Disability Pride: Highlighting Life-Changing AT

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Disability Pride Month, celebrated every July, provides an opportunity to honor the history, achievements, experiences, and struggles of the disability community. By recognizing the historical significance of Disability Pride in the fight for rights and acceptance, celebrating Assistive Technology (AT) during this month highlights the progress made and emphasizes the ongoing need to advocate for equal access and opportunities for individuals with disabilities.

A person seated on an exercise bench adjusting their prosthetic leg. Beneath Where it's AT logo text reads Disability Pride Highlighting Life-Changing AT - www.AbilityTools.org

At Ability Tools, we wanted to celebrate this occasion by gathering feedback from Assistive Technology (AT) Professionals who have firsthand experience using AT in their own lives or have witnessed its impact on others. Now, let’s explore the impressive selection of AT that made it to the final lineup!

Hand Controls

One of the proudest moments for one of the California AT Advocates we received feedback from, was the acquisition of Hand Controls in a Consumer’s vehicle who had double limb loss. Before installing hand controls in their vehicle, they felt depressed and confined at home, unable to experience the independence that driving provides. By advocating for funding through Department of Rehabilitation and leveraging other grants they were able to successfully cover the cost of the Adaptive Drivers Training required prior to install and also the equipment and installation fees of the actual hand controls.

Video provided by mobilityworks.com

Gas and Brake Pedal Extenders

It’s important to point out that Extension Foot Pedals do not necessarily require professional installation like other vehicle modifications. In fact we found some inexpensive options online that may be worth taking a look at like AMM Able Motion Mobility Gas and Brake Pedal Extenders which retail for $129.95 or these Auto Pedal Extenders from National Mobility Products retail for $99.00.

CFILC’s Public Policy Manager for ILC’s, Dan Okenfuss describes how he benefits from Pedal Extenders on this YouTube video.

Hearing Aids

For Jennifer Grabowski, a former Independent Living Specialist at DRAIL, who has lived with hearing loss most of her adult life, the combination of her hearing aids and texting has been life changing. Prior to acquiring her Starkey Hearing Aids through the Department of Rehabilitation, she was unable to fully participate in conversations with others. “It has allowed me to make strides in my life in every way, from having deeper relationships to going to graduate school.”  We asked Jennifer what the biggest obstacles were to acquire her hearing aids. “By far the financial burden, though more hearing aids are available over the counter, severe hearing loss continues to require professional intervention and is still expensive. It should be covered by insurance and almost never is. Hearing aids are not the same as being able to hear, but they help. Hearing is very important for cognitive health.” Thanks to the FDA’s ruling last year, enabling access to over-the-counter hearing aids, you can check out some options available online:

Smart Environmental Controls

Recently, our Guest Speaker for “Smart AT Home: Tech that Grows with you”  Forrest Holleman, discussed the many benefits of Smart home systems that can be integrated with assistive technologies. Smart home environmental controls offer individuals with disabilities the ability to control their environment using voice commands, touchscreens, or specialized switches. These controls enable users to adjust lighting, temperature, window blinds, and other features. An Ability Tools Team member installed smart LED strips with double sided foam tape in tandem with a magnetic motion detector on their staircase. Their roommate has an ambulatory disability, and now whenever they approach the stairs the steps light up automatically and the risk of falling is significantly reduced. Enhancements like these allow a person to create a comfortable living space despite limited mobility or dexterity.

Stairs with a blue lit LED light strip to the left and a motion sensor in the upper right corner beneath the handrail.

Making connections through Assistive Technology

Here at Ability Tools, we firmly believe that sharing our experiences with Assistive Technology is a dynamic way to highlight its transformative power. By showcasing how Assistive Technology brings newfound independence, safety, and comfort to individuals with disabilities, we can truly emphasize its impact. If you feel inspired to share the positive influence Assistive Technology has had on your life, we would love to hear from you! Please send your stories to [email protected].