UCP has recently been awarded grants from the CentraCare Health Foundation and the Benton Telecommunication Foundation for our Assistive Technology Mobile Experience Center.
These grant funds will allow UCP to purchase, customize and staff a traveling home demo/display that will provide assistive technology
demonstrations and education, in a real-life environment, across Central MN.
The Assistive Technology Mobile Experience Center will allow those with disabilities easy access to cutting-edge assistive technology and provide opportunities to test the technology, experiment with various combinations and find solutions with case managers and health care professionals in real time. For many people, these person-centered, real-time, real life solutions have been completely out of reach and now, through the Mobile Center, these solutions will become reality.
Why the EMPOWER center is needed:
Acquiring assistive technology for those with disabilities can be a complex process. Although these devices are
powerful, adaptive tools, they are designed to meet general needs and, therefore, must often be combined with
other technology when customized to meet specific needs of an individual. Experts with the knowledge and
experience to research, purchase and customize/combine pieces of technology are rare (currently there are six
Assistive Technology Professionals in Central MN. As a result, it can be unnecessarily expensive and time-consuming
to fit someone with the best possible solution. Geographic and mobility barriers further complicate this
process and as a result of all these factors, those with disabilities often settle for less than ideal solutions, higher
costs and low-functioning outcomes.
Case managers who process requests for assistive technology often have limited time, resources and experience.
Although these assistive technology devices can provide great benefit and independence for those with disabilities,
they are often not approved for use due to the limited information available to case managers. When
devices are approved, they are often incomplete solutions resulting in unnecessary ongoing expenses for returns,
additions and installation assistance.
Much disability research demonstrates that involving persons in the selection of assistive technology through
“Hands-On” methods produces greater outcomes and higher quality of life . This research rings true as a simple
reality for each of us and we can imagine the increased significance of “Hands-On” involvement when making
changes that effect every aspect of our daily lives. Clearly, there is a need for a bridge from a “hands-On” experience
to those who need assistive technology and those who approve financial assistance.
The EMPOWER Technology and Experience Center will present assistive technology in a “life lab”, allowing
case managers, those with disabilities and health care professionals to touch, feel and experience the change and
independence these devices can bring . This unique environment will make it possible to create a spectrum of
solutions in a way not possible through catalogues or websites. Clients and case managers can have access to the
mobile center at the same time, allowing for greater cooperation when selecting and combining assistive technology.
Those with disabilities currently outside Minnesota assistance programs, those with mobility barriers and health
care professionals will access the “life lab” experience through UCP’s participation in community health fairs and
The EMPOWER Technology and Experience Center will help more case managers, clients, health care professionals
and other individuals/families achieve the best possible customizations and installations. UCP assistance
will provide appropriate solutions through the selection/purchasing process, reducing costs by limiting number
of returns and unneeded purchases. These solutions will be provided in cost-effective, timely manner providing
the best possible solution for each person.
Where is the Project Now?
Grant provided CentraCare and Benton Telecommunications Foundation have provided funds for the Community Navigator Staff and the purchase of the Trailer for the EMPOWER Center. Currently, UCP has raised over $12,000 for assistive technology and sfter the UCP Golf Scramble, we expect to have enough funds to stock the EMNPOWER Center with assistive technology. We expect the EMPOWER Center to be on the road in July of 2018.