, a lifeguard, a home teacher, a multi-scholarship winner, attending dances, going on dates, assistant to the Bishop, planning to attend BYU……..hopes and dreams spread out before him…..a person with Autism.  I have no doubts that he will achieve whatever he sets his mind to.  I see no limits for him.  I see no label.

And I watch him with his little brother, a fellow sojourner with Autism and Down Syndrome.  Labels that set limits……that wipe away hopes and dreams.  And I see as I watch him with Jacob…….there are no limits, ……there is majesty and power and limitless potential in every one of us.  No one knows what each of us has the potential to become…..regardless of the ‘labels’ we receive in this life.  You have made me a believer, Sam!  Spread your wings and fly!

Love you to the moon and back!  Mom

Utah Act Early ambassador appointment

May 26, 2016 by Kelly Smith

Sue Olsen and Janel Preston

As Sue Olsen winds down her 2-year term as the Utah Act Early Ambassador, co-worker Janel Preston is gearing up to take the reins. Both women are part of the Up to 3 Early Intervention program at the CPD and have long histories in services and research with young children with disabilities.

The federal Act Early Ambassador project is designed to develop a network of state-level experts to improve early identification practices. Ambassadors  serve as state liaisons to the CDC “Learn the Signs Act Early” initiative and work as community champions with programs that serve young children and their parents.

“We’re working to increase early identification of young children with developmental disabilities, including autism,” said Olsen. “Currently we have a high focus on autism because of the high numbers of children in the state with that condition.”

During her term, Olsen’s goals included development of customized materials in both English and Spanish outlining developmental milestones for various Utah early intervention agencies. Another accomplishment was embedding the “Learn the Signs Act Early” guidelines in orientation materials and personnel training in the Utah BabyWatch program. According to Olsen, this will result in autism identification training for all Utah early intervention personnel during their credentialing process.

As Preston steps in the role, she plans to build on the progress that Olsen has accomplished during the past 2 years, expanding autism identification training into more personnel prep programs. She and Olsen have discussed the possibility of embedding identification information in training for child care providers. Preston also wants to facilitate more involvement with the medical community, hoping to include more doctors in early identification of autism.

“I’m trying to work first with Dr. Odell (CPD Medical Director) to see how we can do more training for the medical community,” said Preston. “I’m hoping this will result in more identification in rural areas. A lot of the information we have doesn’t get out to all areas in our state right now.”

Olsen is the CPD Exemplary Services director with a long history in various early childhood services and projects. She lists her primary goal as ensuring that all services provided by the Exemplary Services Division support and enhance a family’s or individual’s capabilities and self-determination. Preston is the lead teacher in the ABC  classroom in the Up to Three Early Intervention program. This class is for families who have a child with a Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) diagnosis or are in the process of getting a diagnosis.

The CPD is proud to have such capable and enthusiastic representatives working to improve life for children and families in Utah.

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Outstanding authors

May 16, 2016 by Kelly Smith

Dr. Cyndi Rowland, Jonathan Whiting, Jared Smith

A recent publication by Dr. Cyndi Rowland, Jonathan Whiting, and Jared Smith was awarded the “Outstanding Author Contribution” in the 2016 Emerald Literati Network Awards for Excellence.

The cited chapter, entitled “What do you need to create and maintain web accessibility?”  was published in Accessible Instructional Design, Advances in Special Education Technology. It shares the expertise of the WebAIM team and outlines key factors for developers, designers, and content creators, as well as administrators to support enterprise-wide accessibility.

The Emerald Literati Awards celebrate and reward outstanding contributions of authors and reviewers to scholarly research. Awards are presented to highly cited papers from all publishers.

WebAIM has operated at the CPD for over 16 years, and has served clients around the world in all sectors of society including government, non-profit, education, business, and health care. Their mission is  “to expand the potential of the Web for people with disabilities by providing the knowledge, technical skills, tools, organizational leadership strategies, and vision that empower organizations to make their own content accessible to people with disabilities.” WebAIM offers many services including training, site evaluation, accessible site design, and consultation.

Below is an excerpt from the cited chapter.

While it may be trite, it is true. The internet has changed our world in immeasurable ways. Across all countries and all sectors of society, the web has left an imprint. Few people can imagine a future without access to the internet (e.g., for education, commerce, employment, government, or entertainment); this includes browser-based access to the internet from a variety of hardware configurations including desk or laptop computers to tablets and smartphones….. 

Yet, there is a continuing struggle to provide educational web content to everyone. For those individuals with a disability affecting computer and internet use, thinking of a future without the web is all too easy. That is because they struggle now to fully access content on the web, even with assistive technologies that would allow them to do so. Barriers to internet access are generally the result of the design of web pages and applications. High-end designs, even those with embedded media, can be made accessible without substantial changes to look or feel. The promise of Universal Design for Learning will be impossible if instructional content is not accessible to all.

Click here to read the entire chapter: “What do you need to create and maintain web accessibility?”.