Monthly Archives: December 2014

Step By Step


By MATP Staff Member Laura Hall

Several months ago, I decided my life needed a change. As a person with Cerebral Palsy, I was spending most of my time in my wheelchair, and I could feel the effects both on my body and in my mood. I got involved with in adaptive sports, and started getting my body moving. There, I met a woman who worked with prosthetics, and I admitted to her that I hadn’t worn the orthotics (braces) that her company made for me in many years. She encouraged me to come back for an evaluation, as my chief complaint was that the braces just hurt. I finally did, and we determined that the brace that was meant to stabilize my left knee (called a knee-ankle

Ankle foot orthotic or AFO - molded white plastic with red and rainbow straps

Ankle Foot Orthotic (AFO)

Molded white plastic brace that stops at the thigh level with metal hinges along the sides

Knee-Ankle-Foot Orthotic (KAFO)

foot orthotic or KAFO) was simply just too much. It was cumbersome, heavy, and my body’s natural positioning pushed against the brace so hard that the pain was unbearable. Sometimes functionality trumps looks (what would make me walk straighter) and we decided to try an older pair of braces (ankle foot orthotics or AFO’s) that weren’t as restrictive.

At the orthotist’s suggestion, I began physical therapy. At first, I could only bear weight for 40 seconds before needing a rest. I was shocked at the strength and stamina I had lost. Yet, with each visit I found myself doing more. Bearing weight turned into shifting my weight from side to side and finally to taking a few steps with a walker. Unfortunately the walker didn’t quite meet my needs, as the arms handles weren’t long enough to allow me to turn around in the walker to sit. We modified it to make some to make it work temporarily and I can now walk almost 100 feet without resting, but I definitely needed a different model of walker.

A reverse walker in chrome with a bar in the back, 4 wheels, red handle grips, and open in the front

Easier said than done…several medical suppliers told me that my insurance would not cover the type of walker I needed, a Kaye Reverse Posture Walker, because it was coded as a pediatric walker and I was an adult.  Sure, that doesn’t make sense, and  I could fight it with appeals and letters of necessity, but that could take months, and my progress was starting to plateau because of the ill-fitting equipment.  I decided that I was going to need to purchase the walker myself.  Luckily, Michigan has a wonderful resource in the Michigan Assistive Technology Loan Fund, which offers lower-interest loans specifically for the purchase of assistive technology.  I applied for a $370 loan, and was approved.  It doesn’t seem like a big financial burden, but $370  is a lot for my budget.  Yet, the loan will allow me to spread my payments out over 12 months, and $30 a month I can handle.  The interest rate is also much lower than any of my  credit cards.  Another benefit is that even though the loan is small, making timely payments can help boost my credit rating (for more information on credit and other financial matters see our archived webinars on Household Spending Plans. Money Smarts, Repairing and Establishing a Positive Credit History, and an Introduction to the Michigan Loan Funds).

I so excited to close on the loan and get myself a bright shiny walker for Christmas!  The Michigan Assistive Technology Program wishes you a very merry holiday and we hope that you receive the AT that you’ve been waiting for too!


The Michigan Assistive Technology Loan Fund (MATLF), Affordable Independence


By Michele Seybert, Michigan Assistive Technology Loan Fund (MATLF) Manager, United Cerebral Palsy (UCP) of Michigan staff member.

Now that I have introduced you to the MATLFAn open laptop, I would like to share three success stories. Please note that all three loans were under $1,000. Even though the maximum limit is $30,000, I want to stress that the Loan Funds are a great resource for smaller loan amounts. All three individuals are also on their way to building a positive credit history.

  • In February, the MATLF received an application requesting a loan of $937 for a ThinkPad Edge Notebook with software. The 24 year old applicant has autism and was in need of the device in order to complete his college education, as the device is a requirement of the school he is attending. His school provided the training. He was approved in his own name, which has also assisted with his independence. He’s been making timely payments and has already paid for half of the device.
  • In June, the MATLF received an application requesting a loan of $428 for an I-Pad. After a demonstration at his local Disability Network, it was determined that the device would be very helpful for his independence. He had acquired a traumatic brain injury and needed assistance with daily tasks. He uses his new device for medication reminders and other daily events. His loan payments are being spread over 12 months to accommodate his budget.
  • In September, the MATLF received an application requesting a loan of $588 for a touch screen laptop computer. The loan recipient is taking classes online, due to the need to process the material at his own pace. He has a learning disability and ADHD. He was finding it difficult to use a laptop mouse pad and felt that a touch screen would provide better access to the computer. He know feels he has the opportunity to receive the skills necessary to be employable.

A colleague recently attended an excellent webinar and shared some valuable resources regarding Chrome and people who struggle with reading.  (PDF from Dropbox)

For more information and to apply for a loan, local application sites may be contacted throughout the state, or contact me at 1-800-828-2714 Ext. 303 for further details.

This entry was posted in computers, Funding and tagged MATLF, UCP MI on by .

Smartphones can benefit and help Seniors


By Andy Winnegar

Rather than a box of chocolate or a throw this Christmas why not consider a new smartphone for your senior family member? Many seniors have physical conditions or health issues that using a smartphone might help. Smartphones may increase their independence and safety and provide more opportunities to stay in touch with the outside world. Staying engaged with family and friends, has also been found to improve mental health.

A 2014 Pew Research Center report indicated that smartphone ownership is fairly low along the entire age spectrum of the older adult population, but decreases substantially for seniors in their mid-70s (10% of 75-79 year olds own a smartphone).

According the Pew survey, 2 out of 5 adults over 65 reports a “physical or health condition that makes reading difficult or challenging” or a “disability, handicap, or chronic disease that prevents them from fully participating in many common daily activities”.

It is no wonder that they may prefer to stick with their cell phone rather than be overwhelmed by the numerous features offered by a smartphone. Yet, a smartphone’s ability to send texts, install useful applications, and expand the utility of the phone might be worth a little frustration and the extra cost.

Title I of the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act requires products and services using Broadband to be accessible to people with disabilities. Federal Communication Commission rules also mandate that equipment manufacturers and communications service providers make their products and services, including 911 emergency services, accessible to consumers with disabilities. Today accessibility features are built into most smartphones including the Apple iOS, Android, Amazon Fire OS and Windows operating systems.

People with vision disabilities can listen to screen readers, adjust reading speed, increase screen fonts and contrast.

People with hearing disabilities have built in access to closed captioning, hearing aid compatibility, TTY modes, and stereo to mono audio. Those individuals with limited mobility can use voice commands, one handed navigation and shortcuts and low motion modes.

Smart phone voice technology recognizes what you are saying and your environment providing directions when walking or in the car.

Smartphones can identify where we are, and what we are doing, and thus what we want them to do for us like calling a cab or providing remote monitoring using iCam and other apps.

There are GPS applications like, Tell My GEO, to monitor and track family members, and emergency response programs including 5Star Urgent Response, a $15 monthly service with certified emergency response agents and nurses.

If you need reminding on medication numerous apps are available for smart phones to connect with pharmacies when it is time for a refill.

Before considering a smartphone check when the cell phone contract ends and what an upgrade or purchase will cost. You don’t want to burden your family member with an additional monthly expense.

Find a phone they can easily hold, carry and operate.

Although many wireless providers offer some training older users may need more personal attention.

Here are some strategies that might help.

  • Set up the phone with all the features needed for basic operation at the store including voice mail.
  • Offer a weekly short and fun training session on the new smart phone.
  • Read the manual and online guides and view online training programs on YouTube or vendor sites prior to training.
  • Have their corrective lens, hearing aids and magnify glasses handy.
  • Demonstrations on how to use the two or three fingers techniques to pinch, swipe, zoom text and move icons should be done in bright settings with overhead lighting.
  • Wait to see them perform the operation after introducing a new concept or technique and answer questions in non-technical language.
  • Practice texting, sending photos, opening email and posting to Facebook during the week.
  • Training sessions are a great time to get together and visit. Don’t make them all work.
  • Be patient, and always be respectful.

Andy Winnegar is based in Santa Fe and provides consultation in New Mexico for the Southwest ADA Center, which promotes voluntary compliance with the ADA.  The Southwest ADA Center is a program of TIRR Memorial Hermann. For more information, visit or call the toll-free ADA Information Line at .

(c) Copyright 2014 by Andy Winnegar.
This article was originally published 12/8/2014 in the Santa Fe Mexican and republished here with permission of the author.

This entry was posted in Android, iPhone, Mobile and tagged holidays. gifts, seniors, smartphones on by .

Reading Beyond the Title


By MATP Staff Member M. Catherine McAdam

“all technology is assistive technology”button on keyboard that says "access"

An article with the above title was widely tweeted, well written and by someone who has a lot more credentials in the field than me!  It appeared that the intended audience was designers and an attempt to broaden their scope and to acknowledge the “helpfulness” of technology for all.  While I embrace this inclusive approach, I worry about getting lost under this “inclusive umbrella”. I was concerned that too many would never read the article beyond the tweeted title.

When does my disability require unique and direct attention? Are we really ready for full inclusion? As technology, (both software and products),  exponentially expands even the big players are constantly trying to keep up.  Google constantly is adapting their software and constantly tweaking. Unfortunately, the people doing the updates often “break” the accessibility, which then needs to be fixed -an afterthought – which makes it hard for people who use assistive technology to rely on their products. Even the recent upgrades for Apple lead to several fixes to make their updates useable by many with disabilities.

More practically, I also got thinking about this topic after reading several holiday gifting posts for blind and low vision users, and the complexity of choosing Floor stand magnifiyer lampeven the simplest of items for “someone else”. We’ve got voice-activated items, magnification of all kinds and the latest and greatest in tablets. I have two voice-activated clocks. One of the clocks was a gift. While these clocks can be assistive, they do have a downside: they can get triggered to speak by other noise other than my posing a question.  Imagine the possibilities with a house full of loud conversation, interrupted by the announcement of the time or room temperature! Many people with low vision are given lighted magnifiers, well intended, but often unusable. It may not fit their specific magnification needs or, for example, the user needs yellow lighting instead of white lighting.

  • Illuminating Thoughts on Popular Low Vision Task Lamps 

These items fit the above description of universal technology as they are more mainstreamed but do they really fit individualized needs? If technology is truly to be helpful it must meet individual criteria and needs. The option to try something is not unique for people with disabilities. MATP’s demonstration projects give an opportunity to try before you buy, and we are piloting a loan project.

Is all technology “assistive technology”?  We’d welcome your perspective.