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MDRC cultivates disability pride and strengthens the disability movement by recognizing disability as a natural and beautiful part of human diversity while collaborating to dismantle all forms of oppression.

Below, you'll find articles on a variety of Assistive Technology topics.  Are you interested in learning more about the Assistive Technology? 

Are you looking for specific information? You can contact us through this form or call our office!

Who can use the AT Xchange?

The AT Xchange is primarily for residents of Michigan, although we do accept entries from neighboring states.

What type of equipment can be listed?

Any used/open box device that assists a person with a disability to live more independently or safely (assistive technology) may be submitted.

What type of equipment will not be listed on the AT Xchange?

MDRC reserves the right to exclude items deemed to pose a hygiene risk. We cannot and will not, however, certify in any way that items are hygienic or safe for any individual use. Only used and previously owned items may be posted on the site.

How can I access the AT Xchange if I do not have internet access?

The AT Xchange is an internet-based tool. If you do not have internet access, call your local Center for Independent Living or public library for a referral to a computer with internet access that is available for public use.

How can I browse the listed items?

You can view all available items by selecting the "Items" button. If you are interested in viewing items sought by others, select “Wanted" in the Type drop down menu where you select transaction types.

How can I add an item to the AT Xchange that I wish to sell or donate?

If you have an item you would like to offer for sale/donation, select "Sign-up Now" or "Log In". Once registered and logged in select "Items” then, on the left hand side of the screen select “Item Add”. You will then be prompted to complete a form regarding the equipment you are interested in placing on the AT Xchange. When you fill out this online form, you can choose how you would like to be contacted by potential buyers.

How can I add an item that I am looking to purchase?

To add an item you are looking for, select "Sign-up Now" or "Log In". Once registered and logged in select "Items" then select “Place a Want Ad” on the left hand side of the screen. You will then be prompted to complete a form regarding the item you are looking for.

What happens when I submit my item?

After you submit an item, whether you are looking to sell or give away or looking to get an item, a MDRC staff member reviews the listing for approval. Your item is automatically added to the site and is automatically taken off the site in 90 days unless you resubmit the posting.

How can I edit my listing?

In order to edit a listing, you must first be logged in. Then locate your item on the Items listing. Select the item you wish to edit then select “Edit item information”. Please note that only approved items will be available for edits. You will then be given the opportunity to make any edits to the information currently stored for your item. You must update your listing at least once every 90 days in order for your listing to remain active on the AT Xchange.

How can I remove my listing?

In order to remove a listing, you must first be logged in. Then select your item and choose “Edit item information” on the bottom of the edit page, choose the button “Remove Item.” Then select the reason you are removing the item. In order to help us complete our federal data, if you sold the item to someone through the ATXchange, please look them up and complete the short survey—this provides the data to the funder of the website so we can continue to offer this important service. If you do not know who you sold/gave the item to, please select “no longer available” or any other relevant reason for removing the item.

Who maintains the AT Xchange?

The AT Xchange is maintained by the Michigan Assistive Technology Program a program of Michigan Disability Rights Coalition (MDRC).

Can I use the AT Xchange to advertise my commercial products and services?

Vendors and agencies can list used items they have to sell or give away but advertisement is not allowed. Please remember this site is for used equipment only. Vendors who consistently violate this rule may be banned from future use of the site.

What happens if I do not update my equipment listing?

If an item has been listed on the AT Xchange for 90 days and is not updated prior to the end of that time period, it will be removed.

Why does the AT Xchange need to contact me if I receive equipment?

The AT Xchange is funded by the Administration on Community Living (ACL) in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The ACL requires programs like the AT Xchange to report on how many people have used the program to get equipment. If you receive equipment through the AT Xchange, MDRC staff may contact you and verify that you received the product you needed, but will not give your name or identifying information to the federal government or anyone else.

Buying Items

Payment

ATXchange does not facilitate payment for items in any way. ATXchange acts only to connect buyers and sellers of used assistive technology equipment. All transactions are between the buyer and the seller and are entered into at their own risk.

There are many options available when paying for items found on ATXchange. Payment can be made with Check, Money Order, Credit Card, or Online Payment service. We do not recommend paying with cash unless you are meeting the seller face-to-face and receive a receipt.

An online payment service is generally the easiest and safest method of payment. With this method you make your payments to the seller through a third party, such as PayPal or Google Checkout without the seller ever seeing your credit card or bank account number. These services make your payment for you and have limited guarantees against fraud and unauthorized withdrawals.

For sellers that do not accept online payment methods, personal checks, cashiers checks, or money orders are the next best option. Many sellers will not accept personal checks, as they are liable for any costs if you check should bounce. In this situation, a cashiers check or money order may be a more acceptable option, as they are guaranteed by the bank they are drawn on. Always remember to get a receipt.

Please be aware that paying by these methods may cause a delay in receiving your item. These methods are also less safe than using an online payment service. Many sellers will not ship your item until payment is received. Because the seller receives your payment before shipping the item it can be very difficult to recover your money in cases of fraud. You are trusting the seller to deliver your item as promised. ATXchange is not responsible for any products that are not delivered. Any failure to deliver a product you have paid for should be directed to the police or other proper authorities.

Assessing Condition of Items

Make sure you are aware of the condition of the item before making a payment. Is it sturdy enough to support your full weight? Is anything loose, bent, or otherwise defective? Does it come with the original instruction manual? A reputable seller should be able to email you photographs of the product or provide a detailed description including any potential defects or damages. Some sellers will give limited information about the item for sale. Do not hesitate to contact them for more information. You should not make a purchase unless you are confident you have a clear understanding of the condition of the item. Although it is not always possible, it is best to see the product in person before making any payment.

Shipment of Items

Shipping items can be extremely costly. It is important to consider this when purchasing any item through ATXchange. Is shipping included in the price listed? Is there a similar product available that is located close enough to your home that you could pick it up? Would it be cheaper to buy a more expensive product that you can pick up or a less expensive item that you have to pay to ship? Asking yourself these questions will help you decide if the product and price are right for you.

Selling Items

Many of the guidelines which apply to buying items on ATXchange also apply to selling.

Payment

When selling an item it is important to think about what forms of payment you are willing to accept. If you will be selling multiple items on ATXchange, or buy and sell items at other websites, it may be in your best interest to set up an account with an online payment service such as PayPal or Google Checkout. These services will handle all transactions for you and will instantly transfer any payments directly to an account of your choice, bank or credit. They charge a small fee for every selling transaction you complete; purchasing transactions are usually free. Online payment services are generally the safest and easiest way to buy and sell items online.

Others options for receiving payment include cash, personal check, cashiers check, or money order. Cash is only an acceptable method of payment in the case of face to face transactions. Checks can be sent through the mail, and are a better option if the item is being shipped. You may wish to only accept cashiers checks or money orders as they are guaranteed by the bank or company they are drawn from. Personal checks are not guaranteed and you will be liable for any fees that might be incurred if the check bounces.

Do not ship any item until you have received payment.

Communicating Condition of Items

Please describe the condition of any items you are selling as accurately as possible. The more information the potential purchaser has, the more likely they are to contact you about the item. If you have access to a digital camera or image scanner you may wish to have pictures of the item available to email purchasers upon request. Please remember that even “free” items may involve considerable time, effort and cost for a purchaser to pick up or have shipped. A purchaser is more likely to make this investment if they feel they are making an informed decision.

Shipment of Items

Shipping items can be costly and involves a time investment on the part of the seller. It is the seller’s decision whether they are willing to ship an item or will list it as pick-up only. If the seller chooses to ship items they should indicate on the item page who will pay the shipping costs and the approximate cost of shipping.

Ramps: Beyond the Slopewood switch back ramp bright flowering bush to left

Ramps – in theory they are easy to conceptualize. We generally think of them as simple structures designed to provide access at a certain height and slope. In reality, however, building a ramp requires careful and thoughtful consideration of federal standards, the needs and comfort of the user, and ongoing maintenance. The Michigan Assistive Technology Program (MATP) has received many inquires related to the construction and funding of ramps. In response, this article provides an overview of the standards for construction, highlights the various types of ramps with benefits and drawbacks to each, and provides some resources on ramp programs around the state and potential avenues for funding.

Basic Standards

The Americans with Disabilities Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG) dictate how ramps are designed for all public places. These guidelines provide basic guidance for constructing a ramp that is usable, safe and sturdy.

According to the ADAAG a ramp must have:

  • A minimum width of 36 inches.
  • Edge protection to keep anyone from slipping off.
  • Landings at top and bottom that are as wide as the ramp and at least 60 inches long.
  • Handrails on both sides of all ramps that rise steeper than 6 inches or have a horizontal projection of more than 72 inches.
  • Cross slopes of less than 1:50 and surfaces slip-resistant and stable

A Note on Slope

The minimum standard for the slope of a ramp is 1:12, meaning that for every inch of rise (height) a ramp should extend horizontally 12 inches. For example, if a doorway is 29 inches from the ground, the ramp would need to extend 348 inches (12 x 29) or 29 feet. However, a ramp with the 1:12 ratio may still be difficult and dangerous for people using manual chairs, and under certain conditions could even cause power wheelchairs to tip backward. For this reason, the ADA Guidelines recommend slopes of 1:16 to 1:20 to provide a gentler ascent/descent and ensure safety. Keep in mind that if the ramp is for your personal residence, you should design for your own comfort level or for the person or people who will be using the ramp.

Types of Ramps

Ramps can be built from a variety of materials and all have benefits and drawbacks. Before building, you may want to consider how the ramp will be used. Will the structure be temporary or permanent? Will the user be in a wheelchair, use a cane, or a walker? Will the ramp be exposed to the elements? With these questions in mind, let’s review some common types of ramps:

  • Concrete – A great choice for permanent ramps, holds up to the elements, less maintenance, ideal for all types of mobility devices, two track metal portable ramp on concrete stairscan brush anti-slip properties into the concrete before it dries, but expensive and not portable.
  • Wood –inexpensive and easily obtainable, allows for customization and design. Requires protection with a sealer or varnish to prevent warping and rotting. Wood must be placed close enough together to prevent uncomfortable bumps and tripping hazards but far enough apart to allow for water drainage. Handrails must be finished to prevent splinters. Wood ramps can be extremely slippery when wet and require non-slip properties to be added after construction.

    aluminum switch back ramp with railing

  • Galvanized Steel – Strong, but heavy and prone to rust and corrosion, using an open surface pattern allows for water to escape and avoids collection of dirt and debris.
  • Aluminum – Relatively lightweight, portable, resistant to rust, and can be bought commercially, ready made in pieces or as a folding unit. Weight capacity is limited and may not be appropriate for power chairs.

Ramp Programs and Funding Resources

Unfortunately, there are no national or statewide programs devoted to the construction or funding of ramps. Several communities, however, do have ramp programs for people with disabilities and older adults with limited incomes and resources.

  • The Capital Area Center for Independent Living in Lansing at times partners with The Lansing Habitat for Humanity to construct ramps at no cost. This program is limited dependent on funds available at the time. For more information contact Ellen Weaver at (517) 999-7510.
  • Home Repair Services in Grand Rapids offers ramps to residents of Kent County with limited incomes. Both homeowners and renters (in houses or apartments with 4 units or less) are eligible to apply. An application is required, as well as proof of income for all household members, proof of identification (driver’s license or state ID) federal tax returns, and the deed to the home (if a homeowner). Home Repair Services determines eligibility, and a small co-payment may apply. For more information contact Home Repair Services at (616) 241-2601
  • At United Cerebral Palsy of Metro Detroit the “Quick Ramps for Kids” program provides portable aluminum ramps to families with children under the age of 18, with Cerebral Palsy or other conditions causing paralysis. The process requires a signed application, doctor’s prescription or medical documentation, and a photo release (included in the application). For more information call (248) 557 -5070 or download and fax an application.

Funding often depends upon your location and circumstances (i.e. Veterans, people who are working, older adults, etc). Check out MATP’s funding strategy for more ideas of resources and links for funding ramps and other home improvements.

Finally, the Michigan Assistive Technology Loan Fund provides low-interest loans to individuals toward the purchase of assistive technology. Many people don’t realize that these loans can also be used for home modifications, such as ramps. For more information, visit the Michigan Loan Funds site through United Cerebral Palsy of Michigan or contact Michelle Seybert at 1-800-828-2714.

Do you have more questions about ramps? Are there other topics you would like to see featured in AT Connections? Let us know! Contact us through our webpage.

How to Get a Good Assistive Technology Assessment

Who Provides Assessments?

Assistive Technology (AT) assessments may be obtained from rehabilitation providers who are employed in settings such as medical facilities, universities, schools, non-profit agencies or in a private practice. Evaluation providers are most often licensed and or certified in fields related to AT. They may or may not have specific training or experience with AT. While an additional AT certification is not required, it can be beneficial.

Certification of a service provider, in any field, is the process by which a non-governmental agency or association validates an individual’s qualifications and knowledge in a defined functional or clinical area. Candidates for certification typically must meet specific requirements to be eligible for certification, and those declared eligible must pass an examination.  The Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America (RESNA) offers national certification for three specialties:

  • Assistive Technology Professional (ATP): Service provider who analyzes the needs of consumers with disabilities, assist in selection of appropriate assistive technology for the consumer’s needs, and provide training in the use of the selected device(s).
  • Seating and Mobility Specialist (SMS): An ATP who specializes in the comprehensive seating, positioning, and mobility needs of consumers with disabilities.
  • Rehabilitation Engineering Technologist (RET): An ATP who applies engineering principles to the design, modification, customization, and/or fabrication of assistive technology for persons with disabilities.
  • a directory on the web where you can search for people who have been certified.
  • It is important to have qualified person(s) who specialize in evaluation for and training of assistive technology involved in the assessment process. Some (not all) types of professionals who provide assessments include:
  • Occupational Therapist (OT): Evaluates hand (fine motor) and total body (gross motor) skills, touch and movement abilities, visual perception, positioning, and helps to find the person's best method to use assistive technology.
  • Physical Therapist (PT): Evaluates seating, positioning, and mobility. The PT can work closely with the OT and Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP) to find the best position for the person to be in when using the technology.
  • Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP): Evaluates the person's communication abilities. The SLP is very important in deciding the type of augmentative communication that will work.
  • Rehabilitation Engineers: Design and make customized technology.
  • Architects: Plan any structural changes needed in buildings.
  • Physicians: Write prescriptions for an assistive technology assessment and for recommended equipment.
  • Aging in Place Specialists: Can help evaluate your home for safety and ease of use
  • Audiologists: Assess and recommend hearing and listening aids.

What about Vendors?

Vendors sell assistive technology devices and services. They can be important in the process of finding the correct device for you and be quite knowledgeable about the devices they sell. They do have a conflict of interest in an assessment process as they are in business to sell devices and services. It can be difficult to know if a vendor is providing you with the most effective solution to meet your needs. It can also be easy to become excited about features you may not really need. Some vendors are very good about basing their recommendations solely on meeting the customer’s needs, in the most cost-effective manner. However, this is not always the case.

In Wisconsin, an interagency team has produced a list of “Best Practices” for vendors of AT which is worth your review.

What Should an Assessment Report Include?

An assistive technology assessment should inform funding source about how the person can benefit from assistive technology, including:

  • A description of the person’s disability as it relates to the assessment and relevant background information.
  • Identification of any variables that should be considered if the assessment did not occur in the setting where the technology will be used.
  • The specific type(s) of assistive technology being recommended.
  • How and why the equipment will specifically meet the person’s needs.
  • How the decision was reached (e.g. physical assessment with a variety of options, funding options available, etc.).
  • Where or from which vendor the appropriate equipment can be purchased.
  • Potential funding alternatives for the equipment.
  • The availability of a maintenance agreement, warranty or other safeguard, and whether this is included in the purchase price or available at an additional cost.
  • The anticipated cost of the equipment, training and maintenance.
  • Description of the repair procedures (e.g. shipped, in-home, remote service, etc.).
  • The availability of loaner equipment prior to purchase or during repair services.
  • Identification of training needs for the recommended device(s), who is able to provide that training (i.e. the vendor, manufacturer, or an outside provider), and training related expenses.

The "Find it Now" section of this website includes resources for assessments/evaluations. You can also contact your local Disability Network/Center for Independent Living for assistance in finding professionals for evaluation.

Funding Assistive Technology for Work: Social Security Programs

So you found a device which will help you do what you want! Now, how to get it? It is not ever a simple answer as there are many things to consider such as: the way you plan to use assistive technology; the type of equipment or device you need; your personal resources such as income and expenses; and the availability of funds at the various resources.

The Michigan Assistive Technology Program and UCP Michigan’s Assistive Technology Loan Fund have used information from other state technology programs (notably the STAR program in Minnesota) and our combined experience to provide an online funding strategy. The funding strategy outlines factors to consider when thinking about obtaining assistive technology. The first steps, 1 through 3, focus on determining what assistive technology you need, while steps 4 through 7 walk through identifying costs, vendors and resources. The concluding steps, 8 and 9, discuss receiving a funding response and filing an appeal if needed.

The purpose of the funding strategy is to help you think broadly and creatively about how to identify the assistive technology you need and the funding to purchase it.Some of the funding sources outlined in the document are notoriously underutilized. One example of this is the Social Security work incentives programs, most notably Plans for Achieving Self Sufficiency (PASS) and Impairment Related Work Expenses (IRWE).

A Plan for Achieving Self Sufficiency (PASS) is a work incentive that lets you use your own income or assets to help you reach your work goals. For example, you could set aside money to go to school to get specialized training for a job or to start a business. A plan is meant to help you get items, services, or skills you need to reach your goals. This can include the Assistive Technology you need! Best of all, the money, saved in a separate bank account designated for the PASS, is disregarded when Social Security is determining your monthly benefit amount.

Impairment Related Work Expenses (IRWE) are expenses that you pay out of pocket, that are related to work and your disability, and can be verified with a receipt. Medical devices, home modifications, vehicle modifications and other assistive technology used in the workplace can all be considered for IRWE. However, you must always ensure that the Social Security Administration approves your expense as an IRWE before you can utilize it as a work incentive. Like the PASS Plan, the cost of your Impairment Related Work Expenses is not considered when Social Security is determining your monthly benefit amount.

How do you know if you are eligible to use Social Security work incentives? You could always visit your local office or consult the Social Security Red Book of Employment Supports, yet there is an even more dynamic, interactive way to understand the impact that income from employment will have on your state (i.e. Medicaid) and Federal benefits (i.e. SSDI). The benefits calculators online at Michigan Disability Benefits 101 were designed for Social Security beneficiaries living in Michigan. By anonymously (no name, Social Security number required) inputting some information about your age, living situation, social security benefits, and work situation (either current employment, or employment you would like to explore in the future) these calculators will determine how the particular employment scenario will impact your state and federal benefits like SSI/SSDI, Medicare/Medicaid, food stamps, and state supplement payments. In addition, these calculators will determine which work incentive programs may apply in your particular situation. If you would like more information about a certain program or term, you simply click the link to learn more. If you are in school, or are preparing to transition from school to work, the School to Work calculator was especially designed for you, as certain rules and programs are only available to students and young adults.

Whether you’re in the market for an assistive technology device or a modified vehicle, The Michigan Assistive Technology Program’s funding strategy can help guide you in the right direction for funding. Do you know of a funding source not mentioned in our AT Directory? Let us know at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.!

Smart Shopping Tips for Assistive Technology!

As you search for assistive technology that works for you, it might be helpful to think of it like the process you would use to buy a car (thanks to our colleagues in Wisconsin for this analogy).When you look for a car, different people have different key features they want. Some go for safety, some go for sleek looks and maneuverability, some are looking at fuel economy, my brother who is 6’7” first checks to make sure he can actually fit in and drive the car, others go simply looking for something that fits their budget.

Assistive technology is the same way—different people are looking for different features, with the added complication of funding sources on top. Another way that purchasing assistive technology is like buying a car is the “used car salesperson” approach that some vendors take. There are good and bad car salespeople and good and bad AT vendors. A bad car salesperson can get you in a car that might break down as soon as you drive off the lot. A bad AT vendor can get you a device you don’t need or a device that doesn’t fit you and actually causes you physical harm due to the lack of fit.

Our colleagues have found that a person that would never put up with a broken television from the store down the street might get by with a broken piece of AT or a poorly installed home modification. We need the tools we use to be good consumers of other products in our purchase and use of AT.

How can you tell if your vendor is a good vendor?

  • Do they ask you about your disability, what you need to be able to do, what you can do, what you can’t do? Good vendors do extensive work getting to know you and your situation, the how, why and where of using your device. If they immediately jump to telling you what they can do without looking at you/your situation, this is a red flag.
  • Do they have a reputation and education and background in what they are doing? Good vendors have relationships with area service providers and have spent years studying or practicing what they do. Your local center for independent living may have vendors they know do good work in your community.
  • Good vendors are focused on meeting your need before they focus on what they have as a product they can sell you. Good vendors want to make sure what they have will work for you. Good vendors will tell you if there is something else on the market that will work for you that is free or cheaper.
  • Good vendors are transparent about what they can and cannot do and about the costs involved and if they can work with your funding source.
  • Good vendors have opportunities for you to try devices before you purchase them in most cases. Devices should be user-friendly with clear and simple ways to operate them. More complex devices should come with plenty of support for you to learn to use them in a way that works for you.
  • Good vendors also provide deliver, fitting, training and support for the products they sell/the improvements they make.
  • Good vendors do not try to convince you to use devices you think aren’t working or don’t fit.

Smart Shopper Tips

  • Shop local when possible — if your vendor has a business storefront in the community, the chances that you get good service and follow up increase dramatically. Some products are not available locally. Just like buying a car from far away online, you have to be extra diligent in these cases.
  • Asking other people with disabilities and other professionals about the equipment and service providers and vendors that have worked for them is a good way of finding out about options—just like you might ask around about people’s experience with a particular brand of car, its service record and reliability. You may also want to do an internet search for customer reviews.
  • Trust your gut — if you think the person selling you the device is trying to pull something over on you, stop the process. Don’t work with someone you don’t trust. Kick the tires, take the equipment for a test drive, and don’t fall for hard-driving sales techniques.
  • Find out about warrantees, technical support numbers and access to service providers.
  • Have high expectations when you buy AT. Expect that vendors will be transparent; make referrals when their equipment won’t meet you needs; use tools and measurements and interview you; provide delivery and set up and training; provide maintenance and repair; and keep you up-to-date about eligibility for an equipment update. When you set these expectations, you are in the driver’s seat, making decisions on equipment that will work for you.

General Information About Learning Disabilities

  • PBS Special "Misunderstood Minds":
    The Misunderstood Minds project consists of three elements: The PBS documentary, first airing March 27, 2002; the companion Web site on PBS Online, www.pbs.org/misunderstoodminds; and the Developing Minds Multimedia Library.
  • All Kinds of Minds
    The mission All Kinds of Minds provides programs, tools, and a common language for parents, educators, and clinicians to help students with differences in learning achieve success in the classroom and in life. Good descriptions of differences in how people learn. " Every mind is uniquely endowed. As a result, our emphasis on the different ways individual kids learn and find success in their lives has relevance for all kids."
  • Internet Special Education Resources: Special Education Advocacy Services .
    ISER is a nationwide directory of professionals who serve the learning disabilities and special education communities. They help parents and caregivers find local special education professionals to help with learning disabilities and attention deficit disorder assessment, therapy, advocacy, and other special needs.

About AT and LD - Overview

  • Assistive technology for kids with LD: An overview If your child has a learning disability, she may benefit from assistive technology tools that play to her strengths and work around her challenges.
  • E-ssential tips: A parent's guide to assistive technology An overview of current technologies to help parents select the right tools for their children with learning problems.
  • LD OnLine: Comprehensive, up-to-the-minute listing of hardware and software products for people with learning disabilities, what it does and where to get it.
  • National Center for Learning Disabilities Resource Locator:
    The LD Resources web site is a non-commercial site designed, built, and run by Richard Wanderman who is an educational technology consultant, well-known presenter, and a successful adult with a learning disability. Find a list of resources from schools to tape recorders to computers and more.

AT for Specific Types of Learning Tasks

The Freedom Stick

Michigan Integrated Technology Supports (MITS) is a statewide program that provides support materials, technical assistance, training, and an extensive lending library focused on improving outcomes for all students. They worked with Regional Support Center: Scotland North and East and Mozilla Corporation to "americanize" free tools to make the MITS Freedom Stick. This USB Flash Drive is designed to provide students with information and communication access on any computer using a Windows or Linux operating system.