People use assistive technology – like electric wheelchairs and communication devices – to live in a world that places barriers around people with disabilities and other health needs.
While these assistive devices can improve a person’s quality of life, their cost can prevent a person from accessing them.
The Arkansas Colleges of Health Education iCAN Lab removes this financial barrier by providing free assistive technology through a loan and gift program.
“All of this equipment is government funded, and some of it is donated,” said Dr. Tracey Zeiner, assistant professor of occupational therapy and director of the iCAN lab at ACHE. “When we receive donations, we renovate them. They return to the community as gifts.
“Everything else is for a short-term loan,” Zeiner said. “So people can just go to the website, see what we have, and if they need a wheelchair for a short time or some kind of try-before-you-buy thing, they can check things out for six weeks at a time.
ACHE’s iCAN Lab is the Fort Smith site of the Growing Capacity Access Network, Arkansas’ statewide assistive technology program. Each state has its own federally funded program funded by the Administration for Community Living of the United States Department of Health and Human Services.
The lab, which opened in January 2021, started with around $20,000 worth of equipment.
“The main iCAN is in Little Rock, and they’re bringing us new gear,” Zeiner said. “We are constantly growing.”
Items range from manual and electric wheelchairs to daily care items like shower and bath chairs. For children, items include switch-activated toys to teach the skills needed to operate wheelchairs and enhanced and alternative communication devices.
The iCAN lab also has demonstration devices which, although not available on loan, can demonstrate different types of assistive technology.
“Go Baby Go Jeep is an adapted Jeep…so a child can do everything with their arms instead of having to use their feet,” Zeiner said.
The benefit of the iCAN lab at ACHE is twofold for community members and ACHE students.
“We serve the community, but our [occupational therapy and physical therapy] students also learn about the different devices and work with the community on how to use them,” Zeiner said.
How to register for the iCAN lab
Those interested in learning more about the iCAN lab and available items can visit www.ar-ican.org, where they will find a database of all devices available at various locations in Arkansas, including Fort Smith. Individuals must create an account to verify a device.
People can also donate gently used items to the iCAN Lab for free giveaways.
For more information, contact Dr. Tracey Zeiner at firstname.lastname@example.org or 479-401-6043.