2001 Conference Proceedings

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"DEVELOPING ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY LABS FOR THE ORGANIZATIONALLY CHALLENGED"

Tamara E. Varga, M.S., CCC-SLP
Coordinator, Assistive Technology Services
UCP of Central Arizona
321 W. Hatcher, Suite 102
Phoenix, AZ 85021
(602) 943-5472
Email: tvargaaz@prodigy.net 

Michael J. Buckley
UCP of Central Arizona
321 W. Hatcher, Suite 102
Phoenix, AZ 85021
(602) 943-5472
Email: atprogram@prodigy.net

This presentation will focus on the design of the physical space within any given lab setting, as well as discuss specific programming involved in setting up assistive technology and computer systems. The presenters will look at computer designs based on limited access to multiple computers, as well as unlimited access. Throughout the workshop, participants will be given information on specific equipment to purchase depending on the focus of the lab they wish to design. Physical layouts will be presented through the used of computer-generated examples. Actual organizational products will be on hand for participants to view.

Assistive Technology (AT) Labs can serve many different purposes and can be designed many different ways. The focus will be on three possible lab designs.

Assessment Lab Design- This design is used when the primary function of the lab is for the evaluation of an individual's ability to access a given device or computer program. This type of lab design is part of a comprehensive evaluation process. Once initial information is gathered about a given individual, stations can be set up to simulate certain activities found within that individual's environment. After the individual is given the opportunity to try out specific equipment, then a system can be duplicated in the natural environment and the evaluation can be completed. A mixture of current and past products can be used in this type of lab design.

Demonstration/Training Lab Design- This design is used when the primary function of the lab is to provide a mechanism for individuals to learn more about technology through self-exploration or guided assistance. This type of lab requires training materials that are available for each given system or station. These materials should be designed to guide an individual through the basics of each item with little or no verbal assistance. This type of lab design should be equipped with the most current and up-to-date products and information.

Therapy Lab Design- This is used when the primary function of the lab is to aid therapists and/or educators in ongoing therapy with an individual who needs some type of assistive technology. This type of lab should be set up with the appropriate support materials and back-up systems to enhance a person's ability to learn the use of a given piece of technology or system of communication and/or mobility.

Prior to establishing any type of lab, you should have a plan of action for the lab and its use. Establish answers to the following basic questions before purchasing equipment for the first time or before additional purchases are made to enhance your existing program/lab:

  1. Do you have designated space to house a lab? If so, how large is the area, and is it in more than one room or area? Is there insurance to cover the amount of equipment located in the lab?


  2. What is the operating hours of the lab?


  3. Who will be accessing the lab from within the program?


  4. What is the primary function of the lab?


  5. What are the ages of the individuals who will need to benefit from the lab?


  6. What portion of the items purchased will be for loan?


  7. Do you have a loan policy, loan forms and sign-out procedures developed?


  8. Do you have a maintenance plan for the equipment purchased?


  9. Who will be responsible for maintaining the lab and establishing charging schedules for equipment?


  10. Do you have literature on all equipment in the lab?


  11. Do you have informational material on the lab and its use?


  12. Do you have a complete inventory of all items within the lab? If so, is this information on a database for accurate tracking and how will the equipment be physically labeled?


  13. Are manuals and accessories accessible for each system?


  14. Are the furniture and lighting adjustable within the lab area?


  15. Have you contacted the manufacturers prior to purchasing and met with their representatives to determine the most cost-efficient purchases for your given circumstance/program?


  16. Have you researched which companies have specials for bulk purchasing or separate purchasing costs for labs?


  17. Have you considered no tech, low tech, and high tech options in the lab?


  18. Do you have funding planned for the continued upgrade of products in the lab?


  19. Have you established one or more volunteers to assist in developing overlays, programming systems, etc., on a monthly basis?


  20. Have you considered hiring a consultant to assist in the initial development of the lab? If so, have you secured funding? Your answers to these questions are not always right or wrong. The questions are designed to help you to begin to organize your plan of action. In considering these, one can avoid wasting valuable time, effort and resources. Planning takes time initially, but long-term it saves you many, many hours of unnecessary changes and purchases.
What are some funding sources that can be accessed to develop these types of labs? How can you incorporate the representatives of manufacturers of assistive technology products and services into you lab? What is the best use of volunteers in any given lab design? Where do families fit in? What role can the consumer play? These, and many more questions will be answered throughout the presentation.

If you feel you are "organizationally challenged" and you need help designing a lab that is right for you, then this is the place to be. If you are one of the organized, but don't know just where to begin, then this is the place for you. We believe a lab can be functional and look good at the same time. Martha Stewart once said, "Organizing one's life to be beautiful and functional is the cornerstone to happiness." We believe that organizing one's lab to be beautiful and functional is the cornerstone to successful use of assistive technology services and products. OK, Martha Stewart, we aren't- but come have fun with us anyway and in the process create an amazing lab!


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