The [AT] Connects Blog

Importance of Education in Indian Country

Posted By Anne Long | Sep 25, 2013
By Sara DiRienzo, WIND Information Specialist 

Importance of Education in Indian Country: WATR presents at 4th Annual Native American Education Conference

Wyoming Assistive Technology Resources (WATR) recently presented at the 4th Annual Wyoming Native American Education Conference in Riverton, Wyoming. The conference discusses goals for improving education for Native American students. This year, the conference made history by bringing together tribal and education leaders from the Wind River Indian Reservation, state education leaders, and even national leaders. U.S. Secretary Arne Duncan and U.S. Secretary Sally Jewel participated in a panel discussion on issues on related to the quality of education provided for Native American youth and challenges faced as a result of the sequester on the reservation. Both Jewel and Duncan addressed issues if poverty and reduction of resources.

To forward this goal of quality education, Assistive Technology Specialists Wendy Alameda and Barb Locke discussed assistive technology (AT) use in early education with an emphasis on including AT before children transition to kindergarten. Assistive technology is an approach not always pursued on the reservation, and WATR’s goal was to increase exposure of potential strategies.  

“Children who use augmentative and alternative communication devices and methods, those who need alternatives to pencil and paper writing, and those who will not be able to hold books to turn pages need accommodations or modifications to their academic curriculum on the first day of kindergarten!” said Locke. “Finding transition methods does not have to cost the sending program or the local district tons of money, either.”

WATR’s presentation also focused on finding transition methods and solutions for students with disabilities before entering kindergarten and experiencing failure in the classroom.

During the presentation, Alameda stressed, “The early use of assistive technology can increase a child’s self-esteem and independence, ultimately affecting the expectations others have for a child’s abilities, and enable active rather than passive interactions.”

WATR provides presentations and trainings throughout the year on the best early intervention strategies in schools. To discover more about WATR, please visit

Michigan Assistive Technology Program Blog

Posted By Anne Long | Sep 25, 2013
By Michigan Assistive Technology Program staff member Aimee Sterk

These are a Few of My Favorite (AT) Things

My name is Aimee Sterk and I work on the Michigan Assistive Technology Program (MATP) and on programs to build inclusive communities throughout Michigan.

When I travel the state talking about low cost assistive technology for community living, I usually get the conversation started by having group members talk about their favorite piece of assistive technology. Having facilitated dozens of these conversations, I have thought carefully about my favorite pieces of AT, AT that I use daily and depend upon.

1.  My dishwasher. This is really my very favorite piece of AT. I have chronic upper back pain and am an Iron Chef wannabe. I can either cook or do dishes but if I do both, I experience burning back pain. My true love is cooking, so my dishwasher takes care of the clean up afterwards. If my husband is home, he is happy to do the dishes after a delicious meal. But I like to know that when I’m home alone in the kitchen, I can make whatever I’m inspired to make, and put 90% of the dishes and pans and cutting boards and utensils in our handy dishwasher. This saves me from the pain caused by curving my shoulders and upper back forward when I wash dishes. The quick cycle has become my friend after meals I cook for myself. I can put the few items I use frequently in there to clean so they’ll be ready for my next cooking adventure.

2.  My Gmail Calendar synched to my iPhone 5. I have noticed over the last 10 years that my memory is not what it used to be. My polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and insomnia related to PCOS conspire together to negatively impact my memory. I know I don’t remember things like I did when I was fresh out of college. Thankfully, I can set reminders and appointments through my Google calendar and have my phone provide a chime an hour beforehand. I make sure that I set times for reminders and appointments where an hour’s notice will likely get me there. Just this past weekend, my iPhone/calendar combo saved me by alerting me that I had planned to go to a ballgame with a friend—just in time for me to hit the road to the stadium.

3.  The Stitcher App with a pillow headphone.  When my insomnia is in full swing, I develop anxious thoughts at night. My therapist taught me some mantras to try but I noticed they did nothing to quell my anxiety—I just pleaded the mantras instead of using them to calm myself. One of my specialist doctors explained that the frontal part of your brain isn’t always clued in during the middle of the night, and that frontal lobe is where logic and reason are located. So, if that part is shut down, mindfulness and mantras aren’t so useful. I need to concentrate on something else, something I don’t generate and ruminate on myself—podcasts. I have a Stitcher station with all of my favorite podcasts. I plug in my pillow headphone so as not to wake my husband and lull myself back to sleep listening to Jillian MichaealsBooks on the Nightstand,The Shrink ShowAmerica’s Test KitchenRadiolabThe MothSlate’s Double X Gabfest andEarth Eats. They are interesting enough to get out of my own head and are way more relaxing then the overnight news channels I used to listen to on the radio (too much war coverage). The Stitcher app has been a lifesaver for me and the pillow headphone has been a very good for my marriage.

What are your favorite pieces of AT?

For Kids with Special Needs, More Places to Play

Posted By Anne Long | Sep 20, 2013

Elsewhere in the Community: Accessible Playgrounds Database

NPR has debuted a community-edited accessible playgrounds database on its website. An accompanying article, For Kids with Special Needs, More Places to Play, discussed the effects of new federal requirements under the Americans with Disabilities Act for equipment, materials, and designs to provide play opportunities for all children. The database is searchable by address, city, state, or zip code, or the map function can be used to find accessible parks nearby. Anyone may add or edit information on local parks and their accessibility.

Innovative Research on Employer Practices: Improving Employment for People with Disabilities

Posted By Anne Long | Sep 16, 2013

A state of the science conference from the Rehabilitation and Research Training Center on Employer Practices Related to Employment Outcomes among Individuals with Disabilities. This two-day event will highlight the research findings from the Employer Practices Rehabilitation Research and Training Center at Cornell University ILR School's Employment and Disability Institute.

American National Standards Institute

Posted By Anne Long | Sep 13, 2013

From the [AT] connects desk:

Ensuring Safety and Minimum Performance Predictability for Assistive Technologies

All consumer technology benefits from the application of minimum standards and safety protocols.  The International Organization for Standardization develops and publishes international standards.  The organization covers virtually all areas of economic activity, including standards applicable in information technology and assistive technology.  In order to be effective and global, ISO operates through a network of national representative organizations. 

Here in the United States that organization is ANSI, the American National Standards Institute.  ANSI in turn accredits specialty organizations to develop standards in their respective areas.  RESNA is one of these organizations and as such helps to develop standards for assistive technology.  The work is done through the RESNA Assistive Technology Standards Board.

The AT Standards Board publishes voluntary standards developed based on an industry consensus.  The board has several committees focusing on specific areas of AT.  The board develops its own standards and policies as well as contributes to international standards development through its affiliation with ANSI and ISO.

This is important work to allow consumers to expect certain predictable functionalities and compatibilities of assistive technology products.  Ensuring that wheelchair tie downs in a public transit bus have a safe place to be secured to your chair is a result of this work.

To find out more, please consider visiting the AT Standards Board’s pages on RESNA’s website:

Employer Dialogue being sponsored by ODEP

Posted By Anne Long | Sep 05, 2013

What Can We Do? Join the Conversation for Change on September 9-11, 2013  

Help shape federal strategies to assist employers in creating a diverse workforce that includes people with disabilities. Employers and other interested stakeholders are invited to participate in an online Employer Dialogue being sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP). The dialogue will be centered around the main question, “What services do you need to facilitate the hiring, retention and advancement of people with disabilities?”  

Employers, human resource and diversity professionals, and all others with expertise and insight into disability employment issues are encouraged to participate in the Employer Dialogue by submitting ideas and comments and/or voting on others’ ideas and comments.  

Submissions will be accepted 24 hours a day, using an online crowd-sourcing tool. Together, these contributions will help inform ODEP’s work going forward. The Employer Dialogue is being facilitated through ODEP’s ePolicyWorks initiative and will be moderated by ODEP’s Employer Policy team.  

To register and participate, visit