Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Expanding our Community, Vision with new AT DLL

By Derek Zarda, Independent Living Resource Center San Francisco

Being the newest Assistive Technology Device Lending Library (DLL) on the AT Network, I can say that these past few months following its inception here at ILRCSF have been truly remarkable. We at ILRCSF are very thankful for the opportunity to participate in this program and provide AT devices not just to consumers locally, but also throughout the AT Network’s DLL centers.

We stocked our DLL initially with a diverse array of AT items to meet the various needs of our community. Our inventory ranges from vision aids such as portable video magnifiers, listening devices such as the Pocket Talker Ultra, smart media devices that include iPads, Kindles and Tablets, and mobility aids such as multi-fold ramps and walking canes with foldable seats. Popular items that we have seen so far include our ACER PC notebooks (with JAWS screen reader software), ramps, and reading/cognitive AT devices.

I want to mention ramps again as we have learned just how vital it is that the AT DLL program offers ramps. Of the ramp rentals we have completed so far, one loan enabled a senior advocacy organization to have an accessible stage at an event (at no cost), while another ramp loan is currently aiding a consumer who uses a wheelchair to test out accessing her van for travel with her family.

Our first AT DLL loan was an ACER PC notebook to a veteran with a disability, who is a member of a veterans art guild that meets weekly at ILRCSF. With this loan, he has been able to store and edit photos for a mural project that he’s organizing with his fellow veterans with disabilities. Sometimes it’s easy to overlook how big an effect one device loan can have in the community.

Outreach to high schools and colleges about our AT DLL program has also been a major focus point for us. One of these visits was to a class at the City College of San Francisco to give a presentation about general services and our AT DLL, and I have been asked to return for follow-up presentations. One of the students from that class even contacted me the very next day to set up an appointment to discuss her AT needs, and within a week she had a Reading Pen 2 to try out. The excitement in the student’s eyes said it all – a whole new world of possibilities was opened up to her.

Our new DLL is really a big hit here in San Francisco, and it is just the beginning of new developments to follow in the upcoming year. We look forward to working with consumers and the other DLL centers in providing short-term loans of invaluable AT devices to open the borrowers’ minds to new opportunities and prospects. With the initial reception we have received in these first few months, the best is yet to come.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

An Abilities Expo Perspective

by Shannon Coe, CFILC’s Reuse & Finance Coordinator

During the weekend of November 19th and 20th, I got the chance to attend the Abilities Expo in San Jose.

There were new faces and animals at the event. I saw horses giving rides to people with autism as a form of therapy. There was a hot air balloon with accessible views and a motor home with lifts to bring a person with a physical disability inside the motor home so they can go on adventures. The Expo also had a film festival that showed documentaries submitted by people with disabilities. 

The AT device I liked the most at the Expo was a manual wheelchair that could become a motorized wheelchair when you attach an electronic device that looks like the front of a standard bicycle to it. The device looks like a motorized bicycle. It is currently not in the market but I saw a participant riding around in it. The inventor went to the Expo to show off the device in hopes of getting a venture capitalist to invest in the wheelchair. Overall, I was impressed with the creative inventions and art that permeated the event.

Have you been to an Abilities Expo? If so, what was your experience like?