Brainstorming ways to bring independence to people with disabilities

Conference goers put together their vision for bringing assistive technology to people who need it.

The need for assistive technology is great. It can make the difference between dependence and independence, going out or staying home, working or not working, using a computer or going without.

Unfortunately, AT is unavailable to a lot of people for a lot of reasons—no insurance or incomplete insurance coverage, high cost, long waits between the time equipment is ordered to the day it is delivered. (Assistive technology is a catch-all term for anything that helps people with disabilities adapt to everyday living, from specialized garden tools and silverware to wheelchairs, computers and adaptive software.)

A recent western states symposium in Salt Lake City brought representatives from fourteen states and Washington, D.C. together to discuss ways to bridge that gap.

The symposium included a tour of the Citizens Reutilizing Assistive Technology Equipment (CReATE), an enormous Utah facility where used mobility devices are refurbished and then matched with a new owner. CReATE is an initiative of the Utah Assistive Technology Program located in the Center for Persons with Disabilities at Utah State University.

AT exchange and reuse programs have sprung up all over the nation. CReATE focuses on mobility; others may focus on computers or on making it easier for used equipment buyers and sellers to find each other. In the west, 16 states have reuse and/or device exchange programs, but they face some real obstacles. Liability concerns, the lack of space, transportation problems and the difficulty of finding sources for needed equipment are all daunting. To see how western states leaders work through some of these issues, read the whole story on the CPD website.

CPD by the numbers

CReATE has saved Utahns a total of $155,092 by providing mobility devices at a low cost.

Students spend their spring break helping out at the CPD

Earlier this month, 11 students from Grand Valley State University in Michigan started their spring break with an 18-hour van ride to Cache Valley. Until the morning they left, none of them knew where they were headed or who they would spend their spring vacation with.

Their Alternative Spring Break a chance to spend their vacation doing service. The experience was also designed to help them meet new people in a different setting. They came to Logan to help out at the CPD and at Common Ground, a local program offering outdoor experiences to people with disabilities.

“This is as far west as we get,” said Rustin Buteyn, a GVSU student. Like the other students, he wound up in Logan after ranking his top five interests for service. The opportunities were listed by type of work, not location. After that, it was up to the organization where he went. GVSU’s Alternative Spring Break is part of the nationwide Break Away organization, and it’s all student run.

GVSU volunteer Alex Brenner reads with a child in the Up to 3 Early Intervention Program.

Once here, the students helped out at the Up to 3 program, worked on the site of the developmental playground, put together some projects in the CPD’s Assistive Technology lab, went snowshoeing with Common Ground, and cleaned up Common Ground’s basement.

Melissa Clothier loved it. After spending an afternoon in the AT Lab, she and fellow student Alex Brenner put together a switch for an educational toy. The child wasn’t able to press the sensor in the stuffed bear’s paw, so they wired in a switch that was easier to use. Then they built a stand for the bear and personalized the toy.

It was a great way to spend a vacation, Clothier said.

“They were the kind of group that you would be happy to have come back anytime,” said Jeff Sheen, the CPD’s volunteer coordinator. After working with the students, he came away impressed. “They were a fantastic group … It was just exciting to have a group with that much energy to work with.”

 

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