Tuesday, July 26, 2011

What is an ATP, and why you should work with one

by Fred Tchang, ATP and Director, Assistive Technology Services in New Jersey

People working in the field of assistive technology have many different backgrounds--education, technology, therapy.  The one credential that unites us is the RESNA Assistive Technology Professional (ATP). 

How does a credential differ from a training course?  Training courses are great for learning new material. The ATP is not a training course—it is a credential that recognizes professionals who have reached an internationally accepted standard of knowledge in assistive technology.  The certification process includes work/education eligibility, the passing of a 200-item examination, and an on-going commitment to practice at the highest ethical standard in the field of assistive technology. 

Why do people seek to earn the ATP?  Earning an ATP identifies the certificant as a trustworthy, dedicated expert.  Those who hold the ATP credential are listed on RESNA’s website for easy identification and referral.  An ATP certified professional takes a holistic approach to every situation, assessing your situation and influences, and then determining what equipment will enable you to optimize your life at home, school, work and in the community.

Know where to find an RESNA certified AT professional (ATP)? Visit www.resna.org and click on “Find a Certified AT Professional.” 

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Show Us Your AT!

By Allan Friedman, CFILC's Technologies Manager

Most of us tend to think about big things in AT--communication devices, wheelchairs, ramps, iPads, computer screenreaders. But it's the little things, low-tech improvisations, that often mean the most to users of assistive technology. Whether it's taping a stick to a hair brush to extend one's reach or hanging a pull cord on a door knob, simple devices that people fashion for themselves tend to be extremely useful and valued.

Necessity is the mother of invention and people with disabilities, especially those with limited incomes and resources, are always inventing solutions for themselves. We'd like to share those  solutions with others. By sharing our creativity we can inspire others and perhaps provide a bright idea for someone who is stymied by their limitations.

We'd like you to share your AT solutions with us so we can share them with others via the AT Network website. If you've got a favorite gadget or device that you have put together and depend on, write us at feedback@atnet.org and tell us about it. Better yet, send pictures! We will share your ideas by posting them in the "How to Succeed with AT" section of our website. Together we'll show people that creativity and AT go hand in hand when it comes to providing functional solutions to functional needs.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A Good Idea Gone Bad

by Allan Friedman, CFILC's Technologies Manager

Competitive bidding sounds like a good idea, right? Get the lowest price and the best deal. Save money. What could go wrong?

Plenty, especially when it's Medicare running the process and durable medical equipment (DME) vendors doing the bidding. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Competitive Bidding Program for certain Durable Medical Equipment, Prosthetics, Orthotics, and Supplies (DMEPOS) is causing havoc in the home healthcare industry.

The Medicare Modernization act of 2003 (MMA) required Medicare to replace the Home Medical Equipment (HME) payment fee schedule for certain items with a "competitive acquisition" or government contracting program. The program was implemented on January 1, 2011 in nine cities (including the Riverside/Bakersfield area) and will expand to 91 metropolitan areas later this year in round 2.

In California, round 2 cities include: Bakersfield, Fresno, LA-Long Beach-Santa Ana, Sacramento-Roseville, San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marco, SF-Oakland-Fremont, San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara and Visalia-Porterville.

So what's wrong with the competitive bidding program? Well, for starters it is driving suppliers out of business, limiting choice for consumers, lengthening hospital stays and causing much grief for consumers.

As a result of the bidding process, many vendors who provide a variety of home healthcare products and DME were awarded contracts to supply a single item or none at all. In some areas, out-of-state vendors won contracts to supply products, forcing consumers to drive long distances or rely on mail order to obtain supplies and products they previously purchased locally.

Hospital discharge planners are delaying releases because they cannot match patients to contracted providers with the appropriate products such as wheelchairs, oxygen equipment and sleep therapy devices.

One Medicare recipient was waiting for her diabetes test strips for more than two weeks and could no longer receive them from her original provider since the company was not contracted. Another patient needs oxygen 24 hours a day and relies on portable oxygen to visit her physician. Her HME company did not win a contract and the user needs physician approval to switch to a different company. She has no access to oxygen and cannot visit her physician.

So what can we do? For starters, Consumers in the Riverside-San Bernardino area who have been affected by this program need to tell their stories. At the AAHomecare’s website (http://www.aahomecare.org/) They can click on the ‘Competitive Bid Problems?’ button and provide feedback on how their access to home healthcare products and services has been affected by the program.

We also need to get behind HR 1041 and urge its passage before the program expands to round 2 later this year. HR 1041 would roll back the flawed pilot project and institute an up-to-date and fair pricing schedule defining what Medicare will pay for certain equipment. The bill has 132 cosigners, none from California. Advocates, consumers and others who are concerned, should write their representatives in Congress and urge them to cosign the bill.

A lot of Californians are already experiencing difficulties as a result of this program. Many more will unless we join the national effort to stop it. The time to advocate is now!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Future of Robotic Vacuum Cleaners

By Shannon Coe, CFILC’s Reuse & Finance Coordinator

Yesterday, as our country celebrated Independence Day with friends and family, I also got to enjoy a clean Independence Day with my husband and friends with the help of Wally.  No, Wally is not a dog or a cat.  He is cleaner than any dog or fury pet because Wally is a Robotic Vacuum Cleaner.  Think of Rosie the Robot from the Jetsons, a cartoon I used to watch in grade school.  I can’t believe the future has arrived for us to have a robot that cleans the floor.  Of course, Wally looks nothing like Rosie but he has helped me gain more independence. 

As a wheelchair user, I have difficulty vacuuming and sweeping while pushing my wheelchair at the same time.  Since I always feel exhausted after trying to vacuum, I rarely do it and delegate the responsibility to my husband.  But with our busy schedules, we don’t have the time to clean the dust bunnies underneath our bed or the dirt on the floor left by my wheelchair every day. 

We programmed Wally to clean the floors everyday while we are away at work.  Since then we have not seen any dirt or dust bunnies.  Sometimes Wally gets stuck underneath the kitchen counter and we have to bring him back to his charging station, but once he is charged up, he goes back to work. 

Before we purchased Wally, we did some research online and found that there were a few brands out there that sell robotic vacuum cleaners.  Of course, none of them are cheap, but a good vacuum cleaner is never cheap.  After much research, we went to Fry’s Electronics store and bought the Neato Robotics. After watching some YouTube videos comparing the different brands out in the market, we decided that the Neato was much more methodical in how it cleans so it does not bump into the furniture as often.  Basically, the Neato is programmed to scan the room and start vacuuming without me having to hold or control it.  When the dirt bin is full, it is also easy for me to empty it.  Wally has definitely made my life less stressful.

Other brands of Robotic Vacuum Cleaners include:

To get an idea what Robotic Vacuum Cleaners can do, you can watch it on You Tube.

Do you consider Robots to be a friend or foe in the world of Assistive Technology?