Category Archives: Resourcees

Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault, and AT Resources and Webinars


Aimee Sterk, LMSW, MATP Staff

MDRC staff members have been working on a multi-year collaborative grant from the Office of Violence Against Women in the U.S. Department of Justice. Through that work, all of our staff has become more familiar with the services and supports available from the domestic violence/sexual assault prevention and support community. People with disabilities experience sexual assault and domestic violence at a higher rate than the general population and these violations can also lead to disability.

How does this all relate to assistive technology (AT)?

In a variety of ways:

  1. Perpetrators may withhold people with disabilities’ access to assistive technology they need as a means of control.
  2. Perpetrators may monitor conversations of people with disabilities, especially people who are Deaf and use communication devices. This is another means of control.
  3. Many shelters are not accessible and need to develop ways to help people with disabilities access AT when they flee a situation.
  4. Sexual Assault and domestic violence program staff may not be aware or capable of assisting people with disabilities who have intellectual, processing, or communication disabilities due to their own lack of knowledge and skills. Access to assistive technology can help.
  5. Apps for PTSD can be useful to survivors of domestic violence and sexual abuse. For example, I am a sexual abuse survivor and use T2 Mood Tracker to monitor my symptoms, Gratitude! for mindfulness and PTSD Coach.
  6. There are apps and devices for safety like Circle of 6 which lets you send out messages to your friends like “come get me” and gives your GPS location. Circle of 6 also can connect you to resources. There is also Cuff, a jewelry-device that in addition to tracking your steps and location, can be used to call for help.
  7. Survivors who are Deaf and hard of hearing need to know their rights and the systems of help available. Some communication and relay systems keep transcripts of conversations automatically unless the user specifically requests that they don’t. Perpetrators have also impersonated Deaf survivors through electronic communication methods so shelters and survivors may want to develop codes phrases.

Do you know about domestic violence and sexual assault services in your community? Are they accessible? Have they done an accessibility audit? Are they welcoming and able to serve people with all types of disabilities?

A series of webinars on disability and domestic violence/sexual assault is coming up. Put on by VERA Institute of Justice Center on Victimization and Safety, these webinars cover social media and people with disabilities and safety and the ins and outs of AT for people with disabilities and safety. Below are descriptions, dates and links to register.

Engaging People with Disabilities Through Social Media

June 14, 2016

2:00-3:30 pm ET

Do you use social media in your prevention or intervention work? Learn what a group in Austin, Texas found when they initiated a project to explore social media use in their community.

Register Now


Working with Survivors with Disabilities: Understanding Tech Misuse & Online Privacy

June 30, 2016

2:00-3:30 pm ET

When is technology an advantage and when can it be dangerous? Learn from the experts at the National Network to End Domestic Violence as they present about the safety implications you should consider when using social media in your work.

Register Now


The In’s and Out’s of Safety and Assistive Technology

July 12, 2016

2:00-3:30 pm ET

During this presentation, participants will learn about common assistive technology devices, ways that abusers may use those devices to compromise safety, and how to promote the safe usage of assistive technologies.

Register Now


Join us as we fight domestic violence and sexual assault and raise awareness of AT.


Pain and Anxiety Relief With Mindfulness and AT


By MATP Staff Member Laura Hall

Drawing of a man and a dog with thought bubbles. The man's bubbled is cluttered while the dog's has only trees. Caption reads

There is often an inside joke among people that have Cerebral Palsy (CP) related to how often we get told by those in the medical profession to “just relax”.  It’s funny, because, with CP of the spastic type, it is very difficult, if not impossible to get you muscles to relax especially if you’re trying or anticipating something painful.  Personally, being cold, anxious, tired, excited, or even having a thought can make every muscle in my body tighten.  There is a definite mind body connection when it comes to CP.  This is why, when learning about techniques to help with anxiety, insomnia, and shame resilience, I’ve had a hard time understanding exactly how to be mindful.  Mindfulness involves intentionally focusing your attention on the present moment, feeling relaxed, and accepting all of your thoughts, feelings and sensations without judgement.  How do I stay in the present, remain relaxed, and accept my thoughts?   That’s like the doctor telling me to relax before they poke me with a needle!

Yet, I decided to give mindfulness another try when my doctor recommended it as we were discussing the pain in my neck and shoulders from spasticity (I tend to pull my shoulders to my ears, especially at night).   After researching apps, books, cd’s and websites (there are many to choose from) I decided to try an app called HeadSpace (also a website), aimed at beginners, that takes you through a 10 minute mindfulness exercise for 10 days.  These exercises are free, but you can also get additional content with a paid subscription.  The app is easy to use and provides funny animation tutorials before the exercise.  The exercises themselves are easy to understand, and make a point to discourage efforting to make yourself relax.  That’s when it hit me – I was trying too hard to make myself relax instead of letting it happen naturally.

Index finger tracing the hand.Mindfulness is still not easy for me, it involves practice.  I can say that I am starting to get it, feel more relaxed, and even fell asleep one night during an exercise!  I’ve had to modify things a bit to help me stay in the present moment.  For example, I trace my fingers as I breathe in and out as a sensory reminder.  Other people have used tapping or hugging themselves as a way to enhance their mindfulness.  Assistive technology like weighted blankets, adult coloring books or objects like a smooth rock, candle, soft fabric, beads, or a bracelet work for other people.  My colleague, Aimee, has blogged extensively on alternatives to medication for depression, anxiety, PTSD, and relaxation. Check out:

Mindfulness doesn’t require you to sit with your legs crossed, burn incense, or say “ohm”.  You don’t even necessarily have to have your eyes closed. It just requires intention and practice and there is really no wrong way to do it.

What relaxation or pain relief techniques do you use?


Looking for AT in Michigan? Use the Assistive Technology Directory!


The Michigan AT Directory will help you to find resources, products and professionals related to Assistive Technology. You can search by the following categories:

Sales/Rentals/Loans: Not sure what you need? This section includes links to resources to help you decide. Know what you are looking for? Find Michigan-based vendors who sell, rent or provide loans of the equipment, devices and Assistive software you need. You can search by zip code to find a vendor close to you. You’ll also find links to search national websites for what you need and links to articles to help you be a good consumer when acquiring AT.

Financing/Funding: Find possible financial solutions to purchase equipment, related supports, and home modifications.

Evaluation/Assessment: Having a good assessment or evaluation can help you determine the best AT for you and what you need. This link will provide you with more information about getting a good assessment and where to find a Michigan-based professional who can evaluate your AT needs. This section also includes links to information about national directories and standards for a good assessment.

Repair/Maintenance: Find Michigan-based businesses to repair or provide regular maintenance services for your devices/equipment.

Home Modification: Alterations you make to your home to make it easier for you/someone you live with who has a disability to use. These include small items like adding grab bars, to more complex modifications of building ramps, expanding doorways, configuring a kitchen or bathroom, adding an extension, or installing stair lifts or ceiling mounted lift systems. You’ll also find links for more information about funding your home modification.

You can also check boxes with additional search terms to narrow down your search and enter your zip code to find resources within specified miles from your home.

If you are a company based in Michigan who offers assistive technology products or services, you can add your listing to the great resource! Just sign up for an account, add your information and we’ll review and post it as long as appears to fit our directory. Be sure to give us good contact information in case we have questions.

So I hope you will check out the AT Directory! Let us know what you think!


When the meds don’t work—Resources and AT for depression and anxiety


Aimee Sterk headshotBy Aimee Sterk, LMSW, MATP Staff

My co-worker was asking me about my light box yesterday and that got me thinking about the alternative AT, supplements, and practices I use to help with my depression (seasonal and otherwise) and anxiety. Many visits to doctors had left me very frustrated—and feeling like it was my fault and something was wrong with me—I have nasty side effects to most medications, especially antidepressants. Through many trials, I have never found an SSRI (selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitor, the main class of antidepressants) that works for me. I have found that I can tolerate Wellbutrin (an antidepressant that works on norepinephrine and dopamine instead of serotonin) at low levels, and it helps, but I can still be depressed on it, and increasing it makes the side effects intolerable—especially the irritability I develop.

Last week I went to a workshop given by the Institute of Brain Potential. At the workshop, Dr. Michael Lara, a psychiatrist, presented on medical and medicinal foods used to treat mood disorders and inflammation. He presented research—noting the good research and that which was bad/poorly done–on evidence about supplements and told us about websites to use to evaluate the research and supplements, especially,, and the National Nutrient Database. It seems there are many more of us out there for whom medications are only part of the answer. For example, those of us with the MTHFR genetic variation, including me, (and other genetic variations) do not benefit much or at all from SSRIs and may benefit from L-methylfolate or other alternative treatments. Sometimes, increasing precursors or co-factors to neurotransmitters through food and supplements can be a piece of the answer. I am testing and trying some of this myself and finding some good results and some things that don’t work. There’s a great article by Wake-up World with some ideas on increasing dopamine naturally that covers some of the supplements as well as other options.

In addition, there are AT products that can help. I’ve written about some of them before—weighted blankets, yoga, loving kindness meditation, and light boxes. There are also numerous apps for anxiety and depression.

Here are some other ideas to help yourself decrease or manage your depression:

a 12 inch cube fishtank with light, plants, and fish on a desk Get a fish tank as AT for depression. My home office fish tank has a very bright light to help the fish and plants grow, in addition, the light provides some light therapy to me. Watching the fish swim calms me. The gentle water sound of the filter and bubbles relaxes me. The bright colors and movement and plants growing add vibrancy to my life and help me re-center. Watching fish decreases blood pressure and muscle tension as well. In addition, fish tanks can become a hobby to share with others. My husband and I have met cool people at our local fish store and through the aquarium club in our area.

coloring books, colored pencils, markers, and spirographArt supplies and coloring books as the “new” AT. It’s no surprise to me that coloring books are becoming popular with adults. I never stopped coloring. I find it meditative and cheerful. Coloring is now recommended for people with anxiety, depression, and dementia among other things. Coloring can become a mindfulness practice. Concentrating on the one task, choosing colors, purposeful movement, these are all beneficial. Also, as someone who can’t draw, I can still feed my creativity and artistic self through coloring. And, coloring has prompted me to play around with watercolor—a medium where I relish creating designs and colors and don’t feel the pressure to have to make something that looks like something else, like I do when attempting to draw.

a screen shot of a Feel Better playlist with songs like Hope, In a Tree, If I Had $1,000,000, and Live in ColorBuild a playlist that helps you feel better. You can use more than just apps on your smartphone to help with depression and anxiety, use your smartphone music, or go old-school and make mixed tapes/CDs. Dopamine is released when we listen to music. Dopamine is a feel-good neurotransmitter associated with motivation and combatting addiction. Even anticipating listening to music stimulates dopamine. Melancholy music that we know well can create chills and may be beneficial to our mood as we anticipate the different sections of the song. Sad music may help us move to more positive emotions. Our drive and reward systems are activated by music.


While none of these resources or pieces of AT are an all-in-one answer, perhaps they can help on the journey. And if right now you are depressed and none of these sounds good to you, know you are not alone, you matter, you can get through this, depression lies and tells you things about yourself that aren’t true, and get help. If you are open to irreverent and raw, I highly recommend listening to Jenny Lawson read her own book in the audio version of Furiously Happy or follow her blog. Perhaps the book or the audiobook is available from your local library.

This article is not medical advice—consult your own doctor/medical professional and therapist.