Speaking with Confidence (and Humor)
After undergoing a total laryngectomy that left her with no voice, E.K., a 71-year-old ICU nurse, was referred for an Augmentative Alternative Communication (AAC) evaluation by the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation. In her role as a nurse, Ms. K. relied on her voice for immediate communication with doctors, other nurses, and patients. After a comprehensive AAC evaluation and device trials, Ms. K. found that the Wego 7A by TalkToMeTechnologies supported her communication in several different ways.
Through training with her Speech and Language Pathologist, Ms. K. learned to use the pre-set word buttons to build novel responses in a conversation, ask and answer questions, and support her social interactions. She uses the keyboard with word prediction as a different strategy to type novel messages. For more predictable communication interactions, Ms. K. customized her device with pre-stored personal and professional phrases to use in a job interview, or to convey her wry sense of humor.
Searching for employment has been Ms. K.’s priority. While waiting for the perfect nursing position, Ms. K. has successfully worked with local food delivery services, communicating regularly with customers, restaurant staff, and her employers using her AAC device. When asked how her AAC device has impacted her daily life, smiling, she uses her AAC device to reply, “I can order food in a drive-thru, and be funny too”. Regarding returning to her career, Ms. K. emphatically demands, “I can do everything I used to be able to do, except talk.”
As a person ages or their illness progresses, sometimes AT and adaptive equipment needs to change, too. MonTECH’s team works hard to make sure individuals have access to the best supports at each phase. This year, 32-year-old veteran J.P. visited MonTECH with his wife and caregiver. J.P. has frontal temporal dementia and his wife helps with his care. MonTECH was determined to provide any equipment that might make life sweeter or more comfortable for them.
MonTECH conducted a demonstration at their lab in Missoula and determined that J.P. needed loans for simple communication devices, universal cuffs, cup holders, mounts, and a temporary, more supportive wheelchair. J.P., his wife, and their young son were able to join a camping trip with extended family with the use of MonTECH’s Emma X3 All-terrain Wheelchair and a wide camp cot. J.P.'s participation was important to the whole family – MonTECH was grateful to be able to provide equipment to support them on their special weekend together.
Walking by Christmas
At 65, Gerald was hospitalized for eight months due to complications from COVID-19. The hospitalization and medication caused severe loss of muscle mass and weakness. Gerald was able to use the Evolv Standing Frame during rehabilitation sessions in the hospital. The standing frame helped Gerald increase standing time, gain muscle mass, and regain muscle control and balance.
He is now able to independently use a walker inside the home, use the bathroom, shave, and brush his teeth. Gerald has a goal to walk by Christmas without a walker. “Thanks to the standing frame we were able to obtain through the Device Loan Program and the great group of therapists, we are confident that Gerald will meet that goal.”
Exploring Assistive Technology at Work
Ms. CJ is currently employed with Lowe’s Corp. as a Workforce Supervisor in Wilkesboro, NC. Initially, Ms. CJ was concerned about how she would use the keyboard at her job with only one hand. North Carolina Assistive Technology Program staff introduced a few assistive technology options, including a one-handed keyboard, Five Finger Typist software, and speech recognition software.
Ms. CJ tested a few options at work. First, she tried the RH Maltron Keyboard, a uniquely shaped, one-handed keyboard that optimizes layout to minimize finger movement by having the more common letters closer to the finger “home position.” Next, she borrowed the trial version of Dragon NaturallySpeaking, which allows individuals to create text from their voice, along with a noise canceling headset and microphone. Ms. CJ reported that she loved the technologies and was much more productive at work. She and her employer requested information on how to purchase the items for Ms. CJ to use in her Workforce Supervisor role.
Linda has limited mobility due to pain from chronic back issues and arthritis. She had been using a walker inside her apartment but has had difficulty traveling from her front door to the mailbox. Linda did not typically have the stamina to manage the uphill grade to the entrance of the local grocery store, or to cross the busy street before the traffic light changed.
Linda came to the Meyer Medical Equipment Center, operated by Washington AT Program’s device reuse partner, Bridge Disability Ministries, hoping to find a free or low-cost solution that would work for her fixed budget. Linda and the Center staff determined that a small (but powerful) electric scooter that could fit in her apartment would work well. The Center delivered the scooter to her home and helped adjust it to fit her body. On the first try, Linda was able to use the scooter to get up the hill, cross the street at the traffic light with time to spare, and enter the grocery store, which she had been unable to visit for months! Linda looks forward to using the scooter to regain her mobility and independence.
And the Band Played On
The best part of marching band is being at the games! At least that’s what Addie tells us. Addie received a power assist wheelchair from Assistive Technology for Kansans Reuse so she could keep up with her friends at school. Band students must cross a parking lot to get to the band building. Now, Addie can keep up when friends race up an incline to the cafeteria to grab lunch. She can also ride the school bus more easily, so she never has to miss the away games!
Fourth grader JD has significant hearing loss in both ears. His parents’ insurance does not cover the full cost of hearing aids. JD’s mom is a teacher and was not comfortable approaching the school for funding assistance. Assistive Technology for Kansans (ATK) staff obtained $3,500 from private funders to cover the remaining costs of JD’s hearing aids. His mom and teacher say he’s like a different boy. He tells everyone about new sounds he hears. JD is excited about his progress on his speech with the increased amplification, and he is eager to go to school every day now.
Phil had been working with the Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services (OKDRS) and his bank for almost two years to replace his existing modified vehicle that was over 18 years old. He applied for and received a low-interest loan through ABLE Tech’s Financial Loan Program. With this loan and support from OKDRS, Phil was able to get the vehicle he needed.
Phil shared, “ABLE Tech came through for me when others didn’t, and I couldn’t be more thankful! Here’s to hoping for another life-long dependable truck.” The Alternative Financial Loan Program is a great way to supplement additional funding in collaboration with other programs, such as OKDRS. “It was a pleasure to assist Phil in his employment goals by providing funding for his modified vehicle.”