Simple to high-tech assistive devices shown at workshop

PARKERSBURG – A disability networking group unveiled technology that can be as simple as a step stool or jar opener to the latest computer aids to help the hearing or sight impaired at a networking workshop Wednesday.

Sponsored by The Families & Communities Embracing Support, a disability networking group, and hosted by The Arc of the Mid-Ohio Valley, the hands-on workshop/demonstration drew about 60 participants that included parents of children who have disabilities to representatives of area community organizations that serve those with disabilities.

One attendee was Cynthia Hudson, whose son is dyslexic.

“I’d like to learn more about devices he could utilize in school, whether it’s the computer, books and textbooks,” she said.

“We have several individuals who could really use some of the assistive devices that they are talking about, we are here to find out more information on how to find them, and what would benefit our clients the most. I really don’t know a lot about what’s out there,” said Monica Watson, with ResCare, in Parkersburg. “The loan program they offer is a fantastic idea because sometimes you may get something and it’s not right for the individual at all. This way they can try it out first.”

“Assistive technology can be anything from a pair of eyeglasses to a device to help those with limited mobility put on their socks, or a board that can be secured by suction cups on the back to help someone who only has use of one hand, for example, in cutting or preparing food,” said Christina Smith, director of the The Arc of the Mid-Ohio Valley.

Representatives of the West Virginia Assistive Technology System of Morgantown demonstrated some of the latest assistive technology from the low tech to the high tech during Wednesday’s workshop/demonstration.

“It’s very exciting to see what’s out there in terms of technology that can be used to help individuals live safely and independently,” Smith said.

Through the program, there are resources to link individuals with the appropriate device.

“We have a lending option so if someone thinks a particular device may be helpful, we provide linkages and demos, and loans for a period of time to test them out before you purchase them,” Smith said.

“We have devices that allow you to just push a button and it reads out loud. There are weighted eating utensils for those who have motor control issues, switches if you have trouble with computers, or lights. A lot of time people want to do something and it’s actually accessing the device that’s an issue. We have devices if you can’t use a mouse, a talking alarm system,” said Jamie Hayhurst, program manager with the West Virginia Assistive Technology System.

Smith demonstrated a pad that someone with communication limitations could point to a picture to communicate, another device allows you to program in sign language to allow you to speak to a deaf individual.

“One of the greatest assistive devices for those who are hearing impaired has been cellphones and the ability to text message,” Smith said.

For more information on assistive technology and related services, go to the West Virginia Assistive Technology website at wvats.cedwvu.org. For more information on the local TechLink Program, contact The Arc of the Mid-Ohio Valley, 912 Market St., 304-422-3151, email info@arcwd.org. The website is www.arcwd.org.