Wheelchair User? Stay Healthy With New Equipment From Your Local AT Regional Center!

A man suspended seated in a sling lift beside another man seated in a wheelchair holding a remote control.

Eric Oddleifson, Easter Seals Assistant VP for Assistive Technology and Employment Services (in the sling lift) and Robert Bilotta, Worcester AT Regional Center Coordinator (with scale controller)

Last month, MassMATCH hosted a series of AT Regional Center open houses to showcase the scales and pressure mapping systems now available for borrowing by wheelchair users, their families, clinicians, and other service providers. The devices are essential for the prevention of pressure injuries, a common cause of infection and incapacitation among persons with paralysis.

In Boston, Worcester and Pittsfield, the AT Regional Centers (ATRCs) warmly welcomed community members to learn about the new equipment that is now a part of the centers’ Short-term Device Loan program inventory.  Attendees ranged from community members and staff from local Independent Living Centers to officials from the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission and other related agencies.

The events celebrated the statewide expansion of the Weight and Seating Independence Project (WSIP). Initially grant-funded by the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation in 2017, WSIP expanded in 2018 through support from the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC).

“The goal of the program is to make it possible for people to gain greater control of their health with the kind of information that most of us take for granted,” reflected Ann Shor, MRC’s Director of Independent Living and Assistive Technology. “Everyone should be able to know their own body weight and no one should risk pressure injury because of inadequate seating or positioning with their equipment.”

Participants had the opportunity to get hands-on with scales and pressure mapping systems.

A woman seated on a pressure mapping system with a Smart Board displaying graphs. A man in a wheelchair in the background and another woman standing, helping operate the equipment.

An open house attendee tries out the pressure mapping system.

In Worcester, MassMATCH Coordinator Kobena Bonney and Eric Oddleifson, Assistant VP of Assistive Technology and Employment Services at Easter Seals Massachusetts,  took turns trying out the portable Hoyer lift with scale attachment.

A man seated in a sling lift suspended off the floor talking to a smiling man kneeling beside him. A woman stands smiling in the background.

Kobena Bonney takes a ride in the portable Hoyer lift with scale attachment as Eric Oddleifson looks on.

“We learned from members of the paralysis community how important access is to these devices,” remarked Bonney.  “In Worcester, Springfield and Pittsfield we convened focus groups and heard how it is nearly impossible for a person who uses a wheelchair to obtain their weight at a doctor’s office. We heard how few places there were for wheelchair users to weigh themselves in general. Some even reported relying on UPS mail scales.”

Pressure injuries were also a common experience among the focus group members MassMATCH convened, but access to pressure mapping systems to help evaluate their seating and positioning was not. Louise Colbourne, who is an OT assistant,  manages the ATRC in Pittsfield that serves Western Massachusetts and has taken the lead with WSIP. “People were losing months confined to bed with pressure injuries,” she explained. “These tools can make a real difference when people get the information they need.”

A woman speaking holding a device next to a table with equipment and an UCP banner. There are balloons and food on a table in the foreground. Three men stand listening.

Louise Colbourne discusses portable roll-on scales in Pittsfield with (left to right) Josh Mendelsohn, MRC Assistant Commissioner for Community Living; Kobena Bonney, MassMATCH Program Coordinator; and UCP Berkshire Executive Director Salvatore Garozzo.

The open houses helped broadcast the availability of the equipment and celebrate the expansion of the project to Eastern Massachusetts. The AT Regional Center in Boston now also provides loans of WSIP equipment, and all three AT Regional Centers have an expanded variety of scales and pressure mapping systems suitable for all ages. “We’re looking forward to more people knowing we have these devices and taking advantage of the loan program,” said Boston ATRC Coordinator Catherine Bly.

In addition to scales for borrowing, the project has installed roll-on scales at four Independent Living Center locations in Central and Western Massachusetts. Robert Bilotta, the ATRC Coordinator in Worcester, reminded visitors that one of these scales is available at the Center for Living and Working (CLW) downstairs from the Worcester ATRC (located at Easter Seals in the Denholm Building). “So people can see the equipment available for borrowing here and also check out the roll-on scale at CLW while they are in the building. We have a lot of options now.”

A webinar training opportunity is in the works for early in 2019 on the use of pressure mapping technology. MassMATCH plans to record the event and upload the video to MassMATCH.org for consultation by interested borrowers and technicians for years to come.

“The Weight and Seating Independence Project hopes to fundamentally, positively impact health and quality of life for individuals with spinal cord injury and other disabilities,” Louise Colbourne said. “Please tell your friends and family and make use of this wonderful program. We are here to help.”

Keep up to date on the Weight and Seating Independence Project at this MassMATCH.org  WSIP webpage.

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Coming Soon! A New Way to Finance AT – the AT Mini Loan

MassMATCH is delighted to announce the receipt of a grant from the federal Administration for Community Living (ACL) to expand the Massachusetts AT Loan program. The funds will create a new way for residents to buy the assistive technology (AT) they need while also building or repairing their credit.

MassMATCH partners with Easter Seals MA to operate the AT Loan Progam (MATLP) which for over 12 years has helped residents purchase AT devices and services such as adapted vans, hearing aids, and environmental control units. Since 2005, the MATLP has financed more than $14 million to residents with disabilities and family members.

“The problem is the program has not been able to serve everyone,” notes Eric Oddleifson, Assistant Vice President for AT and Community Support Services at Easter Seals. Until now, MATLP has provided loans with a banking partner at a competitive interest rate and favorable terms, “But applicants with no credit or poor credit are rarely approved,” he says.

In January, the MATLP will launch a new AT Mini Loan program designed for these applicants. AT mini loans will finance devices and services valued between $500 and $2,000 with a very low fixed interest rate. Significantly, the loans will be administered directly by Easter Seals MA.

“Adults and seniors who have been unable to access credit to finance the AT they need or want will have a supportive way to do so,” says Oddleifson. “Easter Seals understands the lives of individuals with disabilities who are often living on a fixed income, and we understand how AT can open new doors.”

Ann Shor, Director of Independent Living and Assistive Technology at the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission notes the importance of this opportunity for many adults and seniors, but particularly young adults. “Transition-age students, those ages 18-22, usually have no credit history but often need computers, specialized software, and training to be successful at school or work. The AT Mini Loan program could help a lot of young people to become financially independent and launch their own lives.”

The traditional AT Loan program is still an option for loans above $500, but the Mini Loan program will have greater latitude working with individuals with disabilities who have low credit scores or no credit history.

Individuals with financial need who want to acquire AT valued less than $500 should consider the MassMATCH Long-term Device Loan Program. This program provides devices to qualified applicants for as long as they need to use them.

Learn more about all MassMATCH AT financing options at www.massatloan.org.

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Check Out The New Assistive Tech!

Christopher Bugaj, MA CCC‐SLP, has a new book! The New Assistive Tech: Make Learning Awesome for All! 

Published by ISTE, the book is geared for educators interested in the effective use of assistive technology in the classroom. ISTE promotes it as “a catalyst for breaking down walls between special education and general education, and will help all educators realize they have tech knowledge (and can build upon that knowledge) that can be used to support students with disabilities.”

Bugaj is a founding member the Assistive Technology Team for Loudoun County Public Schools and is well-known as a popular presenter on AT themes at numerous venues both live and online, nationally and internationally.

He is also hilarious.

Check out The New Assistive Tech if you are interested in:

  • how an educational team can request assistance to determine technology needs;
  • how to conduct and document assessments to help an educational team make informed decisions about technology needs;
  • a proactive approach to professional development for individuals and for those who train others on the use of technology;
  • creating an action plan for developing a culture of inclusion;
  • how Buguj covers this while interweaving stories, songs, and other exciting features to make learning fun.

Here’s the link to Bugaj’s new book on Amazon (there’s a Kindle version too!)

Cover of the New Assistive Tech.  By Christopher Bugaj. Uses chartoon graphics and shows a young girl wearing a headset, head tipped back with a speech bubble: Make Learning Awesome for All!

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The Worcester AT Regional Center is OPEN!

Want to learn more about assistive technology available for your students with disabilities? Looking for an exciting field trip for your entire class?

Schedule a tour of the new ATRC in Worcester operated by Easter Seals! This is a great way for students to learn about the increasingly high-tech world of disability technology.

Students and staff in front of smart board

Worcester Transition to Adulthood Program students on a field trip to the new center

Interact with the VGo robot

Smiling teenage boy with VGo robot and staff smiling in the background.

Worcester students talk with Desi Forte at the ATRC in Boston via VGo

Draw on the giant smartboard!

A teenage girl draws on the smartboard using a stylus.

Play with switch-adapted toys!

A teenage girl looking at a counter of switch adapted toys along a wall with a monitor hanging overhead.

Explore technology for the workplace!

A woman looking at materials and devices in the corner of a room

Hang out with ATRC Coordinator Robert Bilotta and meet his guide dog, Kilroy!

A man in a wheelchair at a workstation smiling with devices around him and a service dog laying in the foreground

Contact Robert Bilotta:

508-751-6495 or


484 Main Street,
Denholm Building, 6th floor
Worcester, MA, 01608

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Join MassMATCH at Abilities Expo Boston Sept 8-10!

Abilities Expo logo

Check out the MeasureX pressure mapping system and the Lilly Pad wheelchair-accessible scale!

Abilities Expo showcases cutting-edge assistive technology, adaptive sports, daily living aids, inclusive dance, dynamic workshops, local and national exhibitors, and more! This year, MassMATCH is demonstrating the pressure mapping systems and wheelchair-accessible scales now available to borrow from the AT Regional Center in Pittsfield. Stop by booth 727 to check us out!

A woman in a wheelchair tries out a portable scale with the assistance of two women

Lilly Pad portable scale demonstrated at a recent ADA celebration event

When: September 8-10th, 2017. Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Where: The Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, Hall C.

How Much?: Registration is FREE

Learn more: Abilities.com/boston

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Wheelchair User? Learn to Prevent Pressure Injuries!

Pressure Mapping Technology is now available. Learn to borrow and use PMT (it’s free!)

Two pictures show a woman pointing to a pressure map on a screen and a woman in a wheelchair looking at a pressure map on a display. A caption beneath the pointing woman reads "Mary Jo Wagner at a recent training."

Spread the word! Through a grant from the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, MassMATCH is providing trainings on the use of digital pressure mapping technology (PMT) to anyone with an interest or a reason to learn. The trainings are targeting western and central Massachusetts where, until now, pressure mapping has had limited availability. Join us:

September 19th, 2017 from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at UCP-Berkshire, 208 West Street, Pittsfield MA 01201

November 6th, 2017 from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at Easter Seals MA, 484 Main Street, Worcester MA 01608

To register for either training please email your interest to info@massmatch.org or call Tanya Bombard at 617-204-3851

Learn about pressure injuries, their stages, causes and risks. Learn how to prevent them, including positioning strategies for sitting and sleeping. Learn how digital pressure mapping can be a helpful tool for understanding the unique needs of individual wheelchair users. If you or someone you know has ever had or is at risk for a pressure injury, this is a must-attend event!

Pressure Mapping Technology for both seating and sleeping is now available for borrowing from the MassMATCH Short-Term Device Loan Program in Pittsfield (and soon in Worcester). These mats may be borrowed for up to 4 weeks at a time for use at home or with a clinician. They come with a comprehensive user guide and supplementary information on the prevention of pressure injuries. MassMATCH is working to refine this information in partnership with individual users who may provide feedback for the benefit of future borrowers.

The trainings are geared for both professionals and individuals with paralysis and are led by Mary Jo Wagner, OTR/L, ATP, of the Department of Developmental Services; and Sarah Bandzak of Blue Chip Medical Products, Inc. Together they have decades of experience with seating and positioning.

This is a unique opportunity intended to help build capacity with this equipment in an underserved region of Massachusetts. All wheelchair users, and particularly persons with paralysis, should have access to this comprehensive information and the equipment they need to stay healthy and active members of their communities. Wagner and Bandzak are also experts in the area of the DME funding process with insurance providers. Register today! Tell your friends and colleagues and get on the e-mailing list for the Weight and Seating Independence Project to learn about future equipment demonstrations. Contact: info@massmatch.org or call Tanya Bombard at 617-204-3851.

Training participants will be awarded a certificate of attendance by the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission.

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Have Paralysis? Learn about Interface Pressure Mapping!

Woman in wheelchair observing digital pressure mapping image on a screen.

Do you or someone you know or work with have paralysis and want to learn more about the prevention of pressure injuries? The MassMATCH Weight and Seating Independence Project is pleased to provide trainings on the use of Interface Pressure Mapping for persons with disabilities, caregivers and other professionals.

Pressure Mapping Technology will soon be available to borrow for free from the MassMATCH AT Device Loan Program. Learn how to make the most of this valuable equipment. The next training is August 2nd 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at Stavros Center for Independent Living in Amherst.

Interface pressure mapping is used to show pressure points when someone is sitting or lying down. Too much pressure at one point can lead to skin breakdowns or other injuries. Pressure mapping technology is useful for determining appropriate seating and positioning for users of wheelchairs. These trainings are intended for individuals with disabilities, family members, home care providers, personal care attendants and others working with individuals with paralysis-causing conditions.

The trainings will be conducted by Mary Jo Wagner, OTR/L, ATP, of the Department of Developmental Services; and Ron Resnick and Sarah Bandzak of Blue Chip Medical Products, Inc. To register, please email your interest to info@massmatch.org or call Tanya Bombard at 617-204-3851. Learn more about the Weight and Seating Independence Project and upcoming training opportunities.

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Weight and Seating Independence!

MassMATCH is pleased to announce the availability of wheelchair accessible scales and digital pressure mapping technology (PMT) coming soon to Central and Western Massachusetts! The Weight and Seating Independence Project (WSIP) is making this essential equipment accessible to individuals with disabilities, families, caregivers and other professionals. With funding from the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, MassMATCH is helping individuals with paralysis take control of their own health.

Learn more at this MassMATCH Weight and Seating Independence Project webpage

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Massachusetts Launches ABLE Program

The ABLE National Resource Center, managed by National Disability Institute (NDI), is excited to congratulate the State of Massachusetts on becoming the 21st state to launch an ABLE program. The Massachusetts ABLE program, named The Attainable Savings Plan, will be established and maintained by the Massachusetts Educational Financing Authority (MEFA) and managed by Fidelity Investments. The Attainable Plan will be available to individuals with disabilities nationwide.

The MA ABLE program allows qualified individuals with disabilities to save up to $14,000 a year in an ABLE account without jeopardizing their eligibility for federally-funded means-tested benefits, such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid. The funds in the account can be used for disability-related expenses that assist the beneficiary in increasing and/or maintaining his or her health, independence or quality of life.

Millions of individuals with disabilities and their families are often relegated to a life of poverty as a result of not being allowed to build even the most modest levels of resources. Individuals receiving supports through Social Security, Medicaid and other publicly-funded programs are often disqualified from those supports if they have more than $2,000 worth of resources or assets. Now, with the launch of ABLE programs nationwide, individuals with disabilities and their families will be able to take a step to better secure their financial futures and to help offset the often significant financial challenges that can accompany living with a disability.

Like the other ABLE programs across the country, the MA ABLE program focuses efforts to ensure minimal costs associated with establishing and maintaining an ABLE account (which can be done online). The MA ABLE program has an annual account fee of $30, charged on a semi-annual basis. Additionally, the program has an annual asset-based fee of 0.15%.

In addition to MA ABLE, there are 20 other states that have launched ABLE programs: Alabama, Alaska, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia. Most of these ABLE programs are open to eligible individuals nationwide. Please visit www.ablenrc.org for details about these programs.

For more information on the MA ABLE program and how to enroll, please visit https://www.fidelity.com/able/attainable/overview.

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LibraryLyna for Creating an Accessible Classroom

LibraryLyna offers 3D print resources for teachers of the blind and visually impaired

Gorgeous 3D print models of math and science concepts are available to download and create for an accessible classroom. The screen reader accessible site provides a library of 3D print designs organized into categories: biology, chemistry, math, and physics.

Print animals, elements, shapes, a multiplications table and more. The site includes help for getting started with 3D printing. There’s also page for requesting custom models to aid your curriculum.

Learn more (links open in a new tab):
The Diagram Center is offering a Webinar on Dec. 3rd: “Building an Accessible Classroom with 3D Printing.”
Visit LibraryLyna
Read more about LibraryLyna at this 3D print.com page

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