Gaining More Independence with Assistive Technology
Paul Eklund, assistive technology (AT) practitioner, helps more than 700 people a year discover specialized devices or technology that can help them overcome disabilities.
"One of the great things about assistive technology is that it gives individuals options," said Eklund, who holds a bachelor of science in Industrial Engineering. "Being a person with a disability, I love the fact that technology gives me options. I think choice is a big part of independence."
Eklund, who lost a leg 36 years ago, uses a prosthetic limb, crutches or a wheelchair, depending on circumstances. He brings empathy and two decades of rehabilitative engineering and AT experience to his consulting work at the CompRehab Assistive Technology Center.
Matching Needs with Technology
"What I do here is try to match a person's needs with a technology or service that can allow them to be more independent," Eklund explained. "I demonstrate our items, and most can be loaned for a short time at no cost. Folks like having the opportunity to try things out."
The Medical Center and the North Carolina Assistive Technology Program (NCATP), a state and federally funded agency under the Department of Health and Human Services, jointly operate a demonstration center that includes thousands of AT items. The selection spans a wide range from simple gadgets to high-tech electronics.
- Walkers for mobility
- Call bell/portable alarm devices
- Spiked cutting boards to hold food in place
- Hand-held magnifiers for low vision
- Voice recognition systems
- Closed-circuit TV systems for magnifying reading material
- iPad apps that allow people with speech disabilities to touch pictures and generate spoken sentences
The CompRehab Assistive Technology Center, in operation since July 1997, is the only NCATP center in North Carolina that is associated with a rehabilitation hospital. Its proximity provides a natural fit with the occupational, physical, recreation and speech therapists that practice there.
"Having the center here has been a great partnership between NCATP and the Medical Center," Eklund said. "I'm really thankful for the opportunity to offer encouragement and a possible tool that may make a difference."