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MassMATCH Quarterly News: Fall 2017

In This Edition:

Do You Use a Wheelchair? Learn to Prevent Pressure Injuries!

Pressure Mapping Technology is now available. Learn to borrow and use PMT (it's free!)

A woman points to pressure mapping images on a projected screen. Mary Jo Wagner at a recent training A woman seated in a wheelchair looks up at a digital pressure mapping image on a display behind her.

Spread the word! Through a grant from the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, MassMATCH is providing trainings on the use of digital pressure mapping technology (PMT) to anyone with an interest or a reason to learn. The trainings are targeting western and central Massachusetts where, until now, pressure mapping has had limited availability. Join us:

  • September 19th, 2017 from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at UCP-Berkshire, 208 West Street, Pittsfield MA 01201
  • November 6th, 2017 from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at Easter Seals MA, 484 Main Street, Worcester MA 01608

To register for either training please email your interest to or call Tanya Bombard at 617-204-3851.

Learn about pressure injuries, their stages, causes and risks. Learn how to prevent them, including positioning strategies for sitting and sleeping. Learn how digital pressure mapping can be a helpful tool for understanding the unique needs of individual wheelchair users. If you or someone you know has ever had or is at risk for a pressure injury, this is a must-attend event!

Pressure Mapping Technology for both seating and sleeping is now available for borrowing from the MassMATCH AT Regional Center in Pittsfield at UCP-Berkshire (and soon in Worcester). These mats may be borrowed for up to 4 weeks at a time for use at home or with a clinician. They come with a comprehensive user guide and supplementary information on the prevention of pressure injuries. MassMATCH is working to refine this information in partnership with individual users who may provide feedback for the benefit of future borrowers.

The trainings are geared to both professionals and individuals with paralysis and are led by Mary Jo Wagner, OTR/L, ATP, of the Department of Developmental Services; and Sarah Bandzak of Blue Chip Medical Products, Inc. Together they have decades of experience with seating and positioning.

This is a unique opportunity intended to help build capacity with this equipment in an underserved region of Massachusetts. All wheelchair users, and particularly persons with paralysis, should have access to this comprehensive information and the equipment they need to stay healthy and active members of their communities. Wagner and Bandzak are also experts in the area of the DME funding process with insurance providers. Register today! Tell your friends and colleagues and get on the e-mailing list for the Weight and Seating Independence Project to learn about future equipment demonstrations. Contact: or call Tanya Bombard at 617-204-3851.

Training participants will be awarded a certificate of attendance by the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission.

Worcester AT Regional Center to Open this Fall! Equipped with VGo...

See, touch and try Assistive Technology Regional Centers

Easter Seals Disability Services

Earlier this month, the MassMATCH Quarterly News had the great pleasure of touring the space for the new AT Regional Center (ATRC) in Worcester. The ATRC will open this October and is currently under construction. Admittedly, the space was still pretty raw, but the tour was exciting, not only because it means soon we will have assistive technology in Central Massachusetts for anyone to come see, touch and try, but also because cutting-edge AT made this tour possible: a VGO telepresence robot!

The display of a VGo robot showing a woman smiling and waving. Telepresence robots are like Skype on wheels. Users can visit a remote location and drive around using an iPad or a Windows laptop (success is WiFi dependent)

MassMATCH announced plans for the new ATRC in our spring newsletter edition. Since then, Easter Seals has brought on board Robert Bilotta as the new ATRC's coordinator. Bilotta toured us around Easter Seals and the ATRC space. Prior to Easter Seals, Bilotta had been working at the Center for Living and Working in Worcester as a Transition to Adulthood skills trainer and in that capacity was involved with Easter Seals Youth Leadership Network. Bilotta was familiar with AT through his own experiences as a person with a disability and working with young people on self-advocacy skills and ADA rights. He also brings to the ATRC various Worcester relationships developed serving as vice chair of the Worcester Commission on Disability.

A screen shot showing a smiling man seated in a wheelchair flanked by his service dog. The image is framed by VGo app controls. In the upper right corner is the smiling image of a woman, the VGo's driver. There is a smart board mounted on the wall behind the man.
Robert Bilotta and his service dog in the unfinished ATRC space in Worcester. (MMQ Editor Eliza Anderson is in the top right corner.)

"I'm really excited for this center," he says, "not just to bring more assistive technology to central Massachusetts, but also because we're using it to focus on group education." He showed us the new mounted Smart Board (donated by a local business) and explained plans for workstations and a conference table. "We're creating partnerships with local colleges on the implementation and development of assistive technology. Worcester State University's Occupational Therapy program, for example, plans to come in and present on their new AT ideas and get feedback from our clients and OT staff. Also Worcester Polytechnic Institute, their engineering department will work with our clients to develop new devices and showcase their work here. It's exciting."

Driving the VGo was a surprisingly good time. Its range was larger than anticipated and it was a terrific icebreaker with staff. Imagine being able to roll up to the water cooler and whimsically ask for assistance! It's hard to not smile when you're addressed by a robot. We ran into Eric Oddleifson in the hall (not literally, the VGo has safety defaults).

Blurry man smiling down at camera.
Eric Oddleifson surprised by VGo. (The VGo takes high-definition photos, still it's best not to move when photographed…)

Oddleifson is the assistant vice president of Assistive Technology and Community Support Services at Easter Seals MA. He says plans for the new center include a corner for filming video demonstrations of AT for uploading to a YouTube channel. The videos will support the training of Elder Affairs staff. "Elder Affairs is also going to send staff here to learn about aging-in-place technologies, funding streams, how to borrow devices for their clients and to generally learn to navigate this whole, sometimes, overwhelming field of AT." Forging these partnerships at the get-go is a powerful way to make sure the center gets used in a different way, he feels. "We've learned from running the center in Boston and we know we need to develop community relationships. The Mass Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired will use the center too."

Another major difference with the Boston ATRC will be the organization of the equipment. "We're going to have a section on aging-in-place technology, a section on emerging technology, a section on technology for home automation." The goal is to not connect technology with disabilities but with function, he says. The shelving will also be open, for easier display, rather than drawers of labeled, but hidden equipment. "It's going to invite people to want to go pick something up." There will even be a "make-and-take" space, where visitors will find instructions and materials for quickly constructing low-tech devices (inspired by the work of Therese Willkomm, PhD).

InstaMorph moldable plastic shown with fabrications including two adapted pencils and an adapted key. All were made to be more grippable, one using a tennis ball. "Make and Take" example using InstaMorph moldable plastic

Every AT Regional Center offers AT demonstrations and short-term loans of equipment at no cost. The VGo will be part of the Worcester Center's AT inventory. So far the robot has been used by a member of the MassMATCH AT Advisory Council who, because of his disabilities, regularly attends remotely via conference call. This year, for the first time, he participated as a moving physical presence.

The Worcester AT Regional Center is slated to open October 13th. Stay tuned for the unveiling! And if you are interested in borrowing the VGo or other assistive technology, contact

Browse the inventory of the Short-term Device Loan Program
Read more about how VGo and other telepresence robots are used as assistive technology

The AT Regional Center in Boston Welcomes Desiree Forte

If you're a regular at Easter Seals in Boston, Desi Forte is a familiar face. She hails from outside of Boston and has been with Easter Seals for four years, serving as the Youth Services Manager. This spring, however, Forte has moved over to also assisting with the AT Regional Center, and we are lucky to have her." "

Forte has a masters in Assistive Technology from Simmons College and personal experience using AT. "My strongest personal interest is in apps and technology for independent living, such as consumer tech as assistive tech," she says. "I have a strong interest in looking at everyday technology and thinking about how those can be used as assistive technology." New to the field, she's relishing the opportunity to try out newer devices and getting to meet clients with diverse needs and introducing them to AT solutions. "Also I'm getting to apply what I'm learning in the ATRC to my work with youth services, and to expose the young adults I work with to these technologies."

Staff at Easter Seals tease Forte that she's a product of Apple, but Forte says that's not really true. "I do love Apple, but I also love Amazon Echo for its ever-expanding skills, and the Microsoft Surface for its touch screen."

Working at the center is enabling Forte to also get outside of the technologies she uses personally and learn about technology for vision and hearing. "The ATRC is this amazing resource. I love having the opportunity to work in the Center because I strongly support our mission to introduce more people to assistive technology. More people need to know that we're here."

Where Can I Get Weighed? New Options for Wheelchair Users

Wheelchair-accessible scales are now available in Amherst and Pittsfield!

MassMATCH is pleased to announce that wheelchair-accessible scales have been installed at AdLib in Pittsfield and Stavros in Amherst, and portable scales may be borrowed at no cost from the AT Regional Center in Pittsfield. The scales are ready for action and can handle weights of up to 1000 lbs. (portable scales are rated to 800 lbs). " "

The scales were inspired by focus groups that MassMATCH held with individuals with paralysis in August of 2016. Focus group participants explained their lack of access to accessible scales and digital pressure mapping technology in central and western Massachusetts. They told us they did not have a way to weigh themselves easily, even at their own doctor's offices, and how rehab facilities often lacked sufficient privacy. Some individuals had used an industrial scale at the local post office or UPS, even a scrap metal yard, and many were simply not learning their weight at all.

Managing weight is essential for all of us. We need our weight for general health and wellness, for managing diabetes, for proper dosing of medication, for preventing illness and prolonging our lives. Weight management is especially important for users of wheelchairs. Many wheelchair cushions require adjustments based on weight or are otherwise rated for weight ranges. This is also true for adapted recreation equipment.

For these reasons, MassMATCH pursued a grant from the Christopher and Dana Reeves Foundation to fund the Weight and Seating Independence Project (WSIP). WSIP is now underway, providing wheelchair-accessible scales and also digital pressure mapping equipment (see Do You Use a Wheelchair? Learn to Prevent Pressure Injuries, above).

The roll-on scales are located in Independent Living Centers in Pittsfield, Amherst, and soon, Springfield and Worcester. Portable scales are available for borrowing from the AT Regional Center at UCP-Berkshire (in Pittsfield). Portable scales may be used at home for up to 4 weeks at a time and are an excellent way to obtain the weight of your mobility equipment. Armed with that information, anyone can roll onto a scale at an ILC anytime thereafter and determine their weight, as needed.

A woman in a wheelchair receives assistance using the Lilly Pad portable scale

MassMATCH demonstrated the Lilly Pad portable wheelchair scale at a recent ADA celebration event

Stavros in Springfield anticipates their scale will be operational beginning in mid-September. The scale at the Center for Living and Working in Worcester will be operational by October 3rd. The scales at AdLib and Stavros in Amherst are ready now, as are the portable scales to borrow from UCP-Berkshire in Pittsfield.

If you or someone you know uses a wheelchair and needs easy access to a scale in central or western Massachusetts, the Weight and Seating Independence Project is designed to help.

Learn more about the Weight and Seating Independence Project
Learn about the Lilly Pad portable scale (opens in a new window)
Learn about the Rice Lake portable scale (opens in a new window)

REquipment Welcomes Ken MacDonald and Ginny Morse

By Karen Langley, Executive Director, REquipment Inc.

REquipment, Inc. is delighted to welcome the addition of two new staff members: Ken MacDonald and Virginia “Ginny” Morse. Ken and Ginny are job-sharing the REquipment Program Coordinator position. Welcome aboard! We are lucky to have two fabulously experienced DME professionals coordinating REquipment services.

Headshot of a smiling man
Ken MacDonald Virginia "Ginny" Morse

Before REquipment, Inc., Ken MacDonald worked for 17 years coordinating operations at a national DME provider and within a Massachusetts healthcare provider. For the past few years, he has consulted to REquipment, Inc., helping us develop our policies manual, training partner staff on best practices for equipment cleaning, and conducting consumer satisfaction follow-up surveys. Going forward, Ken will handle equipment donation requests and outreach to potential sources of bulk or on-going DME donations.

Ginny has spent 18 years in the disability field, working with the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and the Disability Policy Consortium where she has coordinated and organized advocacy. Since January, Ginny has been researching and developing marketing and outreach lists for REquipment. Ginny will handle equipment requests and continue to assist in developing our outreach lists and mailings.

Both Ken and Ginny bring significant knowledge and commitment to our program’s mission and values. In short, they “get it” when it comes to the impact a DME reuse program like REquipment can have on individual lives, families and even whole communities.

Back to School with Assistive Technology: Browse the Virtual AT Toolkit

" "As you gear up for the 2017-18 school year, consider browsing the MassMATCH Virtual A.T. Toolkit for Education. Here you will find:

  • AT Product Search Tools for Education
  • Online Learning Communities
  • Assessment/Evaluation Tools
  • Professional and Program Development Resources
  • Local Resources and more!

Get more AT Tips for Education: sign up for our weekly email!

Join MassMATCH at Abilities Expo Boston!

Abilities Expo: The event for people with disabilities

What: Cutting-edge assistive technology, adaptive sports and dance, dynamic workshops, local and national exhibitors, face-painting for the kids and more! This year, MassMATCH is demonstrating one of the pressure mapping systems and wheelchair-accessible scales now available to borrow from the AT Regional Center in Pittsfield. Stop by booth 727 to check it out!

When: September 8-10th, 2017. Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Where: The Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, Hall C.

How Much?Registration is FREE

Learn more: