Category Archives: Uncategorized

Buy the AT you need, sell what you don’t with the ATXchange!


By MATP Staff Member Laura Hall

Two blue stick figures with oppositional arrows between the,


Assistive technology (AT) has become so ingrained in my life that I found myself looking for it at various garage sales this past weekend.  If only I could find that perfect backup powerchair that fit me correctly and had all the supports and functions I needed…

I know the chances are really slim.  An even better place to find used AT equipment for sale or up for donation is the Michigan Assistive Technology Program’s website  Like a Craig’s List especially  disability-related equipment, the ATXchange allows you to search for AT by phrase, keyword, or category.  If you don’t find what you’re looking for, you can also list an item as “wanted”.  Who knows?  Maybe another user of the site has that exact item!

Perhaps your child has outgrown their AT, a family member has passed, or, like all of us, you just have stuff lying around. Listing it on the ATXchange helps that people who actually need assistive technology find it.   Buying a used item (or finding a donated item) may enable someone to have assistive technology they could not otherwise afford.  Providing as much detail in your listing as possible, and including photos typically increases the number of views it receives.  Our article, Using the ATXchange: Buying and Selling Tips also has great information about buying and selling.

Just a few of the many items currently listed for sale include:

  • Pedlar Leg Exerciser
  • 2005 Chevy Express 1500 AWD High Top Wheelchair Van
  • Amtryke AM 12 (child tryke)
  • Leather Electric Lift Chair

Do you have a Beasy Transfer Board, a wheelchair ramp, or an Easy Stand 5000?  Check out these listings for people in search of these items.

Have you had success buying or selling an item on the ATXChange?  Let us know!


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?


Increasing Access for People with Cognitive and Sensory Processing Disabilities


By Aimee Sterk, LMSW, MATP Staff

I recently attended a great webinar put on by ILRU on increasing access (Creating Cognitive Access and Inclusion in the Independent Living Movement). The presenter was Julia Bascom, Deputy Executive Director of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network.  The webinar was the best of its type I’ve ever attended. I’ve participated in trainings and presented on accessibility many times so I was excited to learn a few new things, especially in the realm of including people with cognitive and sensory processing disabilities.

Some key take aways for me that involve AT that could help increase access:

  • Use non-fluorescent lighting
  • Provide and follow a schedule
  • Create sensory-free/respite spaces
  • Warn for noise and use no flash and fragrance free policies
  • Use sound systems that are high quality and don’t create feedback
  • Use name badges—consider using a color communication system on the badge that indicates people’s desired level of interaction/type of communication
  • Have one person talk at a time and use an object for the person talking to hold to signify that person is the person talking
  • When a person uses AAC, mic the AAC device, give the person time to type responses, and use good facilitation skills to assure full inclusion of all
  • Provide CART to help people who have auditory processing disabilities
  • Use visual cues in addition to sound cues

The webinar provided a wealth of information so I really encourage you to access it in its entirety. I’ve just given you a brief overview of some things that were either new to me and/or not often discussed when talking about accessibility.

What access issues do you notice are least discussed?

How have events creatively and smoothly addressed your access issues?

What area of access for you/someone you know are often not addressed?


Hosting an Epic Party – Inclusive Style!


By MATP Staff Member Laura Hall

Summer written in the sand with multi-colored flip flops

Even though sometimes it feels as though we’re still waiting on spring, summer is right around the corner.  The time for barbeques, reunions, picnics, weddings, and graduation parties.  While it can be a fun and exciting time for some, it can be a source of stress and anxiety for people with disabilities.  Typically, concerns come down to the following questions:

Can I access the venue – completely?

A man in a wheelchair at the bottom of stairs looking up while a woman decends the stairs

As a wheelchair user, I know that feeling of driving up to a party location and feeling my heart sink.  Steps!  At this point, I have to make the decision about skipping the party altogether or being carried into the home.  Personally, I find being carried is humiliating, and have set a personal boundaries not to attend events where that would be the situation.  Yet, even if I did allow myself to be carried or were to access the party some other way, the most dreaded question still weigh’s heavy on my mind:  Will I be able to go to the bathroom?  I don’t know if people without disabilities think about this often, but is constantly on my mind, especially when going out in public,  to someone’s home, or to somewhere I’ve never been.  You can’t make assumptions that a bathroom, even if in public, is accessible no matter what the symbol on the door says.  Of course, there’s also the unhelpful reality that thinking about not being able to go to the bathroom probably will make you have to go more.

Suction cip grab bar with locking mechanismWhen it comes to parties or public events, what makes them inclusive is intentional planning.  Know who your guests are, and ask them in person or in writing to tell you about what they might need.  Even better – include them in on making decisions about how you’ll meet their accommodation needs.  For physical access it may involve moving the event to a different location, a public or private place that is already accessible.  Did you know the Department of Natural Resource’s recreation search engine indicates accessible design features for state parks, campgrounds, and trailways?  Alternatively could you build a ramp or place a portable ramp?  Can furniture be moved to create more room (especially in the bathroom)?  Does your bathroom have room for a personal assistant and room for a wheelchair to turn around?  If you’re one of the lucky ones, and have a large bathroom or just the right layout, you may be able to install grab bars. Some grab bars don’t require drilling, but have suction and a locking mechanism that can still provide good stability.  It is always a good idea to test these out (perhaps with your disabled guests), to ensure they are strong enough.

Will I be able to participate or will I be trapped in a corner?

Stand holding a jug of tea with spoutSometimes, when arriving a party, someone (usually intending to accommodate my wheelchair) informs me that they’ve saved a spot, especially for me, where a chair has been removed. Typically, my “spot” is somewhere in a corner without a path of access to the restroom, food, or activities.  I’m trapped there – for the rest of the night.  It’s important to think about things like space between tables and height of tables, exits, placement of food and eating utensils,  potential obstacles or safety hazards for people who are blind or have low vision, etc.  Most people would prefer to get their own food if they are able to do so.  Assistive technology (AT) like table risers, easy to pour beverage containers, and even paper plate holders, straws, and cups with handles can add to independence.

Large print playing cards in a card holderBeyond being able to eat and participate in conversation, you may also want to consider the appropriateness of your activities if you have guests with disabilities.  For example, a game of badmitten or Twister in the backyard may not be the best choice if you have guests with mobility or visual disabilities.  Someone who is neurodiverse may have trouble with word games or complex board games.  Recreational AT, like braille or large print playing cards, card holders, and picture or tactile based games may be a better choice depending on your guests.

For more tips on making your party inclusive for everyone, check out our  webinar, “AT for your Accessible Picnic“, as the content is relevant for any event.

In the meantime, enjoy the sunshine!