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.
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.
“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.”
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.