MonTECH – Improving Lives with Technology
Annual Report FY2018
Montana’s Assistive Technology Loan Program and Training Resource
“We had the great pleasure of working with (MonTECH) staff this year. We were blown away by their passion and commitment in providing support and advice to those who contact them. To the MonTECH staff – we would not have been able to support our clients with complex communication needs without you!”
~ Speech Therapy Solutions Montana
Improving Lives with Technology Across Montana
MonTECH is Montana’s access point for assistive technology.
- Any Montanan with any disability can borrow devices and equipment from MonTECH.
- Items can be borrowed to meet a temporary need or assess the usefulness of the device.
Last fiscal year, MonTECH loaned over 800 assistive devices and pieces of adaptive equipment to Montanans.
Being fed by his parents at home wasn’t a big deal for Heath Montgomery. As a fourth grader with cerebral palsy, he was used to it. But being fed at school in front of peers? “It was just really weird having other people watching me while I was getting fed by an adult,” he explains. MonTECH arranged a trial of Obi, a robotic feeding device. Thanks to Heath’s proven experience with the robot, combined with mom Jenny’s research on the health benefits of self-feeding, the Montgomerys were able to pursue funding for an Obi. Now Heath’s Obi allows him to eat independently.
A classmate confirms the cool factor: “We think it’s just really awesome that Heath can eat by himself without his mom.”
What good is assistive technology if you don’t know how to use it to greatest benefit? Demonstrations are:
- Free learning sessions in our labs in Billings and Missoula or provided virtually through platforms like Zoom or FaceTime.
- Time to explore technologies selected with specific challenges in mind.
This fiscal year, 992 Montanans received free demonstrations or training on assistive technology devices through MonTECH.
Sixth-grader Olivia Hawley has dyslexia and dysgraphia. For Olivia, school was a source of constant anxiety. She came to MonTECH with her mother, Kimberly, looking for help. During her 1:1 demonstration in the Missoula lab, Olivia tried multiple apps and devices to see what might best support her academically. She now uses an iPad in the classroom, with apps to help her ‘ear read’ and fill out worksheets.
“This program is absolutely incredible as are those who are involved in it,” mom Kimberly says. “Assistive technology is a game changer for my girl and we could not do it without MonTECH.”
Buying new is not always an option. With this in mind, MonTECH hosts a reuse-exchange forum on our web site.
- Anyone can post a disability-related item to sell or give away.
- MonTECH posts older devices for re-use and long-term loans.
The benefit of MonTECH’s re-use program has increased over the past two years. In 2015-2016, we saved consumers $80,023 through our open-ended loans and device exchange. In 2017-2018, we saved consumers $230,055.
Two-year-old Caleb Casey faces a number of medical and developmental challenges, but with the support of his large and loving family, he consistently defies expectations. One obstacle recently eliminated was his need for support while walking. Caleb now uses a gait trainer that was formerly in MonTECH’s adaptive equipment inventory. With the assistance of his gait trainer, Caleb can take advantage of increased independence and spontaneous social opportunities.
“When any of his siblings try to direct him or guide the walker, he does what any other kid would do,” mom Elaine effuses. “He says, like, ‘Eh! Get away!’ Just good, natural development things!”
It can be difficult for people with disabilities, often living on limited incomes, to purchase technologies and equipment vital to quality of life. To help meet this need, MonTECH provides an assistive technology loan option through Rural Dynamics (now affiliated with GreenPath).
- Approved applicants can borrow up to $1,500 for assistive technology at zero percent interest, or up to $50,000 at 3.5% interest.
- Contact Elaine Szirbik for more information: 406-454-5712, email@example.com.
MonTECH financial loans have increased dramatically over the past two years. In 2015-2016, we granted 1 financial loan to a consumer who needed assistive technology. In 2017-2018, we granted 16 financial loans.
Sarah Imoe moved to Montana to be near a new grandchild. Reliant on a power chair due to progressive multi minicore myopathy, it didn’t take long to realize she would need an accessible vehicle to transport her chair. “I was limited in the amount of money I could apply to repayment,” Sarah explains. “I was getting desperate. Then I heard about the loan program and thought, it doesn’t hurt to try.” Through the assistive loan program, Sarah was able to purchase a reliable, accessible van.
Having her own vehicle means Sarah can now independently pursue interests: shopping, attending church, and, of course, loving on those grandchildren.
Michelle Allen, MonTECH’s new Assistive Technology Specialist, has an extensive background working with children and families with disabilities. In the course of her career, she developed a passion for AT and for helping people increase their independence. “I like working directly with clients,” Michelle explains. “Helping them figure out new ways of doing things and trying things they’ve never done or didn’t think were possible.” For a free appointment with Michelle in Missoula, call or write: (406) 243 5486, firstname.lastname@example.org
AT and Employment – Robert Wilkins, a man with low vision due to Bardet–Biedl syndrome, had a difficult time finding a long-term job. Enter assistive technology! With the support of an iPad and built-in screen reader, the app ShopKeep, and an iPod to use as a currency reader, Wilkins has been a cashier at Missoula’s Fuddruckers for the past four years. He wishes more businesses were open to AT in the workplace, which would increase employment opportunities for those who are blind or have low vision. “Being able to work bolsters my confidence in what I can do and makes me feel successful, for the time being, with what I’ve been given,” he explains. “It helps me to see a future.”
MonTECH provides trainings and presentations around the state, but it is always particularly rewarding to present to support groups. Support groups allow discussion of assistive technology specific to members’ shared challenges, and feature opportunities for hands-on experience of AT. Here, Diane Gray (vision rehabilitation therapist with Vocational Rehabilitation) assists Nova Berry with MonTECH’s wearable IrisVision magnifier at a recent low vision support group.
“Everyone said they came out of the presentation with a lot of new ideas and in awe of how much technology can change the world!”
~ Holly Wick, Malmstrom Airman and Family Readiness Center
Spring 2018 marked MonTECH’s move across the UM campus to McGill Hall. Our new space has greater parking capacity, improved accessibility, and is conveniently located near campus landmarks like the Washington-Grizzly Stadium and the University Center. MonTECH’s Billings office is in the Montana Center for Inclusive Education on the MSU-Billings campus. For an appointment in Billings please call (406) 657-2089.
MonTECH serves all of the great state of Montana
Yep, that’s 129 cities and towns, 56 counties, 147,000 square miles, and 10 hours of drive time to get from east to west. This map shows all of the communities our team visited in 2017-2018.
- Fort Peck
- Miles City
- Great Falls
- Malmstrom Air force Base
- Seeley Lake
- Deer Lodge
- Big Sky
- West Yellowstone