November was Assistive Technology Awareness Month in Pennsylvania, and to celebrate we hosted our sixth annual photo contest. We asked assistive technology users to Show Us Your Tech by uploading a photo of themselves using their assistive technology (AT) and writing a caption about the difference their tech makes in their lives.
Pennsylvania Assistive Technology Foundation is a nonprofit organization that helps people with disabilities and older Pennsylvanians acquire the assistive technology they want and need by providing information and assistance about funding resources, low-cost financial loans, and financial education. So, we were particularly excited to bring awareness to the various ways people are funding their technology.
Over the course of the month, 21 people submitted photos and stories sharing the difference assistive technology is making in their lives, many of which show the increased importance of this technology during the pandemic.
These stories just scratch the surface of the range of experiences that are possible with assistive technology, the funding resources available, as well as the wide variety of devices people can choose from. Our contest participants shared how they are using assistive technology to gain greater independence, freedom, opportunity, connection, and joy. That is what assistive technology is all about.
Thank You to all of our participants and partners who helped raise awareness about assistive technology last month!
- $10 Amazon Gift Card to the first 15 eligible entries!
- $500 VISA Gift Card to one (1) entry chosen from the top 5 eligible entries that received the most votes by 11:59 p.m. EST on November 30! This winner was chosen based on the entry that best shows and describes how assistive technology is making a difference in their life.
- $100 VISA Gift Card to five (5) entries chosen from all eligible entries. Winners were chosen based on entries that best show and describe how assistive technology is making a difference in their life.
Read the official rules and regulations here.
And now, we’re thrilled to announce our winners!
Grand Prize Winner of a $500 VISA Gift Card:
Magic Mobility Extreme X8 with Snowplow
Tell us about it! Hi my name is Tim I was paralyzed in an auto accident when I was 18 at the c5 level. Before the days of having a 4×4 wheelchair I was pretty much stuck to inside or pavement. Now I can go just about anywhere! I can hit the trails, the woods or even the beach and plow snow like in this picture. I use my 4×4 wheelchair a lot on my YouTube channel called “This Is Wheel Life” where I show how I live my best life with a spinal cord injury and all my paralyzed shenanigans. https://www.youtube.com/user/timay618
One Cold Pennsylvania winter day I was thinking how much I missed playing in the snow and I thought what better way than to build a snow plow for my 4 x 4 Wheelchair. So with the help of my dad, brothers and my cousin and a snow plow generously donated to me by a friend we created this awesome snow plow attachment. Now I can help plow snow and my house and the neighbors.
If life puts obstacles in front of you just plow through them! I try not to let anything hold me back from still living my best life and neither should you!
Thanks for voting for me!
How did you fund it? Insurance and donation
Runner Up Winners of $100 VISA Gift Cards:
iPad, iPhone, mouthstick, Glassouse
Tell us about it! My name is Dev’Ron Lee. I am a survivor, I was shot in the neck and robbed in 2013. I was resuscitated nine times and I endure. Every day I thank God and I am motivated to fulfill my ambitions! I use my iPad and iPhone to connect with the world. Using speech recognition and a mouth stick I am able to pursue my dreams of having my own real estate business that will provide accessible housing for people with disabilities as well as allow people with disabilities to visit. Currently I use my technology to apply for jobs, interact with social media like my Facebook (Devron Lee) and twitter (@devronthomaslee), promote my online store https://leehealthwellness.com/, and record and promote my The Black Lion Podcast on YouTube and iTunes. I have been working through OVR with RHD/Ideate trying out some new devices such as the Glassouse which will help me interface with more technology more easily.
How did you fund it? Myself and my family, working on OVR
Hoyt Running Chair
Tell us about it! After being cooped up due to the pandemic, I was so ready to get outside! I have had a lot of fun exploring local trails as my Mom pushed me in my racing chair! I also participated in several virtual running events throughout the summer by logging all of the miles we racked up!
How did you fund it? Money contributed by extended family and friends through a GoFundMe account
Dragon Naturally Speaking and Microphone
Tell us about it! Having the ability to use Dragon Naturally Speaking has enabled me to have a career in doing something that I love. I am an Independent Living Well Specialist who advocates for people with disabilities and help them obtain different services they may require to live a fulfilling life. Using my technology provides me a way to speak my notes and emails that otherwise I would not be able to type. The technology also gives me a way to do my work independently without needing assistance.
How did you fund it? Office for Vocational Rehabilitation
Adaptive Polaris RZR UTV with custom hand controls!!
Tell us about it! My Story shows by starting with a positive mental attitude, keeping your eye on the prize, and having the willingness to never give up; great things can happen to those who persevere and choose to follow THEIR dreams!
Have you ever watched someone that you love and care about chase their dreams and then suddenly have their life changed forever! I was chasing my dreams while one accident flipped my world upside down.
My name is Daniel Christiana and I would like to Thank you for reading my story. On March 21st 2009, a month before my 18th birthday and less than 8 weeks until graduating high school, I was riding my dirt bike on my home track when the unthinkable happened! I had too much speed that sent me flying over the handlebars and landed on my head. My spine was severed at the C4-C5 level and I am quadriplegic from the chest down. I was in the hospital and rehabilitation center for 8 months before coming home. I vowed to never give up and not let this change who I am. I attacked rehab and therapy knowing deep down inside I can make a comeback while still enjoying the things I love.
Almost 12 years later, the transition of life and the ability to adapt and overcome is a beautiful part of evolution! I’ve successfully completed driving school, adapted my Polaris RZR TURBO, and I’m working on finishing my Special Education Degree at Slippery Rock University!
The adaptive UTV has been a dream for many years since the accident. The feeling of being behind the wheel is absolutely amazing! I drive with 2 joystick controls. The joystick on my left runs the gas and brake, while the joystick to the right controls the steering. You are looking at hundreds of hours of research & designing for this project!
The accident may have changed me physically but never mentally.
Before the accident off-road vehicles where a passion of mine, even to this day I wish I could get back on my dirt bike, but I know that is not an option. Still to this day the passion is there and through the love and support of family and friends I was able to get the machine that will deliver off-roading again to me and fulfill this passion.
With support over the coming months we are looking to transform this machine into something that fills the passion of off-road riding and provides safety to me if something was to happen.
During the transformation process we will keep everyone updated via a quarterly newsletter and on our Facebook page so you can see the progress and process: https://www.facebook.com/adaptivewheelsforthewoods.com
Thank you for your time and I look forward to seeing you on the trails. For any questions, concerns, Ideas or more ways to help. Feel feel free to contact me at email@example.com
Thank you again, and keep following your dreams.
How did you fund it? Patf loan for the POLARIS RZR, Out of pocket for the modifications.
Tell us about it! This truck helps me live my everyday life. I work full time as a designer at an engineering firm; I love to go to concerts (I probably get to between 10 and 15 every year); and I like being physically active in as many ways possible. Several years ago I started playing wheelchair rugby, and on a regular basis I lift weights and do various forms of cardio from going for a push or taking my adapted bike on a ride.
Having only had this vehicle for a few months it has already opened some big doors for me that I wasn’t necessarily anticipating. I love to enjoy the outdoors in almost any form. I own an action Trackchair and a ZX-1. The ZX-1 is a device that I can attach to my manual chair when I need some help getting around and the Trackchair is a power chair with treads. Also known as “The Tank”. Until I had the truck, I was unable to transport these devices anywhere without a lot of help or having to load up my equipment trailer. The truck has changed things completely because it allowed me the opportunity to install a crane in the bed. The crane not only lifts all of my toys in and out, it can also lift me in and out of my different chairs with only the help of one person! I’ve learned a very valuable lesson in the time I’ve been hurt. In the beginning I wanted nothing to do with anything that would help me be able to accomplish things. “I will do it on my own, or not at all!” It was when I started missing out on things that I realized how devices as simple as a modified fork to the complexities and expense of a large vehicle can help one get back a new life when the prior one was drastically taken away.
How did you fund it? PATF loan, Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, and personal fundraising
Choosing winners was not easy; we felt all of the entries provided valuable glimpses into each individual’s life, showing the important role assistive technology plays. We’re grateful to each of you for sharing your story. Take a look at the rest of this year’s entries below:
Ablenet PowerLink Control Unit, Ablenet Big Mack Communicator
Tell us about it! Hello,
Meet A Rare Ruby. She will be 6 in December. She has a form of brain disease known as leukodystrophy, specifically H-ABC. We wanted to expand on the capabilities of the Big Mack switch, so we borrowed a PowerLink Control Unit from PATF. This device allows Ruby to turn on and off anything with a plug. At first, she used it to turn the Christmas lights on and off, and we recorded Christmas music on the Big Mack. She LOVED it!
She loved it so much that we decided to get her a toy train. She picked out this Lionel Frozen II set. We have the speed set on the remote, so whenever she presses her switch, the train turns on. When she presses it again, it turns off. It is really magical watching the reflection of the Christmas lights in her eyes as she lights up inside playing with her train.
See the video at facebook.com/rarestruby
How did you fund it? PATF Loan, out-of-pocket
Physio Mill Rehabilitation Treadmill
Tell us about it! My assistive technology treadmill has made a big impact on the quality of my life because it allows me to exercise and walk when I need to. It makes me feel better and the full rails make me feel safer while I walk.
How did you fund it? Home Community Based Services waiver
Van lift and e-motion wheels
Tell us about it! Has let me work and do volunteering. I can get around!
How did you fund it? OVR for van lift. But I do not now qualify since I’ve retired. I’ve retired.
Tell us about it! This awesome wheelchair allows me to enjoy and pursue my favorite past time. I love to hunt, fish ,run my 2 labs (dogs) in woods, and just enjoy everything about the outdoors.
How did you fund it? Internet
Tell us about it! In addition to providing the time, weather, thermostat control, and the usual things blind users of Alexa use, Wes Britton plays music through his Echo B to jam along with his drums.
How did you fund it? Saved up for it.
Amazon Echo Dot
Tell us about it! I have had my Amazon Echo Dot for over 5 years now. I use my Echo dot on a daily basis to set alarms, reminders, and to turn on electronic devices. My Echo dot has increased my independence by reminding me to complete daily household tasks like taking out the trash and recycling. I don’t know where I would be without my Echo device.
How did you fund it? Out-of-pocket
Laptop with Zoom Video Conferencing
Tell us about it! When the pandemic hit, I was no longer able to attend Shabbat services in person. My faith has always helped me to remain grounded in difficult times. Zoom video conferencing has allowed to me stay connected with my congregation since March. I am so grateful that I have access to Zoom on my laptop as it has helped me to maintain my relationships with my religious community.
How did you fund it? Out-of-pocket
Bilateral cochlear implants
Tell us about it! After a bout with meningitis at just four months old, Annelise was left with profound hearing loss and had to be implanted right away. She now has access to sound through these small devices and her language is thriving!
How did you fund it? Medicare
Tell us about it! My name is Rev. Ron “Liomsa” Latevola and this is my story:
In 2004 I became an ordained priest/minister. One of my many pleasant and favorite roles is to serve as a wedding officiant. It is a great feeling knowing you had a role in uniting 2 people in love and being a part of their big day. Some events were small, private affairs held in a home while others took place in banquet halls, chapels and even a campground.
Jump ahead to the end of 2010 when I developed a cholestoma. I recall officiating a December wedding while enduring pain, loud buzzing and literally no sense of hearing. It was not a pleasant experience for me and I felt I was not 100% in performance for the bride and groom. Surgery followed in February of 2011. The successful surgery determined the growth was benign, thankfully. However, much damage was done, both by the tumor/infection alone and also by the means needed to clear it all up. The end result was significant hearing loss, permanent tinnitus and anxiety. All making it extremely difficult to be active on any level. Conducting a public ceremony of any kind was out of the question. I resigned myself to phase out of officiating weddings and not accept any new ones. It was not the avenue I wanted to travel, but, I saw no alternative.
But, help was waiting for me. At an appointment with Parr Audiology Pennsylvania Assistive Technology Foundation (PATF) was mentioned as a possible source for financing a hearing aid. My eyes lit up a bit but I didn’t want to get too excited in fear of a letdown and not being able to qualify. I obtained the contact information from them and left with a little life in my step.
I went straight home and looked up PATF on the computer, https://patf.us/. I read about their history, goals and purpose. I loved the success stories included on their site. I found the financing assistance page and completed an on-line application for an amount equal to the quote I was given by Parr Audiology. Then I waited, again not getting my hopes up too high. I did not have long to await. In 20 days I received notice of approval for an interest-free loan and subsequently a check in the amount covering the cost of a new hearing aid as recommended by Parr Audiology was on the way to me.
Immediately upon being outfitted properly by Parr Audiology I experienced a marked difference in my hearing level as well as the tinnitus intensity. That difference has allowed me to continue my wedding officiant role without any hesitation. Indoor, outdoor, big or small venues are welcomed by me. None of that would have been possible without the assistance of the Pennsylvania Assistive Technology Foundation. I thank you and I am sure the dozens of wedded couples would join in that thanks.
How did you fund it? PATF interest-free loan
Tell us about it! I was in a meeting being able to hear everything, thanks to my new hearing aids!!!
How did you fund it? PATF Loan
Tell us about it! I never miss a play with my hearing aid!
How did you fund it? patf loan
Tell us about it! I have been Water skiing since I was 5. I don’t remember back then but my family said the look on my face was one of total joy and my family all cried. Now I love to ski because I feel freedom and happiness and have made so many wonderful friends through Three Rivers Adaptive Sports.
How did you fund it? I always used Three Rivers equipment because I was growing through most of my summers but now at 21 my mom and I are trying to save for my own.
Sip and Puff Trigger and Adaptive Mount
Tell us about it! Without the right assistive technology, I couldn’t enjoy the outdoors (hunting, shooting and time with my family).
How did you fund it? Out of pocket and designed the mount myself.
Tell us about it! My assistive technology made a huge difference in my life, by allowing me to finish college and graduate with a B.S. in computer information systems & technology in 2018. Attending college was very important to me and despite being diagnosed with myasthenia gravis 3 years into college, I was determined to finish and earn my degree. I could not have done that without my scooter. Graduating college opened a few opportunities for me to volunteer (remotely) at my alma mater. Now that I’m out of college, I use a mobility scooter to get around in stores and outdoor events. I often don’t leave home very much anymore, but when I do need to walk long distances, my scooter is my go to piece of assistive tech. Otherwise I use a rollator for shorter distances. My scooter gave me my freedom back and helped me get an education. Knowledge is everything, at least to me.
How did you fund it? Fundraising and a PATF Loan
Side-entry skid steer
Tell us about it! Before I got this skid steer with the side entry and enclosed cab, it was nearly unbearable (and dangerous) for me to get my work done. I use the skid steer for nearly everything on my farm – stacking hay bales, mixing grain, hauling manure. But most skid steers are front-entry, which means climbing over the bucket to get inside. With two knee replacements, climbing in and out of my old skid steer multiple times a day was difficult. And when it was wet, muddy, or icy out, it was downright dangerous. Not to mention, the front of that skid steer was open to the elements, and when that cold wind whips through and hits the metal in both of my knees I would have to take frequent breaks just to warm up again. This side-entry, enclosed skid steer is a miracle. I’m able to get all my work done in comfort. I love this equipment!
How did you fund it? PATF loan
Join us next November for our 7th Annual Photo Contest and more chances to win! We’re looking forward to seeing what you’re doing with your assistive technology next year!
Pennsylvania Assistive Technology Foundation is dedicated to helping people with disabilities and older Pennsylvanians acquire the assistive technology they want and need. If you’re having trouble determining how to fund your assistive technology, contact us – we can help you explore your options and find a funding solution.