LITTLE ROCK - Access to potentially life-changing equipment and services just got easier for Arkansans living in remote areas. Through the hard work of the dedicated staff of the Increasing Capabilities Access Network (iCAN), the new Assistive Technology Mobile Unit (ATMU) is now a reality. The iCAN team is excited to be able to take information, training, and assistive technology and equipment to the far corners of the natural state. Assistive Technology, or AT, is a broad term that refers to any device that helps an individual complete a task as safely and independently as possible. The new mobile unit will allow such technology to be distributed to those who might otherwise be unable to travel to central Arkansas to receive services.
iCAN services are funded by the federal government and are available to all Arkansans, regardless of age, location, disability, income or eligibility for any other service. However, accessing this benefit is not always easy for those living outside of the Little Rock area. Program Manager Rick Anderson is enthusiastic about bringing iCAN services to other parts of the state, “We will be able to take the unit anywhere in Arkansas and set up shop. We will be able to go to areas that, historically, have been underserved due to their geographic location.” This will connect Arkansans with the technology they need to help them learn, work, communicate and live more independently.
Currently, the mobile unit is debuting at transition fairs around the state. However, Anderson is anxious to ramp up the program by working with Vocational Rehab Offices (VR) and educational co-ops. “People know those areas and are familiar with those programs,” Anderson emplaned. “So we can set it up and have people come and get items they requested beforehand or stop by and see what items we may have that could be helpful to them.”
Lynn Franquemont, Director of Community Service Programs, said that working with VR offices and co-ops are just scratching the surface of van’s potential. “This gives us the capacity to partner with several other organizations like the Area Agency on Aging or the Traumatic Brain Injury Association, just to name a couple. The possibilities of different organizations and groups that could be visited by this mobile unit are really endless.”
The idea of a mobile unit for assistive technology is not new; according to Anderson, he borrowed the idea from a similar agency in Indiana. However, the iCAN team was able to expand on the basic idea. “All they do in Indiana with their mobile unit is demonstration and training. We want to be able to provide all of our services, as much as we can. We will just have to start and then see what is working and what is not,” said Anderson.
The entire iCAN staff is enthusiastic about the possibilities of the mobile unit. Rehabilitation Program Coordinators, Steven Long and Bethany Baldwin and Administrative Specialist, Essie Hardin, have taken active and vital roles in the planning and execution of this project. Anderson stressed that the entire project has been a team effort.
(Photo: iCAN staff Steven Long, Rick Anderson, Essie Hardin, and Bethany Baldwin)