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gram News
  News for and from the State AT Act
  Programs, the Alternative Financing Programs,
  and their community partners

                            March/April 2010
In This Issue
Your Haiti Relief Efforts: From the Ground Up...
Your Haiti Relief Efforts: From the Top Down...
Field News: Mauricio Lizama on Puerto Rico's LD3--A Different Approach to Alternative Financing
Nifty Product: The MV-1
Hot Resource: Chicago Lighthouse AT Help Desk
Ask the Expert: How to Help Haiti Now?
Free Stuff: Portable Text-to-Speech Software

Your Haiti Relief Efforts: From the Ground Up...

Anyone who has read Three Cups of Tea or Stones to Schools has been struck by the power for good that can come from one or a handful of caring and determined people. The books demonstrate how real change comes out of relationships forged between individuals to serve a common mission (in this case building schools for girls in Pakistan and Afghanistan). AT programs live this lesson, too, when they forge partnerships to provide services for people with disabilities. We call them organizational partnerships, collaborations, etc. but often they start with a conversation between just two people. Change starts on the ground.

Cut to Haiti. The last thing Photo of Richard Lumarque and two Haitian women, one an amputee.any American wants to read right now is how their aid or tax dollars are locked up in red tape, stuck in containers of goods, failing to reach starving and hurting people... Click here for the rest of "Your Haiti Relief: From the Ground Up..."
Richard Lumarque

Your Haiti Relief Efforts: From the Top Down...

If Richard Lumarque and the power of a single tweet are inspiring (see previous article: "Your Haiti Relief Efforts: From the Ground Up..."), equally heartening is news that this collaboration, between government-funded AT programs and on-the-ground nonprofits, is now officially sanctioned and aided by the U.S. government.

This is in sharp contrast to how Photo of Marcie Roth in front of U.S. flagthings worked during Hurricane Katrina and the Iowa floods. Back then AT programs responded, but in a grassroots way without federal help or acknowledgment. Indeed it wasn't until... Click here for the rest of "Your Haiti Relief efforts: From the Top Down..."
Marcie Roth

Field News: Mauricio Lizama on Puerto Rico's Low Cost Device Design and Development (LD3) Program

A Different Approach to Alternative Financing for AT


PRATP is making AT accessible by actually making AT! Here Program Director Mauricio Lizama, Ph.D., ATP, describes their unique approach to a state financing activity and how it helps residents with disabilities in Puerto Rico and beyond.

The Puerto Rico Assistive Technology Photo of Mauricio LizamaProgram (PRATP) developed the Low Cost Device Design and Development (LD3) program in February 2007 as a State Financing Activity for the Assistive Technology State Grant Program. After previous attempts to implement low interest loans and other alternative financing programs in Puerto Rico, the LD3 program was created under the category of "state financing activities that allow consumers to obtain AT at reduced cost."

The LD3 program designs and develops low cost devices that mimic AT solutions on the market, and provides installation, configuration, and training for the end user. The AT user pays only for the materials needed for the construction of the device.

Blind musician tuning a guitar with vibrating guitar tunerA consumer's device request qualifies for LD3 program assistance if it falls under one or more of the following scenarios:

1.    The desired AT device does not exist on the market: In this case, PRATP works with the consumer to fabricate an AT device to satisfy the particular needs of the individual with disabilities (i.e. develop a head-controlled videogame system for a quadriplegic child).
2.    The AT device exists, but it must be modified to make it usable by the consumer (i.e. adapt an electric feeder controller to be activated through a fiber-optic switch).
3.    The AT device exists, but it is too expensive to be obtained otherwise. In this case, the adaptation targets the functionality of the original device but... Click here to read the rest about Puerto Rico's LD3.
Nifty Product: The MV-1
Cut-away view of the MV-1 with ramp extended
The MV-1 is a vehicle designed by the Vehicle Production Group* to be wheelchair accessible, not converted. It has capacity for up to two "common" wheelchairs plus additional seating, a built-in telescoping wheelchair ramp with a 1,200 lb. weight capacity, flat load floor, and interior floor-to-ceiling height of almost 5 feet. It also has a "green option" with a dedicated Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) powertrain system.

Learn more at

*Founded in 2006, The Vehicle Production Group LLC (VPG) designs, develops and markets purpose built specialty vehicles to meet the needs of large niche vehicle segments that have historically been served by converting or retrofitting general use vehicles.

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Disclaimer: AT Program News makes no endorsement, representation, or warranty expressed or implied for any product, device, or information set forth in this newsletter. AT Program News has not examined, reviewed, or tested any product or device referred to in this electronic newsletter or at
Hot Resource: Chicago Lighthouse AT Help Desk

The Chicago Lighthouse has a free AT support line for computer access. Ray Campbell operates the desk and has served people in 48 states, six Canadian provinces, China, South Africa and New Zealand. He will assist with hardware or software problems as long as the caller is blind or has low vision or is calling on behalf of someone who is blind/low vision.

Contact Ray:
Toll Free: 1-888-825-0080 (voice/Relay)


AIM Screen Name: tclhelp

Have a comment on this resource? Click here
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Quick Links
Ask the Expert:
How to Help Haiti Now?

Dear Expert:

What's the best way for my AT program to help with Haiti relief now?

-Wanting To Do More

Dear Wanting To Do More:

According to Ron Myers at Portlight Strategies (see Your Haiti Relief Efforts: From the Ground Up), the need as of March 1st is not DME (thanks to a strong response), but clinical supplies and funds for shipping and food. Since clinical supplies are not likely to be on hand at AT programs (they include topical antibiotics, suture packs, and adult diapers), the best help programs  can provide is to raise funds from within their home communities and donate at the Portlight website.

Want to Ask the Expert? ATPN will ask for you! (Who the expert is depends on the question you pose). To Ask the Expert, contact ATPN and put "Expert" in the subject line. All questions are posed anonymously from start to finish.
Free Stuff: Portable Text-to-Speech Software

Balabolka ("chatterer" in Russian) is text-to-speech freeware that may be run from a USB drive on any computer with a Windows operating system (2000/XP/2003/Vista/7) and at least one voice installed. The program gets 5 star ratings from a variety of download sites, including Download Pipe, Download3000, Download25, and DownloadMost.


-works with all computer voices installed on your system (free voice downloads are available at the Balabolka site);

-can save on-screen text as a WAV, MP3, OGG or WMA file;

-can read clipboard content;

-view text from DOC, RTF, PDF, ODT, FB2 and HTML files;

-customize font and background color;

-control reading from the system tray or by the global hot keys;

-Balabolka uses various versions of Microsoft Speech API (SAPI); it allows users to alter a voice's parameters, including rate and pitch. The user can apply a special substitution list to improve the quality of the voice's articulation.

-works with a variety of spell checkers;

-supports "skins" that allow users to customize their Windows appearance.

Click here to learn more and download Balabolka

Have a comment on Balabolka? Click here
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