Assistive technology fair shows new devices to help disabled people

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JEFFERSON CITY – Mid-Missourians had the opportunity to experience futuristic technologies on Friday.

Missouri Assistive Technology (MAT) hosted its first walk-in demonstration day in Jefferson City. The event’s purpose was to give the public a chance to become more familiar with assistive technology.

MAT Director Marty Exline said assistive technology is any device or equipment that can help someone with a functional limitation or disability, improve or maintain their independence.

“We have tables and booths set up with all sorts of assistive technology to help people with limitations become more independent,” Exline said.

Two of the several technologies at the event are the Double Robot and Eyegaze. Exline said the Double Robot is an iPad on a Segway-like base.

“It allows somebody who can’t attend, for instance, a student who couldn’t attend a school because of some disability or some illness, it allows them to attend virtually,” Exline said.

Exline said MAT has loaned Double Robots to four school districts in southwest Missouri already.

MAT Programs Coordinator John Effinger said Eyegaze is an eye-operated communication and control system that allows people with disabilities to communicate and interact with the world.

“This is a device you can control with your eyes,” Effinger said. “It sits on a desk and you calibrate it to your eyes and you can actually use one or two eyes to move the cursor on the screen just like a mouse.”

Effinger said Eyegaze is being used to enhance the quality of life for people with disabilities.

“It’s super important for people who have limited dexterity and can’t use their hands for whatever reason or have limited mobility, so someone who has cerebral palsy, someone with ALS or carpal tunnel, who it pains them to type or move a mouse, they now are just using their eyes, the muscles in your eyes are stronger in terms of your ability to move, so it’s a great alternative,” Effinger said.  

MAT had ten booths, each representing a different disability with a device or equipment to help people with that disability.

Participants also learned about financial resources that could help them get the devices they need.

“We try to help them out with, we have a few financial programs ourselves, and if they don’t work for that particular person because they don’t fit into whatever the category is, age wise or if it’s not educational, we’ll help them find other resources, whether it might be Medicaid or location rehabilitation, or some other program,” Exline said.  

Exline said MAT has an equipment loan library with 1,200 devices it loans to people who need it.

Missouri Assistive Technology is the statewide program that provides assistive technology services and resources across the lifespan for individuals with disabilities, family members, service providers, and others in any type of setting such as education, employment and community living.