Utah State University’s Assistive Technology Program is in the business of helping people with disabilities. If someone has a problem with a wheelchair, or any other piece of equipment, the people at the AT Lab try to repair, adapt or replace it.
The program helps people in several ways; customizing equipment is only one of the services they offer. They also demonstrate how to use equipment and help clients find devices they choose to use. The AT lab has a library of computerized items that can be checked out that can help people with a variety of disabilities.
JoLynne Lyon, the public relations specialist for the USU-based program, said the AT Lab in Logan helps find customized solutions—both high- and low-tech—for people with disabilities to meet their goals in employment, education and living independently.
Clay Christensen, the Technology Lab Coordinator, manages the AT Lab at USU; he also coordinates two other UATP locations, one in the Uintah Basin and one in Salt Lake City.
Christensen has a degree in psychology from USU and a minor in Sociology and Human Development. He has also had extensive technical training.
“I generally service Cache and Box Elder county, sometimes a little of Idaho,” he said. “We try to go where we’re needed.”
Sometimes when he fixes something for someone, it ends up being more beneficial to the caregiver, he said.
“When a caregiver has to lift someone a lot and we can install a rail or something to help the person get up or down, it can help both, significantly.”
Christensen provides assistive technology and services throughout the state of Utah.
“We do demonstrations and can loan equipment and help with financing,” Lyon said.
Christensen also uses volunteers to help assist him in the lab.
“We’ve had people from business and other disciplines volunteer. We like to see people who like to tinker and problem solve,” Lyon said. “An engineering background is helpful as well.”
“Most of all they really need to care about people and want to help,” she continued. “Anyone who needs or wants to volunteer, we can use them. We especially appreciate people who can come on a regular basis.”
The workplace at The Utah State University Utah Assistive Technology Lab looks like a machine shop with drills, saws, and other tools. There are wheelchairs, walkers and crutches in various stages of repair.
“One of our missions is to reuse the assistive technology equipment by remodeling it or building something that meets a client’s needs. The key is finding something that works for someone,” Lyon said. “We develop solutions.”