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MassMATCH Quarterly News: Fall 2016

In This Edition:

REquipment’s Big Move!

The program has expanded and found a new home with REquipment DME & AT Reuse Program, Incorporated (REquipment, Inc.)

It’s hard to believe it’s been just three years since MassMATCH helped launch REquipment, the durable medical equipment (DME) reuse program. In that short time, a fledgling pilot has gone from serving Greater Boston to reaching all the way to Pittsfield, thanks to funding approved by the state legislature. Now, adults, children and seniors can access refurbished, gently-used wheelchairs, scooters, standers and other devices free of charge, statewide.

REquipment Inc. Staff behind a vendor table with REquipment materials.

The REquipment, Inc. staff:
(left to right) Karen Langley, Roxy Rocker and Chuck Smith

Map of Massachusetts with 5 stars marking REquipment sites from east to west.

REquipment Reuse Centers now extend across the state: (east to west) Pappas Rehabilitation Hospital for Children, The Boston Home (drop-off only), Worcester AT Center, Stavros CIL, and United Cerebral Palsy-Berkshire.

It’s a network expansion that “Massachusetts has needed for a long time,” says REquipment DME & AT Reuse Program, Inc’s Executive Director Karen Langley. Langley retired as director of Assistive Technology and Community Support Programs at the Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS) in 2015 and has long envisioned the creation of a statewide reuse initiative for both medical equipment AND assistive technology (AT). “The expansion of DME reuse is great. Many more families and individuals with disabilities will get the equipment they need and without a lot of hassle. But, no, we’re not done yet,” she says.

REquipment, Inc. is taking over the role of The Boston Home (TBH), which had been the nonprofit home for the program since 2013. With state funding approved, the reuse program had outgrown TBH and REquipment, Inc. bid for the contract as a nonprofit created expressly to administer and focus on DME and AT reuse. TBH continues serving Greater Boston with its Wheelchair Enhancement Center and Outpatient Seating Clinic among its other long-standing, innovative, community programs and residential services. TBH also continues as a REquipment donation drop-off site.

Langley has both short-term and long-term goals for the REquipment program in Massachusetts. She says creating more donation drop-off sites is an immediate need REquipment, Inc. is looking to fill. “We know we’re just scraping the surface of what could be available if more people had better access.” These will be permanent locations, such as TBH, as well as organized events and donation days (such as Ayer’s Recycle Your Reusables coming up on October 15). “We’re looking to forge more of these municipal and community-based partnerships,” she says.

In the longer term, REquipment DME and AT Reuse Program, Inc. plans to expand reuse to include assistive technology (as her nonprofit's long name suggests). “DME serves people with physical disabilities, but assistive technology is needed by individuals with all kinds of disabilities,” Langley observes. “There are listening devices, communication devices, vision devices. We plan on working with other agencies to figure out which equipment is most in demand in Massachusetts and learning what it would take for us to refurbish and redistribute them.” Kansas, she notes, has long provided both DME and AT reuse. “No, we’re not done yet," she emphasizes. "Not by a long shot.”

Meet the New REquipment, Inc. Staff!

" "Charles “Chuck” Smith is REquipment’s new program director. Smith brings to the position a unique range of skills and experiences. In addition to spending the last year working in the Worcester AT Center refurbishing equipment, Smith has a bachelor’s degree in business management and two master’s degrees in education. His work history includes a military career and a career in secondary education where he served as an academy director and as a vice principal. In addition, Smith has worked on wind turbines in China, mentored school robotics teams and, most recently, served as an assistant manager and as a residential counselor at an adult group home. Smith says he looks forward to applying his blend of skills and experiences to ensuring high program quality and satisfied REquipment users.

" "Working alongside Smith is Roxy Rocker, REquipment’s new program coordinator. Rocker self-identifies as a person with lifelong disabilities and as “having a passion for helping others overcome adversity in their lives.” Rocker studied sociology in college and began her career working at a school for students with special needs; assistive technology, she notes, was a big part of the curriculum. An AmeriCorps position next evolved into a position with the Arizona Spinal Cord Injury Association which led to various roles within disability service organizations and Arizona state agencies, including work as an employment specialist and as a Disability Program Navigator. Rocker has been living in Massachusetts for five years and is excited to join REquipment. “I deeply value finding solutions for communities and individuals,” she says.

" "REquipment, Inc. Executive Director Karen Langley has spent 38 years in public service. She started as a vocational rehabilitation counselor with the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission where she worked with people with new spinal cord injuries and others with significant physical disabilities. She became director of MRC's Independent Living and Assistive Technology Programs in 2004 where she oversaw the creation of the Assistive Technology for Independent Living program, the MassMATCH AT Regional Centers, the AT Loan Program and other programs supporting community living. For Langley, REquipment, Inc. is a logical extension of her life-long interest: "Creating and administering programs that carry out the IL philosophy is what motivates me. Programs that support consumer control, consumer choice and the right to fail. REquipment allows more individuals with disabilities to live a full life with dignity and options."

Learn more about donating to REquipment
Search or browse REquipment’s inventory

Contact REquipment:

1-800-261-9841 (toll free)

Roxy Rocker, REquipment Program Coordinator
Chuck Smith, REquipment Program Director
Karen Langley, REquipment Executive Director

Online Learning with Assistive Technology: My Gateway to a College Degree… Finally!

Peter G. shares his story about online courses and how far we've come

" "For many years, assistive technology has served as a valuable tool for students with disabilities. However, it is only recently that the combined evolution of AT and of online courses have developed to the point where an online college education became possible for those who rely on Dragon voice recognition computer software. It’s my hope that this article will raise awareness about the new educational opportunities that online courses may afford many people with disabilities. To be sure, this is a major turning point in the accessibility of a college degree for thousands of Americans.

For me, online courses have made completing my college degree attainable when for so long it had been unattainable. I’m a 50-year-old man with disabilities that render me homebound. I recently finished my second online course with the City University of New York (CUNY) and now find myself just one course away from completing a 32-year journey toward becoming a college graduate!

I began attending Bates College in September of 1984. I unexpectedly became permanently disabled during my final semester senior year in the spring of 1988 and had to take a medical leave of absence just six weeks prior to my anticipated graduation. I will never forget the Dean asking me if there was some way for me to compensate for my disabilities and take my final exams so that I could graduate with the rest of my class. I explained to him that sadly I would not be able to do so until the voice recognition computers depicted in 1980s science fiction movies became reality. Little did I know how long I would have to wait for this to come true.

" "In 1998, the Mass. Rehab. Commission provided me with my first computer which had Dragon voice recognition software. I had hoped to resume my college education but encountered an insurmountable obstacle when I learned that Dragon could not open PDF files without the entire computer freezing. This meant that I would not be able to access many articles and books. As my latest magazine article illustrates, AT Specialists at Easter Seals Massachusetts played a critical role providing me with training and creating workarounds to these software obstacles, but it was a long time before Dragon was ready to function as a useful tool for online coursework. To further complicate matters, when online courses were first introduced, Dragon was not compatible with Blackboard which is the commonly used platform for online courses. It was not until 2013 that these two key compatibility issues were eventually resolved. [Blackboard is now broadly accessible, although it depends on how Blackboard is used].

So, in 2014, I finally was able to pursue the completion of my degree by taking my first online course. I thoroughly enjoyed the course which was in the burgeoning field of Disability Studies. I was also pleased that the CUNY disability liaison helped me to purchase the books for the course in accessible PDF and Word document formats. Serious health issues delayed my studies for a couple of years, but this past semester I took another CUNY online course. I was able to complete all of the assignments successfully using Dragon. My only accessibility problem so far has been being limited to just audio participation in the introductory video conference for my course (Dragon and Skype eachrequire a mic, and my computer cannot operate more than one microphone at a time).

Online courses are a continually expanding avenue to a college education for those who have disabilities. More and more colleges are choosing to offer online courses, so a student with a disability now can choose from a wide selection of colleges across the country and a vast assortment of courses covering a variety of subjects. For example, I have an interest in the subject of disability history and in January I am scheduled to begin taking graduate courses in CUNY’s Disability Studies Graduate Program which is one of the few online Master’s Programs in Disability Studies in the country.

The flexibility that online courses presently offer to members of the disabled community is in sharp contrast to the limited college opportunities that were available 45 years ago. During my latest course, I did a research project on disability rights activist Charles Carr. In 1970, he was rejected because of his disabilities by every college he applied to except for one, so that’s where he was relegated to go. I’m mindful of his challenges as I work through my own.

Readers may wonder about the quality of online courses. I have found them to be highly informative and thought-provoking. Online courses rely heavily upon homework Discussion Boards in which students share their opinions and ideas as well as their own background and personal experiences. Consequently, these discussions were especially beneficial to me because I gained a deeper appreciation for the variety of perspectives of my classmates.

Through the Discussion Boards, I found out that some of my classmates were people with disabilities using AT who had turned to online courses as a means of attaining a college education just as I had done. Indeed, according to a NY Times article about colleges offering Disability Studies programs, a significant percentage of students enrolled have disabilities themselves (40% at the University of Illinois’ master’s, minor and certificate programs and 60% in CUNY’s bachelor’s program [their figure also includes family members]). We have truly entered a new and exciting era in accessible education for persons with disabilities!

Peter G. is a longtime user of assistive technology and he credits the expert AT training that he received from Easter Seals Massachusetts as a key component to his successfully undertaking online courses.

Back to School with Grammarly

Want support with spelling, punctuation and grammar? Check out this recommendation for back to school from the AT Regional Center in Pittsfield " "

Grammarly is an online proofreading tool that is more powerful than most grammar and spell-check functions. It's also a favorite of Cash McConnell, Coordinator of the MassMATCH AT Regional Center in Pittsfield. McConnell says he frequently recommends the free version for his clients who need writing support. "It's not just for high school and college students. I recommend it to a lot of adults who use it at home and at work too."

Grammarly provides corrections for spelling, punctuation, grammar and vocabulary usage errors. Each recommendation is contextual. For example, Grammarly can find when you should be using ensure instead of insure. There is also a premium version that checks for more refined grammar issues, such as ending a sentence using a preposition or avoiding squinting modifiers. Yes, there is such a thing as a squinting modifier! Premium also explains the rules and thereby helps users to learn. However, even the free version checks for 250 rules of grammar.

Grammarly provides a browser extension for Chrome and Safari. The tool works within Gmail, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Tumblr. Unfortunately, it does not work with Google Docs. However, writers may compose within Grammarly's online text editor (or upload documents there) and drafts are automatically saved to a user's account in the Cloud.

Grammarly also provides a free plug-in for Word. This is a little clunky, as users must enable it from the Ribbon and it disables certain Word functions (Control Z!) However, Grammarly can be enabled after a first draft is complete for proofing and corrections.

Additional free offerings are an online community for writers to ask questions about English usage and an online handbook explaining English grammar and style. Additional paid services are plagiarism detection and style recommendations. The advice is intelligent and nuanced (there are educated humans behind Grammarly!)

"People like it a lot," says McConnell. "It lets them type fast without worrying about making errors. Grammarly corrects sentence structure. You can just keep working and accept corrections later."

Learn more at (Thanks Cash!)

Favorites from Abilities Expo Boston!

The expo was held September 16-18th. Thanks to readers for contributing some special moments and equipment!

MassMATCH vendor table at Abilities with staff and visitors.

MassMATCH Program Coordinator Kobena Bonney greets a visitor at Abilities Expo in Boston.

A man and a woman stand smiling in front of a large U S flag with stars aligned to shape a wheelchair symbol. The woman holds an Abilities Expo sign.

REquipment, Inc. staff members Roxy Rocker and Chuck Smith enjoy the spirit of the day.

All terrain stander

The Action Trackstander

People gathered at an exhibition booth, some in wheelchairs, a small girl wears a leg brace seated on the floor. Two vendors bend over her manual wheelchair for a repair. Service dog in foreground.

Quantum Rehab vendors adjust a young attendee's wheelchair

Recreation wheelchair with additional oversized beach wheels stacked nearby.

The Hippocampe beach and all-terrain wheelchair

Playful bean-bag style chair with purple plush supportive seating and optional activity tray.

The P Pod activity seat

REquipment Inventory Highlights

REquipment provides refurbished, gently-used medical equipment to adults, children and seniors throughout Massachusetts. Devices are provided free of charge. As of this writing, items available at the REquipment inventory include:

  • 1 adapted stroller in Worcester
  • 1 Medline bed rail for metal bed frame in Worcester
  • 1 folding bed rail (for adult) in Worcester
  • 2 Manatee Bathing Chairs (for adults) in Canton
  • 1 Pediatric walker by Guardian in Worcester
  • 1 manual crank lift by Arjo Dextra (for an adult) in Worcester
  • 1 Trapeze Lift (for an adult) in Canton
  • 1 custom-made floor sitter (for a child) in Canton
  • 1 Nova 3-wheeled rollator (for an adult) in Worcester
  • 1 Bruno scooter (for an adult) in Amherst
  • 1 Rifton Blue Wave shower chair (for an adult) in Worcester
  • 1 Invacare shower chair with back (for an adult) in Worcester
  • 1 sliding shower chair (for an adult) in Worcester
  • 1 R82 mobile stander (for a child) in Canton
  • 3 Lecky prone standers (size 2 for a teens or small adults) in Worcester
  • 1 JEG folding manual wheelchair (for an adult) in Worcester
  • 1 Invacare Hemi Height manual wheelchair (for an adult) in Worcester
  • 1 Kids Quickie 2 manual wheelchair in Canton
  • 2 Jazzy bariatric basic power wheelchairs in Worcester
  • 1 Jazzy basic power wheelchair (for an adult) in Worcester

Have equipment to donate? Learn more at this REquipment webpage.

GetATStuff Highlights

Get A.T. Stuff logo: Assistive Technology Exchange in New England and New York. Shows recycling arrows around the states.

The Assistive Technology Exchange in New England and New York is the "Craig's List" for AT. Currently there are dozens of items posted for sale or free.

As of this writing, GetATStuff highlights include:

  • 8 Vision-related items, including a free Magnilink low vision reading aid for FREE in Cambridge, MA.
  • 2 Hearing-related item: including a Mini hearing helper for FREE in New York, NY.
  • 63 Mobility, Seating, and Positioning related items, including an Acorn Chair Lift for best offer in Oxford, MA.
  • 79 Daily Living related items, including a bed railing for $25 in Groveland, MA.
  • 8 Environmental Adaptation related items including a curved stair lift for best offer in Saugus, MA.
  • 16 Transportation and Vehicle Modification related items, including a 2003 Ford E150 Sherrod Conversion Fan with Ricon Clear Away lift for best offer in East Taunton, MA.
  • 4 Computer-related items, including an ergonomic keyboard for $60 OBO in North Providence, RI

Go to GetATStuff to search items by category or geography or to list what you need.
Learn about additional AT reuse sites.