UCP

UCP of Western MA announced that families who meet established need criteria may now apply to receive funding for assistive technology to help children with disabilities lead more independent lives in school, at home and in their communities.

Assistive technology, often referred to as AT tools, technology, or devices, can help children with physical, intellectual and/or developmental disabilities to boost performance of daily living activities. UCP provides this vital technology and the funds to purchase these tools for children with special needs in Western MA. While there is no deadline to apply, funding is available on a first come, first served basis.

The agency provides this assistive technology to assist children with mobility, vision, hearing, communication, cognition and behavioral challenges. Examples include communication devices like speech tablets, low vision aids such as magnifiers and braille displays, smart home assistants for monitoring safety, cognitive tools to boost comprehension, computer access devices for learning, iPads and text-to-speech systems using Optical Character Recognition (OCR).

In an article on “Bridging the Digital Divide for Students with Disabilities,” the National Organization on Disability’s Board Chairman Tom Ridge said, “If students with disabilities are not given the supports they need to learn with technology, then we will effectively be locking them out of the workforce and perpetuating a cycle of unequal treatment.”

UCP seeks to close the technology gap.

“A child who is non-verbal can use a communication board to point to their needs and express their wishes,” explains Diana Sullivan, Senior Director of Early Intervention and Childhood Programs, Northern Berkshire Early Intervention Program, UCP of Western MA. “This enables them to take part in their own decision-making. Speech tools or Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) are available as various devices, such as Go-Talk, Cheap Talk, Proloquo2Go, tablets or as wearables like speech watches for ease and convenience.”

Meeting the individualized needs and goals of both the children and their families

“It is important for us as a service organization to meet each child’s individualized needs, along with the family’s goals for increased independence for their child,” said Sal Garozzo, Executive Director of UCP. “That’s why we offer a variety of technology, which can include AT devices that are low, medium or high technology.”

An organization dedicated to educational access, called FutureLearn, attests that Assistive Technology helps many children with disabilities improve or compensate for their impairments. The list of benefits include:

  1. Giving children a level of autonomy and self-determination to direct their own care and ambitions.
  2. Improving a child’s participation, well-being, confidence and self-esteem, by improving a child’s functioning and opportunities for play and social interaction.
  3. Reducing a child’s need for long-term health and social care, improving long-term health outcomes.
  4. Improving a child’s educational achievement.
  5. Reducing the burden of care on parents.
  6. Reducing costs related to health and social care services, as children become less dependent.

UCP of Western MA also provides related Assistive Technology services, which include AT evaluations, product trials and fittings, along with training and ongoing technical support. Other Children’s Programs include Early Intervention, Early Intensive Behavioral Intervention, Autism Waiver Program, and an After-School Program.

Eligibility

This service is available to families that meet established need requirements. There is not a deadline to apply, however, funding is available on a first come, first served basis. Funding for Assistive Technology is made available to UCP from the support of UCP National, through their Elsie S. Bellows Fund, the agency’s donors who donate to UCP’s Annual Appeal Fund Drive and from generous companies like Berkshire Roots. If you or a loved one would like to apply for Assistive Technology funding, or if you are interested in donating to this cause, please contact Sal Garozzo, UCP’s Executive Director at sgarozzo@ucpwma.org.

About UCP of Western MA.

UCP of Western Massachusetts serves people with all types of disabilities, including Cerebral Palsy (CP). Innovative programs are designed to serve children, adults, families and seniors. The agency is family-focused and offers personalized services to meet the needs of each individual. UCP’s assistive technology services are offered across all of the agency’s programming throughout Berkshire, Franklin, Hampshire and Hampden Counties (Pioneer Valley). The agency provides a lifetime of support, at all levels of need and at all ages and stages of life, from infants to seniors. Other ways to support UCP include attending their upcoming events such as their Annual Golf Tournament on July 11, 2022.