Monthly Archives: July 2013

These are a Few of My Favorite (AT) Things


Aimee Sterk headshot

Submitted By: Aimee Sterk

My name is Aimee Sterk and I work on the Michigan Assistive Technology Program (MATP) and on programs to build inclusive communities throughout Michigan.

When I travel the state talking about low cost assistive technology for community living, I usually get the conversation started by having group members talk about their favorite piece of assistive technology. Having facilitated dozens of these conversations, I have thought carefully about my favorite pieces of AT, AT that I use daily and depend upon.

1.  My dishwasher. This is really my very favorite piece of AT. I have chronic upper back pain and am an Iron Chef wannabe. I can either cook or do dishes but if I do both, I experience burning back pain. My true love is cooking, so my dishwasher takes care of the clean up afterwards. If my husband is home, he is happy to do the dishes after a delicious meal. But I like to know that when I’m home alone in the kitchen, I can make whatever I’m inspired to make, and put 90% of the dishes and pans and cutting boards and utensils in our handy dishwasher. This saves me from the pain caused by curving my shoulders and upper back forward when I wash dishes. The quick cycle has become my friend after meals I cook for myself. I can put the few items I use frequently in there to clean so they’ll be ready for my next cooking adventure.

2.  My Gmail Calendar synched to my iPhone 5. I have noticed over the last 10 years that my memory is not what it used to be. My polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and insomnia related to PCOS conspire together to negatively impact my memory. I know I don’t remember things like I did when I was fresh out of college. Thankfully, I can set reminders and appointments through my Google calendar and have my phone provide a chime an hour beforehand. I make sure that I set times for reminders and appointments where an hour’s notice will likely get me there. Just this past weekend, my iPhone/calendar combo saved me by alerting me that I had planned to go to a ballgame with a friend—just in time for me to hit the road to the stadium.

pillow headphone - small in blue being held in the fingertips

pillow headphone

3.  The Stitcher App with a pillow headphone.  When my insomnia is in full swing, I develop anxious thoughts at night. My therapist taught me some mantras to try but I noticed they did nothing to quell my anxiety—I just pleaded the mantras instead of using them to calm myself. One of my specialist doctors explained that the frontal part of your brain isn’t always clued in during the middle of the night, and that frontal lobe is where logic and reason are located. So, if that part is shut down, mindfulness and mantras aren’t so useful. I need to concentrate on something else, something I don’t generate and ruminate on myself—podcasts. I have a Stitcher station with all of my favorite podcasts. I plug in my pillow headphone so as not to wake my husband and lull myself back to sleep listening to Jillian Michaeals, Books on the Nightstand, The Shrink Show, America’s Test Kitchen, Radiolab, The Moth, Slate’s Double X Gabfest and Earth Eats. They are interesting enough to get out of my own head and are way more relaxing then the overnight news channels I used to listen to on the radio (too much war coverage). The Stitcher app has been a lifesaver for me and the pillow headphone has been a very good for my marriage.

What are your favorite pieces of AT?


What the ADA Means to Me


Submitted By: Laura Hall

black and white - the Capitol Crawlers ascending the stairs to the U.S. Capitol on their knees and behinds

The “Capitol Crawlers”

I was still a young child when the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed in 23 years ago today in 1990.  I remember watching the coverage on TV and my mom telling me this was an important law that would help people in wheelchairs like me.  At the time, I had no real understanding of what that meant, and really had no understanding why there needed to be a law to help people like me.  I’m not sure if this was due to the naivety of my age, or because prior to the passage of the ADA the discrimination against people with disabilities was socially acceptable.  At that time, it wasn’t unusual for my parents to have to carry me up the stairs to a museum or for there to be no accessible restroom.  Unfortunately, like many people with disabilities, even at that young age, I internalized this lack of access as being due to the disability I felt made me different and at times ashamed when asking for help or something that seemed “special” or “extra”.

Fortunately, I now understanding the meaning of discrimination, and that the ADA reaches far beyond helping people in wheelchairs like me.  I have found a community that has taught me that my disability is something to be celebrated and that access is a civil right.  The ADA is important to me because it was legislation that publically recognized the discrimination of people with disabilities and outlined mandates for ensuring greater access.  Because of the ADA, I can now typically enter a museum via a ramp, inaccessible restrooms are becoming fewer and fewer, my service dog can accompany me in all public spaces, and we can get there by public buses equipped with lifts.   I have a job at with the Michigan Assistive Technology Program (MATP), where I help people access assistive technology (much of which is also outlined in the ADA), and my employer provides me accommodations that allow me to do my job well.  There is no doubt that I am thankful for this legislation and that it has had a profound impact in my life.

Justin Dart with President George H.W. Bush and others at the signing of the ADA

Justin Dart at the signing of the ADA

However, people often tell me that should be grateful for the ADA, and I find myself quite bothered by this statement.  I am grateful to the people, like Justin Dart and the “Capitol Crawlers” who worked so hard for its passage, to and all of my brothers and sisters in advocacy and direct actions who have fought to enforce it, but it is Civil Rights legislation that needed to be passed and continues to need better enforcement.  No legislation alone can change societal attitudes and bureaucratic structures that keep people with disabilities unemployed and in poverty.  People young and old are still held in nursing homes against their will, and lack of physical access, affordable housing, medical care, and transportation are still issues that people with disabilities face every day.  For these things to change we must use our voices and take to the streets.  Today I celebrate the Disability Community and the people who made the ADA possible.  Tomorrow I continue to roll in their footsteps and beyond toward even greater change.


Huh? What did you say? Turn that TV Down!


young boy looking annoyed with fingers in his ears and mouth open

Sound familiar?  It’s a dilemma that couples and families face worldwide.  One person needs the TV turned up to accommodate a hearing loss, or if they are like me, to hear the enunciation of words or better understand foreign films.  The other person, meanwhile, ends up with a headache and complains of not being able to hear themselves think.  Did you know that the Michigan Assistive Technology Program (MATP) can demonstrate a solution which could help you keep enjoying the television programs you love while providing peace and quiet for your family?

TV Ears and TV Listener are two devices that use infrared technology in personal amplified listening systems.  A transceiver and a wireless headset allow the user to listen to the television at an amplified volume without disturbing other family members.  Both systems claim to have a wireless range of about 600 square feet and use rechargeable batteries.  Major differences between the systems include with average listening time per charge (around 6 hours for the TV Ears and 15 hours for the TV Listener), and headset design.  The headset for the TV Ears features an under the chin headset with ear buds while the TV Listener has over the ear headphones with cushioned and swivel earpieces.

TV Listener headset and receiver

TV Listener

TV Ears headset charging on transceiver

TV Ears









Of course, everyone’s hearing loss is unique. The Hearing Loss Association of Michigan (HLA) has additional options that can be demonstrated and they also work with MATP. Are you wondering if an amplified listening system will work for you? Looking for harmony in your home?  Contact us for a device demonstration today!


Why I love Siri


I am an senior woman who is blind. I came kicking and screaming into the computer world and ended up teaching using screen reading software. But I never got the chance to dictate documents because the software programs were incompatible -until Siri combined with VoiceOver by Apple.

Not only can I ask Siri to write notes, appointment and reminders. I can ask Siri the commands needed to open these apps. I’ve also have fun having Siri search for nearby restaurants or search on the web. Next up: email!

My name is Cathy McAdam. I work with MATP and will be posting on this blog occasionally. As my adventures in technology-enhanced living continue, I wonder, how do you use Siri? Please post your comments and answers. I look forward to meeting you!