Tuesday, April 30, 2013

AT in the Daily Lives of YO! Volunteers

In honor of National Volunteer Week which took place last week (April 21-27) across the country, we wanted to highlight some of our Youth Organizing! (YO!) Volunteers and the different assistive technology devices that they use.  The AT that is used varies greatly which just goes to show that Many devices we use every day can be considered AT and that you may even be using AT right now and not even know it. We hope you enjoy getting to learn a little bit more about our YO! Volunteers.  

Alexa, the YO! Volunteer in Sacramento and Northern Regional Leader for the Disability History Week Campaign,   is a student at Sacramento State and uses a keyguard on her computer. A keyguard is a device that fits over the computer keyboard and separates the keys from one another. This makes it easier for Alexa to type and has helped her type up documents and create power-point presentations.  She also uses a keyguard when using her computer to complete her Sac State homework.

We are also lucky to have YO! Volunteer, Darion, from Fresno. Darion attends Willows College and is very big into assistive technology, so naturally he’s interested in all the different gadgets that are out there. There are a couple of different AT devices he uses regularly too, though. One of those is Dragon Dictation, which is a voice recognition application that turns speech into text. This makes work a lot easier for Darion and countless others. He also uses a Live Scribepen. Live Scribe can record what is being said in a room so that you can go back and listen to a lesson verbatim and get down every detail that was discussed, as well as play back any information that you may have originally missed.  Both of these devices help Darion succeed in school on a daily basis.


Jenaro is another YO! Volunteer from Garden Grove down in Southern California who attends Cerritos College and is the Chair for the Disability History Week Campaign.  The AT that Jenaro uses is that he has had his car equipped with hand controls so that he can drive to school, to the Dayle McIntosh Center where he works, to outreach presentations on Disability History at schools  as well as anywhere else he needs to go.

The last YO! Volunteer, Damary, comes from Hayward in the Bay Area. Damary uses the iPhone and iPad application “Verbally” which helps allow Damary to communicate. Damary simply types into her device what she would like to say and it repeats it back outloud. It has helped her with her college classes as well as helping her run Disability Action Network for Youth (DANY) meetings in Hayward. She has even demonstrated the Verbally app  in a AT Network video contest to show how it works and won third place

We are so grateful to all of our YO! volunteers and we are grateful for AT devices - we couldn't do our important work without volunteers or ATThree cheers for YO! VOluntteers and three cheers for the AT devices they use to accomplish their important tasks and to be independent.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

AT Network Training Needs Survey 2014

Do you use devices, software, technology, or apps to live more independently or serve people who do?  Do you want to learn more about different types of assistive technology (AT), AT-related services, and AT funding sources?  Are you interested in learning more about a particular AT issue?

If you answered “Yes” to any of these questions, then we want to hear from you!

The AT Network is conducting a survey of disability community members, advocates, families, educators, and AT stakeholders to identify AT Network’s assistive technology training topics.

Responses will be used to develop the AT Network’s 2014 training topics.  Please take a moment to complete the survey no later than Friday, May 10, 2013.  There are nine (9) questions and all responses are anonymous. 

To take the survey go to http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/atn-2014-training-needs.  Please share this survey announcement with your networks or anyone who may be interested.


Monday, April 22, 2013

Earth Day—5 ways to save the planet

planet earth

by Kim Cantrell, CFILC’s Program Director 

Earth day is today! What have you done to care for Mother Earth lately? The AT Network strives to be a good steward of our planet even as we embrace new technologies. Join the AT Network to reduce, reuse, recycle and show Mother Earth some love on her special day. Here are the AT Network’s TOP 5 ways to celebrate Earth Day in 2013: 

1. Borrow when possible. Before running to the store to buy the latest tech gadget, try it out first. Did you know that the AT Network has 14 Device Lending Libraries around the state that lend out assistive technology devices and software to people who want to try before they buy? Borrow an iPad, a Pocketalker, learning and writing aids (including Smartpens), communication devices and much more. And we ship too. Check out our current inventory by visiting the AT Exchange and searching for items available for loan. What better way to appreciate the Earth than to borrow first and only purchase items that you know will work for you?

2. Donate your used medical equipment, including walkers, wheelchairs and hospital beds, that you no longer need to one of the AT Network’s local reuse partners. You know the type of the equipment I’m talking about; the old device holding up the wall in the garage or languishing in your basement. Now is the time to dust it off and donate it to an organization that can give it new life by passing it on to someone who can really use it. And you may even qualify for a tax deduction. Everybody wins!

3. Buy used. The AT Network’s reuse partners distribute used equipment at low and no cost. Our partners post their used equipment on the AT Network’s AT Exchange. Californians can search the AT Exchange for “free” or “sale” items to find great deals on gently used equipment looking for a new home.

4. Donate your old computer equipment. Tired of looking at that old wired keyboard in the corner? Are you using your old desktop computer as a book end? If you are ready for this equipment to be used as it was intended, donate your old computer equipment to an organization that distributes refurbished computers to children and people with disabilities. Click here to check out the AT Network’s list of computer recyclers in California who do this work.

5. Check out the California Assistive Technology Reuse Coalition’s website to learn more about reuse and how extending the life cycle of assistive technology (AT) devices and medical equipment is a win-win proposition. These folks are dedicated to getting used devices into the hands of people who can use them.

Don’t forget to join the AT Network so you can continue to learn about opportunities to reduce, reuse and recycle technology all year long!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

TED talks AT: Assistive Technology Brings Beauty, Laughter, Freedom and Light.

If you have never checked out any TED talks before... now is the time to start. I promise you that you will be hooked!   

TED's mission statement begins:
We believe passionately in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and ultimately, the world. So we're building here a clearinghouse that offers free knowledge and inspiration from the world's most inspired thinkers, and also a community of curious souls to engage with ideas and each other...

TED stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design. Their talks are dedicated to disseminating  "ideas worth spreading".  Take a break from all the reality shows, sitcoms and dramas and watch a TED talks instead with your loved ones. You will be moved, enlightened, informed and inspired!

Here are just some of our favorite TED talks dedicated to assistive technology and/or disability-related. Have you seen a talk you would like to share?  Put it in our comment box - and enjoy!

1. Sue Austin: Deep sea diving … in a wheelchair

When Sue Austin got a power chair 16 years ago, she felt a tremendous sense of freedom -- yet others looked at her as though she had lost something. In her art, she aims to convey the spirit of wonder she feels wheeling through the world. Includes thrilling footage of an underwater wheelchair that lets her explore ocean beds, drifting through schools of fish, floating free in 360 degrees.

2. Todd Kuiken: A prosthetic arm that "feels"

Physiatrist and engineer Todd Kuiken is building a prosthetic arm that connects with the human nervous system -- improving motion, control and even feeling. Onstage, patient Amanda Kitts helps demonstrate this next-gen robotic arm.

3. Aimee Mullins: The opportunity of adversity
The thesaurus might equate "disabled" with synonyms like "useless" and "mutilated," but ground-breaking runner Aimee Mullins is out to redefine the word. Defying these associations, she shows how adversity -- in her case, being born without shinbones -- actually opens the door for human potential.

4. Joshua Walters: On being just crazy enough

At TED's Full Spectrum Auditions, comedian Joshua Walters, who's bipolar, walks the line between mental illness and mental "skillness." In this funny, thought-provoking talk, he asks: What's the right balance between medicating craziness away and riding the manic edge of creativity and drive?



Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Free Phones, Free Hearing Screenings and More for Californians with Disabilities

If you are in California and haven't heard of the California Telephone Access Program, you could be missing out on a free and specialized landline phone.

Funded by the small surcharge on every phone bill in CA, CTAP provides free phones for people who live in California, have telephone service, and are deaf or hard of hearing, low vision or blind, or have a mobility, speech or cognitive disability. There is no income or age requirement and the specialized equipment they provide includes:
  • Amplifiers
    Sample Accessible CTAP Phone
  • Ring Signal Devices
  • Speech Devices
  • Switches
  • Specialized Telephones
  • Mobile Telephones
  • Braille TTYs
  • Headsets
  • TTYs
  • Fax Machines
  • Accessories 
To apply, all you need is a professional certifying agent to sign your application form. 

Furthermore, CTAP Centers are now also offering free hearing screenings to the public on the third Wednesday of each month, as well as hosting Community Resource Fairs at all CTAP Locations. Find your local service center or call CTAP for more information at 1-800-806-1191.

Free Basic Cell Phone for Qualified Individuals
 Another exciting and new program that the AT Network recently learned about is a free cell phone program for qualified individuals in CA. Assurance Wireless is a federal Lifeline Assistance program that is run through the company Virgin Mobile. California residents who receive Supplemental Security Income, food stamps, Medicaid/Medi-Cal or other public assistance (see complete list here)  or who earn less than $15,000 per year can get a basic cell phone with 250 minutes and 250 text messages per month.  You must provide proof of program participation or proof of income to qualify. Each household qualifies for one line, but separate households that live at the same address are eligible, including residents of shelters or nursing homes. To apply for this program, please visit assurancewireless.com or call Assurance Wireless at 1-800-395-2171.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Cesar Chavez Day, CalAgrAbility, and AT for Farmers

The following excerpt was adapted from FWD/Forward (Feminists with Disabilities) For a Way Forward:
( http://disabledfeminists.com/2010/03/31/happy-cesar-chavez-day/ )

In California, Cesar Chavez day is an official holiday to celebrate the life and work of Cesar Chavez. Chavez worked to promote and enforce the civil rights of farm workers and, with Dolores Huerta, was co-founder of the United Farm Workers of America. While his work is usually viewed through the lens of organizing for Latinos, there is a significant disability component to his work.

Migrant farm workers are affected by a number of intersecting a complex factors which negatively affect their health and put them at risk of becoming permanently disabled through their work. They are likely to be exposed to harmful chemicals or dangerous work situations and because they often live on the farm under the control of the farm owner, they have little access to health care. Here’s a brief overview of the occupational hazards from the National Center for Farmworker Health:
The agriculture industry is one of the most dangerous occupations in the United States. While farmworkers face workplace hazards similar to those found in other industrial settings, such as working with heavy machinery and hard physical labor, they also face unique occupational hazards including pesticide exposure, skin disorders, infectious diseases, lung problems, hearing and vision disorders, and strained muscles and bones. Lack of access to quality medical care makes these risks even greater for the three million migrant and seasonal farmworkers.
In 2007, for every 100,000 agricultural workers in the U.S. there were 25.7 occupational deaths in agriculture. This compares to an average rate of 3.7 deaths for every 100,000 workers in all other industries during this same year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention label agriculture the most dangerous industry for young workers in the United States, accounting for 42 percent of all work-related fatalities of young workers between 1992 and 2000. Fifty percent of these victims were younger than 15 years old.
Because farm labor consists of constant bending, twisting, carrying heavy items, and repetitive motions during long work hours, farmworkers often experience musculoskeletal injuries. Furthermore, workers are often paid piece-rate, which provides an incentive to work at high speed and to skip recommended breaks. From 1999 to 2004, almost 20 percent of farmworkers reported musculoskeletal injuries.
There are millions of workers currently in the fields, including a significant number of children, for whom this is the expected outcome – if they manage to sustain their labor for thirty five years. Cesar Chavez fought for those people and fought to protect them from outcomes and conditions that were, in his time, even worse and more damaging than what I’ve described above. We now must continue his fight.

Si Se Puede!

Do you work on a farm or do you work with farmers? Have you heard about the California AgrAbility Project?
The California AgrAbility Program’s mission is to promote independence in farming and rural living for people with severe injuries, disabilities and illnesses. To accomplish this, CalAgrAbility (the University of California Cooperative Extension Service) at the University of California-Davis, partners with the Greater Sacramento and Central Valley and Southern Chapters of the California Arthritis Foundation, a private non-profit disability service organization.

CalAgrAbility provides bilingual (English and Spanish) education, assistance and support to farmers, ranchers, workers and their families who have an injury, disability, or illness that limits their ability to perform farm tasks. Even though funds cannot be given directly to agricultural families, they can help find solutions to challenges. Staff helps locate resources including low-cost modifications to the farm, home, equipment and work site operations. Other resources include: assistive technologies research, health care and rehabilitation services, and advocacy with government and non-profit agencies for farmers and workers.

CalAgrAbility provides bilingual information and referral, technical assistance, education, and training to individuals with varying degrees of injury/disability. They also conduct bilingual workshops and seminars to other professionals about  farmers and workers.

Here are some handy tip sheets for farmworkers in Spanish and English by CalAgribility:

Hands are a vital part of our day-to-day activities. Learn simple tips on how to prevent injuries to hands while working around the farm. 
Nuestras manos son una parte vital en las actividades diarias. Conozca cómo prevenir lesiones en las manos mientras trabaja en la granja o rancho.
CalAgrAbility's motto is "keep it simple". Find out how simple assistive technology around the farm can help you get the job done safely.

El lema de CalAgrAbility es “manténgalo simple”.  Conozca cómo la tecnología asistencial simple en la granja le puede ayudar a completar el trabajo con cuidado.

For more information on CalAgrability and their services and programs, please visit their website