Monthly Archives: August 2016

New Items on the


It’s such a beautiful summer day today! Hard to believe how this summer has flown by. I hope everyone has been able to get out and enjoy the warm weather!

As the summer winds down, are you thinking about going on a picnic? We have a great recorded webinar AT for Your Accessible Picnic which can help with ideas for making sure your picnic is accessible. Also this was just posted on the Trailer for Mobility on scooter with trailer attachedI thought it was a trailer to pull the scooter behind a vehicle and was pleasantly surprised to see it’s a trailer that attaches to the scooter. What a great place to stow picnic gear! It’s located in Traverse City. Check it out!

While on the, you may wish to check out some of the other great items! There have been a lot of new items posted lately. For example this Hydrolic sit to stand lift from Invacare  which was used for a 99 year old patient. The listing reads: “In perfect working condition. Will send details upon request or interest.” It’s being offered for free!

Or maybe you have something you can donate? This person is in Kalamazoo and  is looking for “Sensory items: Anything that is soft to the skin, or a comfort to a chronic pain disability, where everything hurts, inside and out.”

Enjoy the great weather while it lasts!


Give it a Push


By Aimee Sterk, LMSW, MATP Staff

I staffed a table at an open house at a senior service center this week. As I was packing up the leftovers and brochures, I had three separate people ask me about the cart I was using to bring things back to my car. It helped me see that this cart that I’ve taken for granted for 6+ years is very useful and something others are interested in and can see uses for themselves.

I’ve been using the Versacart (also known as a transit cart) more often lately as my pregnancy progresses and I’m limited in what I’m allowed to carry by my doctor and by my own comfort level. My chronic back pain hasn’t been too much of a problem during pregnancy (yet—fingers crossed it stays that way) but I definitely notice if I overdo it. The Versacart helps a lot.

I couldn't resist. What's cuter than a Versacart with a cat in it, in a nursery in the making?

I couldn’t resist. What’s cuter than a Versacart with a cat in it, in a nursery in the making?

The Versacart is built on the chassis of a stroller, holds a great deal, but is easy to maneuver, folds pretty small for storage, and has no signs of wear after more than six years in the field. It is made of rugged, waterproof canvas, has a cover for when it rains, and can be operated with one hand if need be.

It might just be my favorite piece of AT right now. I use it to carry handouts and AV materials for presentations. Food for events, bulky AT, the Versacart can handle it all. People at the senior center talked about using it for grocery shopping and laundry, which I think it would also handle beautifully.

Pair it with a reacher if bending to reach the bottom of the cart is an issue, and you’d be all set!

I bought my Versacart on Amazon and we’ve bought them through there for the AT program, but I’ve noticed lately the price has gone up from the $40 range to $65+. Lately, I’ve seen them for $50 at Bed Bath and Beyond. There are often 20% off coupons available for Bed Bath and Beyond so you could find it for $40 that way. It pays to shop around for this item.

Do you have a piece of AT that others want when the see it? Is there AT that you use regularly that you don’t even think about anymore that is so handy others should know about it? Please share!


Assistive Technology: Not a Replacement for Social Responsibility


by MATP Staff Member Laura Hall

wheelchair motorcycleOne of the most exciting parts of working for the Michigan Assistive Technology Program is that it puts me in social media circles where I am more likely to see the latest prototypes of equipment and devices.  It seems like I see some sort of device, app, or equipment that amazes me every day,  Just this week, I came across, gloves that turn sign language into speech, an electric mountain biking handcycle,  and a wheelchair accessible motorcycle.  The potential of assistive technology is limitless, and the ingenuity of people who develop new technologies keeps me in a constant state of awe.

man acscending stairs in a power wheelchairYet, I keep thinking back to a conversation I had several days ago,  I was talking with a woman who asked about my career,  When I told her I worked with assistive technology and explained what that was, she immediately became very excited, and recalled a video she saw online of a stair climbing wheelchair.  “Isn’t it great?”  she exclaimed, “Pretty soon we won’t even need to build ramps!”

No.  Not great, for several reasons.  First, and most obviously, Many of these innovations that we are seeing are prototypes.  They may or may not ever become available on the mainstream market.  If they do become available on the market, it is most likely that only the most affluent, who are able to pay out-of-pocket, will be able to obtain them.  Most assistive technology tends to be low-cost/lower tech, and paid for by insurance,  People with disabilities and advocates are fighting for coverage of even the most basic equipment (durable medical equipment is an excellent example), let alone the latest cutting edge designs.

Secondly, the argument that stair climbing wheelchairs would negate the need for ramps in based the medical model of disability.  It’s saying to people with disabilities that their disabilities are the “problem”, and puts the responsibility on them to negotiate a world that is not accessible to them.  It puts the social responsibility of access as a civil right on technology and not on society, where it should be.  As a person with a disability, I am given the message that I am the problem, and that being afforded accommodations is “special” or “extra” in a thousand different ways every day.  In reality, my disability is a gift, not a problem.  The problem lies with society and the idea that we need to be fixed or in some way made better by technology instead of being granted the same access (physical and otherwise) as everyone else.

Finally, sometimes, the latest and greatest technology cannot and should not take the place of other methods or technology.  For example, many people now argue that there is no longer a need for people who are blind to learn Braille because screen readers and other auditory technologies are available.  However, by relying solely on auditory technology, a person may be missing out on important literacy skills.  There are also places where Braille may be the only way to obtain necessary information, such as locations and orientation within buildings.  It is also important to consider that communication via Braille and American Sign Language are very important aspects of disability (Blind, Deaf) community and culture.

a quote "Deaf children are entitled to know that they are heirs to an amazing culture, not a pitiful deficit" by Carla A. Halpern


Innovations in assistive technology are a wonderful, exciting thing.  I am certainly not arguing that progress and development should stop.  However, technology should not take the place of the social responsibility we have to provide access and accommodations to all – it is a civil right.  We also must be mindful that these cutting edge technologies may not be available or appropriate for everyone, and that existing technology and methods often play an important role in disability community, pride, and culture.






AT for Managing the Heat


By Aimee Sterk, LMSW, MATP Staffcartoon sun with sunglasses dripping in sweat with a fan sitting in a cloud pointed at the sun

This summer’s heat and humidity have blown me away. I don’t like weather this hot on regular occasions, but in addition to my general distaste for heat, this summer I’m pregnant. The heat and humidity have resulted in fatigue, swelling, and discomfort. How are you taking care of yourself and staying cool?

I’ve found some things that work for me but am anxious to hear how others are coping, especially if your disability(ies) are impacted by heat.

What helps?

  1. Air conditioning and fans—these are pretty well known by everyone but I feel the need to mention them. I did read that if possible, two fans work better than one—one to point out
    I swear this English Bulldog looks nothing like my grandma, but he has the right idea plopped down in a puddle of ice cubes.

    I swear this English Bulldog looks nothing like my grandma, but he has the right idea plopped down in a puddle of ice cubes.

    of a room creating a draft, and then if you have a second fan, one pointed on you. I am very grateful for our air conditioning this summer but realize not everyone has that privilege. My grandma used to set a tub of ice in-front of a fan and then have it blow over the ice onto her. This seems like an idea worth trying if you don’t have air conditioning. If you are on Medicaid and have a health condition that requires air conditioning, some counties’ Department of Health and Human Services have emergency funds they can dip into to purchase an air conditioner for you. Also, you can look at our Funding Strategy for other ideas on funding for an air conditioner if a need for cooling is related to your disability.

  2. Stay hydrated. I keep water with me at all times and drink throughout the day. I also have to watch my salt intake and get good protein to prevent swelling. Possibly TMI, but I pay attention to my urine and if it gets dark like apple juice, I know I have to up my water intake. Soda and sugary drinks are not as good at keeping you hydrated so try to stick to water. I’ve learned that I drink more from water bottles with larger openings so I steer clear of bottles with straws (and I have less indigestion without straws) but I have friends who feel the opposite, so do what’s right for you. For many people, straws are an important AT device.
  3. Wear hats and sunscreen and stay out of the sun between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. if possible. Also, my neighbor who grew up on a farm taught me this trick—close your windows in the heat of the day. When its hotter outside than in, close the windows. Open them at night and in the morning and evening. Draw the shades to keep from extra heating from the sun.
  4. Use a spray bottle—cheap AT here! Fill a clean spray bottle with water and mist yourself with it during the day or night. The evaporation of the spray will cool your skin.
  5. Choose clothes that keep you cool—lighter colors and cotton. Right now, synthetics make me feel like I’m in a sweaty tent. Cotton, especially loose fitting, light-colored cotton, wicks and cools.
  6. Find local places you can get to that are air conditioned. The local library is a great place to spend the day relaxing and reading in the air conditioning—and hopefully they also have accessible restrooms and drinking fountains. My cousins take very extended lunches at the mall, restaurants, and fast food chains with air conditioning, or head to the cheap matinee movies.
  7. Fill your hot water bottles with ice water—chill yourself down with them. You can also wet and chill towels and sheets. To cool down faster apply ice packs or cold compresses to your pulse points first. You may also want to take a cool shower or bath.
  8. Consider a buckwheat or rice pillow—they don’t hold heat like polyester or foam. Fill your pillow case with one of these grains (and even chill it) before going to bed.

Do you have any tips to share to beat the heat? The summer isn’t over yet.