Monthly Archives: March 2016

When Spring Didn’t Come


As I sit here using my light box, listening to the rain on the roof, I wonder when can I start tapering off using it each morning? I use the light box to help keep my circadian rhythm in tune with the rest of the world. Otherwise, especially in Winter with my tendency toward Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and Delayed Phase Sleep Disorder (i.e. extreme night person!), I would not sleep at night and be useless during the day.

crocus budsWith more natural light in the warm months along with more opportunities to be outside, I don’t need to use the light box every day. I usually taper off sometime in the spring, typically by the beginning of June and then start again in mid-September.

Spring usually brings more energy, you know, that feeling we used to call “Wanting to run naked through the woods”. Not that we did, but it was a pretty good description of the feeling. [There used to be a TV show called Northern Exposure. One episode was about the annual spring “bull” run through town.]. Maybe the feeling has a theme song like the song “Here comes the Sun” by the Beatles. The urge to get outside, to throw open the windows and clean out the dust of winter (see “AT for Spring Cleaning!)

Except one year when spring didn’t come. Oh yes, outside the birds returned and flowers bloomed and the days got longer, but inside me, it was missing. Actually the lack of the “wanting to run naked through the woods” feeling made me even more depressed.

This was more than SAD. For those of you who have had major depression, you know. But it’s hard to explain to people who haven’t been there. I’d get advice like “It’s a beautiful day, get outside, open the blinds, you’ll feel better.” So I’d try and the contrast between the Spring outside and the darkness inside me simply made me feel worse.

silhouette of a person sitting on chair holding head with one arm with words in background like Unimportant, unwanted, useless, broken, alone.

“April is the cruelest month, breeding lilacs out of the dead land, mixing memory and desire, stirring dull roots with spring rain.” – T.S. Elliot

Did you know, contrary to a common belief, suicide rates don’t peak during the winter holidays. They are highest in the spring and fall.

If you have SAD and use a light box and find you can’t taper off in the Spring as usual, please reach out and get some help. There’s apparently something called “reverse SAD”. However, it’s also possible that something more than SAD is going on. Depression is a life threatening condition and not to be taken lightly. Please take care of yourselves and of each other.


A Modified Vehicle Could Change Your Life


By Brenda Henige, Michigan Assistive Technology Loan Fund (MATLF) Coordinator, United Cerebral Palsy (UCP) of Michigan staff

The MV-1 in red. The side ramp is extended and inside are the driver, passenger in a wheelchair, two children and a dog in the backseat.There are so many types of assistive technology, or AT, available today, which improve the daily functioning, quality of life, and independence of individuals with disabilities. One example of AT is a modified vehicle. Residents of Michigan who have a disability or their family members can apply to borrow money from the Michigan Assistive Technology Loan Fund (MATLF) to obtain needed equipment or tools (assistive technology or AT), modified vehicles or modifications to a vehicle, or home modifications for accessibility through this program. A person can apply to borrow funds to modify his or her own vehicle or apply to borrow monies for a new or used modified vehicle. For such a purchase, it is common for applicants to seek financial assistance through other means such as grants. A wealth of information and resources may be found in the blog article, Funding Your Accessible Vehicle by Laura Hall, as well as in other areas of Michigan’s Assistive Technology Program (MATP) on the Michigan Disability Rights Coalition website.

For the MATLF program, an individual must have enough money in his or her monthly budget to repay the loan, be creditworthy, and have a reasonable debt to income ratio. An individual may apply to borrow up to $30,000 and there is no minimum amount required to borrow since modified vehicles may cost much less than the maximum allowed. The length of the loan will depend on factors such as the total amount borrowed and the expected useful life of the modified vehicle or other assistive technology. An applicant can request a pre-approval amount for a modified vehicle or can submit a price quote for a specific modified vehicle or modification.

Here are two situations where a loan from the MATLF program assisted individuals with purchasing modified vehicles to illustrate how obtaining a modified vehicle may impact a person’s life:

A van with a rampA woman sought a loan to purchase a modified vehicle which would allow her to obtain a van with a wheelchair ramp, for her electric wheelchair. She has a lot of back, leg, and nerve issues, and her husband has cerebral palsy, and he could not help her in getting into the vehicle and getting her manual wheelchair out of the vehicle was difficult for him. She said that this is the first time that she needed a modified vehicle, and She commented that she is “part of the world again”,” saying she was able to go to a White Caps minor league baseball game, which was the first time in six years since she was able to go to one. She said that using MATLF to purchase a modified vehicle changed her life in many ways. She also said that she regained her social life, and was not lying in bed forever anymore, and became able to go out to accomplish her own shopping, explaining that she is now able to shop for her own personal items like clothing. She stated that the loan application process was pretty easy, and complimented UCP of Michigan’s website, for its overview of what information is needed, the loan application process, and outlining how long it should take, that the information was straightforward. She worked with Clock Mobility, who she said was aware of our application process and time requirements, they told her about us, and she selected a vehicle. She made sure it would meet her needs, and ensured that she would be able to get in and out of it on her own.

Another individual applied for pre-approval of $10,000, for a loan to purchase a used modified vehicle due to having inclusion body myositis and its limitations. He needed a van with a ramp. He had some medical debt and was working to repay it. He got behind due to his medical problems. He determined an amount he could afford to borrow for a modified vehicle and for the associated monthly loan payment, allowing money in his budget for auto insurance and unexpected expenses. He was approved and began shopping for a modified vehicle. He thought he found a modified vehicle to use the loan for, but when he tried getting into and out of the vehicle, it did not work for him because the ramp was rated for less weight than what his wheelchair and he weighed together. This highlights the importance of making sure that the vehicle’s modifications will serve the individual’s needs. The next vehicle he found worked for him and it cost around $5,000, and he said that it is easy to get in and out of. With this vehicle, his wife is able to transport him both short and long distances, for daily activities and medical specialists that are in locations around the state.

When shopping for a modified vehicle, Make sure that you try out potential vehicles and modifications to ensure that they are suitable for your needs. There are a variety of types of modifications, including lifts, ramps, and hand controls – and they have various features and limitations and purposes. MATP has a recorded webinar about modified vehicles: Customize Your Ride!

Borrowing money through an MATLF loan enables individuals to acquire needed assistive technology, including modified vehicles, which really can positively impact their daily life. Please contact me for more information on the loan program and the application process at 517-203-1200, ext. 303 or at 1-800-828-2714, ext. 303. You may also view loan fund information by going to our website.

This entry was posted in Accessible Vehicles, Funding, Traveling with a disability and tagged Loan Fund, MATLF on by .

AT for Gardening


By Aimee Sterk, LMSW

Spring is actually in the air at our house—the birds are chirping in the morning and the witch hazel by our garage is blooming with the bright scent permeating the yard. Daffodils are popping up. The earth is turning green and bright.

I have a favorite Rumi quote, “And don’t think the garden loses its ecstasy in winter. It’s quiet, but the roots are down there riotous.” Those riotous roots have done their work all winter, and now the shoots, leaves, buds, and flowers are bursting forth.

Spring is my favorite time of year; a time of renewed energy, longer days, getting back out doors, and new life.

With the unfurling of the buds and leaves, dreams and plans for my garden overtake my thinking. To be sure, I ordered my seeds in the dark of winter—plotting and planning for the growing season gives me hope. Now, its time to get started in the garden, and there is a lot of AT that can help with that.

We have a great accessible gardening webinar that covers many aspects of accessible gardening: tools, pathways, beds, and container gardening to get you started.

Personally, I plan what I grow based on what my family likes to eat, how much space I have, and potential cost savings. For example, we eat a lot of carrots and onions, but I find them harder to grow and relatively cheap at the store, so I don’t grow them myself. I do grow herbs, kale, fancy greens/salad greens, and heirloom cherry tomatoes. This year I’m also growing sunflowers—more for the beauty and the birds than for cost savings.
Three people working at an accessible-table height raised bed at the Ann Arbor CILI grow my plants in raised beds or containers right next to our driveway—seeing them when I come and go reminds me to water them. Raised beds and containers provide a variety of benefits:

  • If your soil is poor, it provides a method for adding good soil
  • It allows for people with physical disabilities to more easily access the beds—they can be raised to counter height if need be
  • It allows for better drainageA woman using a wheelchair and a woman standing bent over a row of straw bales with tomato cages in them

Raised beds and container gardening don’t have to be costly either. A cheap, large pot or 5-gallon bucket on some pavers or bricks makes a great, small raised bed that would be great for greens, potatoes or even small tomatoes. There is a great Facebook group called the Container Gardening Alliance that provides lots of tips and tricks for container gardening. One tip from me–be sure you can reach all the way across your raised bed/container so that produce and weeds stay within your reach throughout the garden season. I’ve fallen into my too-wide garden bed trying to reach a tomato in the center.

Straw bale gardens  are cheap, easy ways to create a raised bed and use the decomposing straw to feed your plants. A row of large plastic pots sitting on top of large bricks to raise them to thigh height

Adapted garden tools and watering systems also increase access to gardening. Hand tools can be built up with bicycle grip tape or pipe insulation. Handles can be lengthened or shortened as needed to give people the reach they need. Drip systems or sprinklers attached to platforms with hoses run to them that do not obstruct pathways prevent the need for carrying heavy watering cans.

garden gloves, a garden hat and several trowels with built up and curved handles

You don’t need a yard to have fresh herbs, flowers, and vegetables. A sunny window or patio and some pots are all you need—and the plants will brighten your day, feed you and clean your air for you.

There are so many ways to make gardening accessible. What tips and tricks do you use? What are your gardening plans?



Accessible Documents: Impact for Everyone


By MATP Staff Member Laura Hall

faceless drawing of a person, hands to head, looking at a computer in frustration

Many people believe that providing documents in accessible formats may only affect a few people, and misjudge the importance of creating these documents correctly the first time.  The reality is that inaccessible documentation creates a barrier for people to obtain jobs, benefits, services, medical treatment and a whole host of other things that many take for granted.

Did you know many people have Print Disabilities? Accessible documents provide access to readers with all types of disabilities, not just blindness or low vision – that is a common misunderstanding. Here are some characteristics that can lead to a print disability:

  • Vision Related, Blind, Low Vision, Color Blind, Perceptual
  • Physical: Difficulty lifting, positioning, or holding books and paper and turning pages, navigating a document with fine motor issues
  • Learning Disability/Dyslexia/Processing IssuesCognitive: Unable to read or to gain meaning from standard print materials

Microsoft Word has tools you can use to make sure they can read your documents.  Once you take some initial steps and learn to use these tools, accessible documents will be so much easier! If fact, these tools can make producing all your documents easier and adaptable for future use.

Are your documents accessible?  Interested in learning more?  The Association of Technology Act Program’s (ATAP) webinar on Document Accessibility in Word is a great place to start.