2003 Conference Proceedings

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An introduction to low technology solutions: A tri-wall and switch construction workshop

Lynn Gitlow, PhD, OTR/L, ATP
Husson College
One College Circle
Bangor, Maine 04401
Phone: 207-973-1074
Fax: 207-973-1061
Email: gitlowl@husson.edu

Leslie Youngblood, MS, PT
UCP Tech Exploration Center
700 Evergreen Woods, Mt Hope Ave
Bangor , Maine 04401

The 2000 US Census Bureau reports that there are 54 million Americans with disabilities. This is equivalent to over twenty percent of the U.S. population (NFI, 2002). By now it is certainly well established that for many of these Americans with disabilities, assistive technologies can be powerful tools which can dramatically improve quality of life and ability to engage in daily life activities including work, school and recreation. Even President Bush has acknowledged and supported this awareness by placing great emphasis on the development and use of assistive technology (AT) in his New Freedom Initiative (NFI, 2002). However despite the awareness of how important AT can be in increasing opportunities for people with disabilities to participate in everyday life activities, there is also widespread recognition that barriers to obtaining these AT solutions exist. One of the barriers reported which interfere with access to AT include lack of a good match between the person and the technology that can result in technology abandonment. Additionally, the costs related to AT have certainly been identified as another major barrier to AT access by numerous sources (Gradel, K. (2002); National Council on Disability, (2002).

The AT assessment process, which helps to identify the person-technology fit, is critical to the successful outcome for technology use. One component of the assessment process that is helpful in correctly matching the person and with a technology solution occurs when the person trials various types of technology (Hawley, O'Neil, Webb, Roast, 2002; Raskind, Bryant, 2002). This trial period helps to establish whether or not the features of a technological solution have the potential to improve the individuals' functional performance. However this part of the AT assessment process may be overlooked if there is lack of access to technology equipment. In one study of rural health care providers, over 90 % of study participants identified the need for access to AT equipment as a significant factor influencing their need for pursuing AT educational options. (Gitlow, 2002)

Assistive technology is often prohibitively expensive and despite efforts to improve funding and financial support for AT, the expense is often a limiting factor in obtaining AT (O'Day, 2000). This factor is certainly an important consideration since Americans with disabilities are poorer and more likely to be unemployed than those without disabilities( NFI, 2002).

One way of overcoming the above mentioned barriers is to utilize low technology creative construction techniques (Campbell and Treusdell, 2001). Low technology creative construction of solutions for these people have long provided answers to their AT needs. Creative clients and service providers have overcome the barriers presented by having no money for AT solutions as long as the need has existed to solve problems (Campbell and Truesdell, 2001; Werner, 1998). Every one has story of how they solved the problem of doing something that they wanted to do using materials right under their noses. However in this high tech computer based world we often forget that low technology creative construction solutions may be just the right solution that we are looking for. Additionally these creative low cost solutions may increase the availability of AT for trial and use in a variety of situations

In this workshop, participants will be introduced to two low technology creative construction strategies that will be useful in practice. First, participants will be presented with the theory behind the construction techniques and then they will participate in two construction projects. They will then make and take away a tri-wall construction project and a switch construction project within the time limit of this hour workshop. We hope to demonstrate that utilizing low cost creative construction techniques may increase access to AT features for trial as well as control the cost of trial equipment. Additionally low cost solutions may often times be the best way to provide AT solutions eliminating the need for more costly options.


Gitlow, L. (2002). Assistive Technology Education Needs of OT Practitioners in a Rural State. Technology Special Interest Section Quarterly.

Gradel, K. (2002). Funding and Public Policy in Olson, D, and DeRuyter, F. ( eds.) Clinician's Guide to Assistive Technology. Philadelphia: Mosby

Hawley, M., O'Neil, P., Webb, L., Roast, C. (2002). A provision framework and data logging tool to aid the prescription of electronic assistive technology. Technology and Disability, 14 (2) p 43-52.

National Council on Disability (2002). National Disability Policy: A Progress Report, December 2000-December 2001. Retrieved September 29, 2002 from http://www.ncd.gov/newsroom/publications/progressreport_07-26-02.html

New Freedom Initiative: Fulfilling America's Promise to Americans with Disabilities. Retrieved September 28, 2002 from http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/freedominitiative/freedominitiative.html

O'Day, B., Brewer, J., Cook, D., King, C., Mendelsohn, S., Pierce, K., & Vanderheiden, G. (2000). Federal policy barriers to assistive technology. Retrieved September 29,2002 from http://www.ncd.gov/newsroom/publications/assisttechnology.html.

Raskind, M and Bryant, B (2002). Functional Evaluation for Assistive Technology Examiners Manual. Austin Texas: Psycho- Educational Services;

Werner , D. (1998). Nothing about us without us: developing Innovative technologies for, by and with disabled persons. Palo Alto Ca.: Healthwrights

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