Access to assistive technology can make the difference between dependency and self-sufficiency, employment and unemployment, and learning with peers or falling woefully behind. Technology solutions identified by the Assistive Technology for Kansans (ATK) project helped Rick L., southcentral Kansas, improve his health and return to work. Rick lost the use of his legs after being severely injured in a car accident 7 years ago. With assistance from the Assistive Technology specialist from one of the five regional ATK Access Sites, Rick was able to make his home accessible. Together they worked to create an accessible home office and to identify technology solutions to support Rick in returning to his “old job” of writing computer code for aeronautics manufacturing plants. In addition to setting up a functional home office, Rick wanted to find technology that could help him meet his health goals of strengthening his weakening bones, reducing pressure ulcers, and standing independently. He found the technical assistance and supports he needed and now works 50-60 hours a week at a job that he loves.
An older southeast Kansan was gradually losing his vision. An AT Specialist helped him select the appropriate software and computer set-up to maintain his independence. With Dragon Naturally Speaking, Ruby Edition and a scanner he can dictate documents as well as scan in print material and have it read to him. He’s learning how to keep the books for the farm and continue to supervise his agricultural operation.
A 2-year-old child from central Kansas was unable to move independently and had fine motor problems that interfered with his ability to learn. After a comprehensive assistive technology assessment, he received a pediatric manual wheelchair so he can keep up with his big brother. The family purchased a few switches to help him access the computer and play with toys. They borrow adapted toys from ATK’s Interagency Equipment Loan System so he can have a variety of learning experiences and the parents have learned how to select toys that can be adapted or operated without adaptations by their son.
Recognizing that access to assistive technology supports and services can dramatically impact a person’s ability to live, learn, work, and play within the community. Congress passed the Technology Related Assistance Act to help states and territories address barriers to increasing access to technology. This network of consumer-directed “organizing” programs works together to address state and national barriers to acquiring needed technology. The Kansas University Center on Developmental Disabilities at Parsons (KUCDD) serves as the lead agency for this active consumer-directed program in Kansas. Assistive Technology for Kansans was established in 1992 based on input from over 600 Kansans with disabilities or health conditions such as amputations, multiple sclerosis, arthritis, muscular dystrophy, back pain, post-polio syndrome, cancer, respiratory problems, cardiac problems, spinal cord injury, cerebral palsy, deafness and hearing impairments, blindness or vision impairments, mental retardation or after effects of stroke. Consumers designed a program to ensure that: (1) state of the art information and technical assistance resources related to assistive technology are available close to home, (2) training and information continue on a regular basis to guarantee that “experts” are available in Kansas and can provide consumers with the latest information, (3) a “Try Before You Buy” interagency equipment loan program operates to support consumers in using technology in their homes and work places before spending limited dollars on potentially expensive devices, (4) evaluations and assessments are conducted in the natural environments and consumers direct the process, (5) funding specialists are available to help consumers identify and obtain funding through public and private sources, and (6) on-going training and technical assistance is available to help consumers obtain the maximum benefit from their technology. To meet this ambitious charge, ATK has:
- established five regional Assistive Technology Access Sites across the state that can be contacted by calling 1-800-KAN-DO-IT
- developed an Interagency Equipment Loan Program
- offers extensive regional and state training
- works with state and federal legislative bodies to make changes in policies, practices, regulations or laws that adversely impact the acquisition of assistive technology devices or services.
ATK continues to be directed by consumers with disabilities, family members, and disability agency/organization representatives. Project activities are managed by KUCDD staff in Parsons.
As the following facts indicate, ATK is active on a state and national level. During the last 12 month period:
- 18, 423 Kansans requested services through use of the ATK toll-free number
- 9,113 working-age Kansans received services from the regional AT Access Sites
- 6,107 Kansans attended public awareness activities
- 1,212 Kansans learned to use their technology through intensive hands-on training
- 1,035 Kansans borrowed a device to try before they buy 127 infants and toddlers received comprehensive AT assessments
- Technical assistance and outreach efforts were conducted in all 105 counties in Kansas
Project staff served on three federal grant review teams and numerous national committees For more information contact project staff at 620-421-8367 or go to our website at www.atk.ku.edu.