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A talking microwave? Exhibit offers look at technology to assist disabled people

By: BARBARA COTTER
October 4, 2012
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photo - Julia Beems, who works with the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus' Assistive Technology Partners, shows where a shower head would go in this roll-in shower for wheelchair-bound people. The shower is one of more than 1,000 items on display Friday and Saturday at the Adapted Home exhibit at the Freedom Financial Expo Center.   Photo by Photo courtesy of Lisa Amend, Wild River Public Relations
Julia Beems, who works with the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus' Assistive Technology Partners, shows where a shower head would go in this roll-in shower for wheelchair-bound people. The shower is one of more than 1,000 items on display Friday and Saturday at the Adapted Home exhibit at the Freedom Financial Expo Center. Photo by Photo courtesy of Lisa Amend, Wild River Public Relations 

Really? A talking microwave? Is this just another indulgence for a society obsessed with new technological toys?

Not to Patricia Yeager, CEO of The Independence Center in Colorado Springs. She sees it as something that can foster independence and boost the quality of life for people with disabilities — in this case, people with a visual impairment.

The microwave is one of several thousand items designed to help people with disabilities that will be on display Friday and Saturday at an Adapted Home Exhibit sponsored by The Independence Center.

“It’s stuff most people would use every day if they knew it was available,” said Julia Beems, who works for the University of Colorado School of Medicine’s Assistive Technology Partners.

But word doesn’t spread easily about the ever-growing array of adaptive devices. So Beems and Assistive Technology Partners, established in 1989 with a federal grant, have set up Adapted Homes to show people with disabilities all the gee-whiz gadgets, technology and modifications are available to them. The house has been set up in Denver, Grand Junction and Pueblo, but this is a first for Colorado Springs.

Inside the vast display area at the Freedom Financial Services Expo Center, workers were setting up six “rooms” to showcase the devices in their appropriate setting. The step-in bathtub and wheelchair-friendly shower, for example, are in the bathroom. The talking microwave is in — yes — the kitchen. There’s also a garden area just outside the main display with adaptive gardening tools, a children’s area filled with specialized toys, games and furnishings, and an area to display accessible vehicles.

“That’s why this is so good; this puts the items in perspective,” Beems said. “It’s not just something you see in a catalog.”

Beems brought a 26-foot truck filled with more than 1,000 devices, technological tools and other adaptive equipment from Denver for the show. Sponsors that include Home Depot and American Furniture Warehouse have supplied furnishings, appliances and other touches to make the rooms seem as lifelike as possible.

“It’s quite the undertaking,” Beems said.

Yeager, who became The Independence Center CEO about a year ago, started working on bringing the Adapted Home Exhibit to Colorado Springs almost immediately after taking the job.

“This is my most favorite passion because it’s the quickest fix in the world,” Yeager said.

Many of the items will be sold in the vendor area of the fair. The Independence Center also features many at its Accessibility Store at 729 S. Tejon St.

DETAILS

What: The Adapted Home Exhibit, a showcase of eight rooms equipped with the latest devices and technology for people with visual, hearing, cognitive, physical and other disabilities

When: 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday

Where: Freedom Financial Services Expo Center, 3650 N. Nevada Ave.

Admission: Free

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