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Assistive technology program broadens its reach to northeastern Utah

The Utah Assistive Technology Program at Utah State University is planning to open a full-time assistive technology lab in the Uintah Basin at the beginning of next year, when it expects to receive additional funding.

The program, which provides technological assistance to individuals with disabilities, has a facility in northeastern Utah, but it is only open a few days out of the month.

“We have been meeting with people and setting up appointments when we visit, infiltrating that base,” said Clay Christensen, the assistive technology lab coordinator. “It’s very rural so we’ve been making our presence known.”

Storee Powell, the public relations and marketing specialist for the Utah Assistive Technology Program, has received many requests for a new assistive technology lab in the basin area, which includes the towns of Vernal, Duchesne, Roosevelt, Altamont, Tabiona and the Uintah and Ouray reservation of the Ute tribe.

“We assumed that this happened because of the large population of aging people there,” Powell said. “Vernal has become a retirement hub because of the mild weather and the oil money coming out of the city.”

Christensen said the new facility will mirror the Logan assistive technology lab, but “will probably morph into its own entity based on the population in need.”

The program is expecting to receive funding from the state Legislature which will be allocated toward a salary for a full-time lab assistant who will be permanently stationed at the Vernal facility.

“The Utah Assistive Technology Program is unique because of the low-cost funding,” Powell said. “We work hard to control costs by building our machines from scratch and doing everything in our power to fix our equipment before buying anything new. We also receive a lot of our equipment through donations to the program.”

The program will approach the state Legislature for money in January.

“We are fairly confident the lab will be funded,” Christensen said.

More information about the Utah Assistive Technology Program can be found at www.uatpat.org.

Natalie Deaver, Anna Tuckett, Cynthia Dixon, Alix Zelener, Mark Rosa and Janessa Fillingim contributed to this report.

-mdl