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MassMATCH Quarterly News: Summer 2014

In This Edition:

Massachusetts Welcomes Floating Beach Wheelchairs

Thanks to Marcy Marchello for permission to reproduce this article from her wonderful blog Everyone Outdoors

Man floating in ocean in a Mobi chair. Over the past three summers floating beach wheelchairs have been multiplying at public beaches on Cape Cod. Soon they will become prevalent along the coast of Massachusetts from Cape Cod to Salisbury Beach on the New Hampshire border. Now anyone with a physical disability who would like access from a car across the sand and into the water can accomplish this task with ease, thanks to the amazing endeavor of two mothers of children with disabilities who comprise an organization called SMILE Mass.

SMILE (Small Miracles in Life Exist!) Mass is the creation of Lottie Diomede and Susan Brown. Together they are raising money through special events and donations to purchase Mobi-Chairs as part of their mission to improve the quality of life - and especially vacations - for people with disabilities and their caregivers. 64 floating beach wheelchairs have now been donated to beaches in 14 towns across Cape Cod. See the full list of the beaches with the beach wheelchairs. These wheelchairs are always free to use and are suitable for anyone with mobility issues, both children and adults alike. Susan and Lottie have big plans to continue placing Mobi-Chairs along the coast of New England, as well as other similarly inspirational projects in the works.

A recent out-of-state visitor to Kalmus Park Beach in Hyannis had a transformational surprise when beach staff noticed her handicap parking sticker and informed her of the new wheelchairs. She used the Mobi-Chair with her husband's assistance and was able to relax again in the ocean for the first time in 30 years. As she floated in the chair with a big grin, tears flowed down her face. "I feel free again!" she told lifeguards. These types of experiences, uplifting for all involved, are becoming common along the coast of Massachusetts!

SMILE Mass currently has a beach wheelchair loaner program for anybody who would like to take a beach wheelchair to their preferred vacation destination for 1-2 weeks. These chairs are easily transportable as they can quickly collapse and fit into the back of a minivan. Email SMILE Mass at to reserve a floating beach wheelchair!

Susan and Lotte have come to DCR's annual Adaptive Recreation Fair in Boston in recent years to raise awareness about their project. They've inspired DCR's Universal Access Program to begin purchasing Mobi-Chairs as well. We have 2 such chairs at Scusset Beach in Sandwich and soon 2 more will be placed at Salisbury Beach. The manufacturer recommends the use of life jackets for those floating in the chairs and it is advised that Mobi-Chairs be used in gentle wave conditions only. With these precautions in mind, don't miss out on getting into the ocean this summer!!!

Thank you Lotte and Susan!!!

Check out the Universal Access Program's summer schedule

Marcy Marchello is the program coordinator for the Dept. of Conservation and Recreation (DCR)'s Universal Access Program in Massachusetts State Parks

GetATStuff vs. REquipment

Which program is right for you?Recycling vectors as wheelchair wheels.

AT reuse programs make good sense. After all, reuse is a way for valuable assistive technology and/or durable medical equipment (DME) to find a second life with families or individuals who need it. Both REquipment and GetATStuff are reuse programs through MassMATCH. However, REquipment and GetATStuff operate very differently and can serve different needs and users. To know which program will work for you, let's take a look at what distinguishes their two approaches to reuse.

GetATStuff is the AT Exchange in New England. We refer to it as a "Craig's List" for AT because is a way to find all kinds of assistive technology for sale or donation--from wheelchairs and lifts to CCTVs and adapted tricycles. GetATStuff lists equipment from the six New England states, and occasionally outside of New England. All equipment obtained through GetATStuff is acquired "as is" directly from the user who has registered and posted the item. There is no transportation or delivery of equipment provided by the program, and devices are not usually refurbished. The program is about connecting people with one another, keeping equipment in circulation and (unlike Craig's List) within a community of AT users instead of scrap metal suppliers. The program has been in operation since 2007.

REquipment, on the other hand, is a new MassMATCH program serving individuals and families in Greater Boston with refurbished durable medical equipment (DME) at no cost. Equipment is not for sale and the program is not a way to find a wider range of assistive technology. The program accepts donations of high-quality DME such as wheelchairs, lifts, and rollators. Items are refurbished by our program partners (as needed) and listed at REquipment is also unique for providing pick up and delivery of equipment, although a fee may apply for that service. REquipment began as a pilot in 2013 with support from the Carl and Ruth Shapiro Family Foundation, the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission, and Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital.

With both GetATStuff and REquipment, MassMATCH is available to help. MassMATCH Program Coordinator Kobena Bonney assists GetATStuff users with their search for or posting of assistive technology. REquipment Program Manager Randi Sargent helps individuals and families access or donate high-quality DME. If you have questions about the programs, need a device, or have something to pass on to someone who can use it for its intended purpose, please contact us.

Kobena Bonney, MassMATCH Program Coordinator
877-508-3974 (Toll Free)

Randi Sargent, REquipment Program Manager
866-244-6156 (Toll Free)

New in the Short-Term Device Loan Program

The MassMATCH AT Regional Centers (ATRCs) have new additions to the device loan and demonstration programs. The centers are operated by UCP-Berkshire in Pittsfield and Easter Seals in Boston. Below are some exciting highlights:

In Pittsfield:

The MYO Armband

Arm wearing the MYO armband. The MYO armband lets you use the electrical activity in your muscles to wirelessly control your computer, phone, and other favorite digital technologies via Bluetooth technology. The MYO measures the electrical activity from your muscles to detect what gesture your hand is making. It also senses all of the motions and rotations of your hand and forearm. Create custom gestures and commands to control any Bluetooth enabled device via your body motions! As of this writing the MYO is on pre-order and coming soon.

The DBK Solar Charger Panel

The DBK Solar Charger Panel is an on-the-go device that can be used to recharge smart phones and tablets. When not in use, the charger can be left in the sun to recharge its cells without being plugged into a power source. The Solar Charger Panel will even pick up a charge indoors as long as it has a view of a light source through a window. This device would be ideal for someone who needs a constant power source to operate a tablet or smart phone with accessibility features engaged on a consistent basis. Having Wi-Fi and Bluetooth turn on, as is required to connect with most assistive technology devices, also drains a smart phone or tablet's battery quickly. The Solar Charger Panel will allow a user to perform on his or her device for a longer period of time. The Solar Charger Panel is currently available in the loan program inventory.

And for demonstration at the center (but not borrowing): Google Glass!

Google Glass displays information in a smart phone-like hands-free format. Wearers communicate with the Internet via natural language voice commands. The device has broad potential for use as assistive technology (read about Therese Willkomm's experience test driving Glass. Willkomm is director of AT in NH). Contact the center to arrange for a demonstration.

In Boston:

Microsoft Surface Pro Tablets

Surface Pro 3 with stylus and keyboard/cover. Unlike the iPad, the Microsoft Surface Pro tablet is a complete Windows computer. It can run Office and it offers more options for access because it has a standard USB port. The ATRC in Boston is excited about the possibilities. "For example, a student with limited use of their hands/arms could use a foot to work a trackball and a head stick to work the keys," reports Center Co-Coordinator Kristi Peak-Oliveira. The Center currently has one Surface Pro tablet in inventory and the latest version, the Surface Pro 3, is on order. Check out this blog post "Using Windows-based Tablets as Assistive Technology."

Grid 2 Communication Software

For the Surface Pro, the ATRC has also ordered Grid 2 communication software. Now individuals who need augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) and want a Windows device with alternative access, will have a way to communicate if Grid 2 works for them. Grid 2 provides symbol communication, text communication, and on-screen keyboards. It advertises "Highly configurable access options for switch users and a range of communication vocabularies". Learn more about Grid 2 communication software.

Browse the Short-Term Device Loan Program inventory

Welcome Josh Arico and Joan Cosentino

The AT Regional Center in Pittsfield welcomes a new program manager

Josh Arico began working at United Cerebral Palsy (UCP) of Berkshire County in April of 2012 as an Assistive Technologist. He is now the program manager of the Assistive Technology Regional Center (ATRC) which UCP operates as a MassMATCH community partner. Josh recently completed the Assistive Technology Applications Certificate Program (ATACP) at California State University of Northridge and is currently in the process of obtaining his CompTIA A+ certification (for Information Technology). In a previous life, he worked in Network Security and Administration for which he also completed the CCNA Routing and Switching program (for Network Engineers). In addition to these geeky endeavors, Josh enjoys traveling with his wife and their 2-year-old son.

The Massachusetts AT Loan Program welcomes a new assistant director

Joan Cosentino has been working for Easter Seals for more than six years (a MassMATCH community partner). She joined the AT Loan Program in November of last year, moving from the Accounting Department. Cosentino has worked in accounting and customer service most of her life, and also as a preschool and substitute teacher. She has a Bachelors of Arts degree from Regis College in Weston, MA; and she has a son and daughter, both now in college. Joan loves to read, travel, kayak, boat, knit and spend time with family and friends.

Long-Term Device Loan Program Success!

Joan Cosentino shares her job satisfaction

Joan Cosentino

"Marie" was one of my first AT Loan Program clients. I had just moved over from working in the accounting department at Easter Seals to helping with the AT Loan Program when I met Marie. She was delightful to get to know, well-spoken, a former English teacher. Talking with Marie made me even more enthusiastic about working in the department and getting the word out about the MassMATCH Long-Term Device Loan Program (LTDLP) in particular.

The LTDLP provides equipment to income-eligible applicants with disabilities for as long as the equipment is needed. Marie had recently lost her sight. As result, she'd left her teaching job to live on a very modest fixed income and since that time she'd begun to feel detached from the world. She told me that getting out and about was a new challenge for her, but that the hardest part was the lack of "feeding her head." She was no longer reading and found this especially confining.

The Long-Term Device Loan Program can provide equipment valued up to $500. There is a limit to the number people who can be served each year and a priority is given for certain situations (health and safety etc.), but a range of assistive technology is eligible.

Victor Reader StreamMarie had a list of devices she was interested in and was overjoyed when she learned she qualified for the LTDLP. Reviewing her own priorities, she opted for the Victor Reader Stream and Dragon NaturallySpeaking software. Victor Reader Stream is a mobile device the size of a cell phone that provides audio access to DAISY libraries (like NLS and Bookshare) as well as books and music from iTunes, and rich media content on the Internet. Dragon NaturallySpeaking, on the other hand, enables voice-navigation of a computer and the ability to write using Dragon's powerful speech-to-text technology. Together both technologies add up to under the $500 LTDLP limit.

I followed up with Marie after she'd received Dragon and her Victor Reader Stream. She told me that the technology was helping her keep up with current events, stay entertained, communicate--and most of all --read again. Reading, she said, gave her back some dignity and independence, along with a sense of accomplishment. Needless to say, she was so grateful for the LTDLP!

Working with Marie taught me more about the power AT can have to make a difference in a person's life. I look forward to working with her and others who can benefit by assistive technology. If you or someone you know would like to learn more, please contact the MassMATCH Long-Term Device Loan Program to see if we can help!

Joan Cosentino, Assistant Director, Massachusetts AT Loan Program
1-800-244-2756 ext. 428 or 431 (voice)
1-800-564-9700 (TTY)

7th Annual MassMATCH AT Expo is August 6th!

MassMATCH logo

Join over 200 other professionals, educators, therapists, consumers, service providers and businesses to learn about the latest in assistive technology for work, home, school and community living.

When: August 6th, 2014

Where: Holyoke Community College, Holyoke, Massachusetts

What: Expo of the latest AT as well as conference presentations on mobile devices, AAC implementation, workplace solutions for individuals who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing, workstation ergonomics, transition planning, and more.

Cost: $95

Transportation: FREE transportation is available for the AT Expo from communities in/around Pittsfield!

Learn more and register

Save the Date: Abilities Expo Returns September 5-7th!

Abilities Expo: The event for people with disabilities.

Last year's Abilities Expo attracted over 4,000 attendees, making it their largest ever first-time to a city show! So it's no surprise Abilities is returning to the Boston Convention and Exhibit Center this fall. Abilities is an especially strong conference for seeing the latest in mobility equipment and adaptive sports. Read about last year's Abilities Expo Boston.

When: September 5-7th, 2014 (Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.)

Where: The Boston Convention & Exhibition Center, Hall C, 45 Summer Street, Boston, MA 02210

What: Come to the Expo to experience Adaptive Sports, Essentials for Seniors, Fun for Kids, Cutting-Edge AT, Dance Dance Dance, Informative Workshops, Important Services, Latest Products

Cost: FREE! Register online for priority access

Learn more about Abilities Expo

Vision Tech Fair - a New Collaboration

Last year, MassMATCH ATRC Co-coordinator Cathy Bly shared an "a ha!" moment with Alexander Pooler, the Mass. Commission for the Blind's Director of Assistive Technology and Consumer Data Base Systems. Bly and Pooler both serve on the MassMATCH AT Advisory Committee which brings together representatives of state agencies with community members and organizations to guide the direction of the MassMATCH program. Every statewide AT Act program has such a committee, and one intended goal is to inspire new collaborations and a sharing of resources. In this case, informal brainstorming expanded the purpose and reach of MCB's Vision Tech Fair.

"MCB had a Vision Tech Fair for their staff last year at their building," Bly explains. "Talking at the Advisory Committee meeting, we realized that they are just down the street from us, and so why don't we join forces? We have space in our building."

New England Low Vision exhibit at the Tech Fair. Indeed, the AT Regional Center in Boston is operated by Easter Seals at 89 South Street. The building houses several non profits in an arrangement that includes shared meeting spaces; it's an efficient collaboration in an expensive real estate market. Last month's Vision Tech Fair furthered that efficiency. MCB, at 600 Washington Street, is an under-ten-minute walk to Easter Seals. As result, numerous MCB staff came for the fair in addition to the general public. Bly estimates 50-60 attendees made it for Easter Seals' first-ever expo focused entirely on vision technology.

In addition to sharing a space that was easily accessible to the public, another advantage to the MCB/Easter Seals collaboration was their combined ability to draw vendors. Nine vendors exhibited, representing top names in vision technology: Humanware, HIMS, Freedom Scientific, Kurzweil, ABiSee, New England Low Vision and Blindness, AdaptiVision, Perkins Products, and newcomer, Baum USA. Pooler says collaborating with Easter Seals helped him get to know new vendors. And Bly reports that having MCB as a co-sponsor threw the door wide open for eager exhibitors.

So what was on display at Vision Tech Fair 2014?

The gadgetry ranged from the latest in hand-held and desktop magnifiers to refreshable Braille displays and devices, educational software, and more. Below are three standouts to know about:

The HIMS E-bot ADV

The E-bot capturing text to an iPad with a man kneeling and controlling it with a remote.

The HIMS E-bot ADV is a portable video magnifier with OCR (optical character recognition) that can be used for reading, writing, and distance viewing. It has its own WIFI hotspot and its unique innovation is the capacity to connect to tablet computers. Devices of this kind have been around for connecting to laptops, but not for tablets. The E-bot ADV works with both iPad and Android, weighs 5 lbs, and can run for more than 4 hrs. on a single charge. "I wish I had one of these for the ATRC!" says Bly.

The BAUM VarioUltra

Both VarioUltra devices: one with 20 braille cells and above it, one with 40 cells.
Also exciting was a new refreshable Braille device from BAUM USA. BAUM is a German company that is making its way into the US market with gorgeous gadgets. The VarioUltra's claim to fame is its design, boasting improved ergonomics, braille cells that feel "crisp, almost like paper," lightweight brushed-aluminum sleekness, and a super-quiet keypad. Its other key feature is its unique ability to connect to up to 5 devices simultaneously and hold the connections (thanks to 4 bluetooth channels and 1 USB port). Perhaps worthy of a place in MOMA, the VarioUltra is, alas, not yet available in the Boston ATRC demo/loan program.

The ABiSee Eye-Pal Ace Plus

Here's a device that is, indeed, in the Boston ATRC inventory! Come check it out.

Eye-Pal Ace Plus. On its display is "Download More Books".

The Eye-Pal Ace Plus is the newest gadget from ABiSee, the vision tech company aimed at seniors and others who are looking for reading devices that are intuitive and ready to use right out of the box. The Eye-Pal Ace is their portable reader/magnifier. The Plus version includes WiFi for downloading books and sending email. Both versions include better read-aloud voices than the Eye-Pal Solo (their desktop device) and AutoMinder, which is technology for keeping track of a user's schedule. ABiSee's OCR technology is accurate with everything from books to glossy menus and pill bottles.

"The Vision Tech Fair was a wonderful opportunity to showcase the impact and untapped potential of developing and strengthening partnerships between community-focused organizations and government agencies," reflects Pooler. "We look forward to all future opportunities that can have such a positive impact."

Look out for Vision Tech Fair 2015!

GetATStuff Highlights

Getatstuff logo: the Assistive Technology Exchange in New England. Displays the six New England states surrounded by recycing arrows. The New England "Craig's List" for AT, GetATStuff, currently has hundreds of items available for sale or free throughout the six New England states. As of this writing, GetATStuff highlights include:

  • 15 Vision-related items, including a Braille Blazer, Braille and Speak, and other assistive tech for best offer in Boxford, MA.
  • 3 Hearing-related items, including a Super Phone Ringer for free in Salem, NH.
  • 19 Speech Communication-related items, including Dynavox DV4 - AAC Device for $200 OBO in Portland/Bangor ME.
  • 18 Learning, Cognitive, Development related items, including free Alphasmart 3000 portable word processors in Portland/Bangor ME.
  • 262 Mobility, Seating, and Positioning related items, including a canopy for Mobility Scooter in Mendon, MA.
  • 270 Daily Living related items, including an adjustable bed foundation and mattress for best offer in Needham, MA.
  • 87 Environmental Adaptation related items, including a free stair lift in Arlington, MA.
  • 40 Transportation and Vehicle Modification related items, including a Ford Econoline conversion van with power lift for $5,200 in Clinton, MA.
  • 17 Computer-related items, including a free computer station that adjusts to any seating including a wheelchair in Watertown, MA.
  • 2 Recreation, Sports, and Leisure related items, including a Bi-Ski Junior by Spoke 'n Motion for $1,750 OBO in Hanover, NH.

Go to GetATStuff to search items by category or geography or to list what you need. Searching for a wheelchair? Scooter? Rollator? Or other gently-used durable medical equipment? Be sure to check out REquipment!

Learn about additional AT reuse sites.