When people bring their requests to Cheryl Cheek, she is sometimes appalled by the sheer simplicity of them.
A young man, for instance, who needs a head support. Without one, his head droops and cuts off his oxygen.An elderly couple carry their son, in his mid-20s, into the house every day. Inside, he stays in the living room until time to go to bed. Then they carry him upstairs. He needs a wheelchair and a lift. But a lift costs about $6,500 and they just don't have it.
Cheek works with the Utah Independent Living Center of Salt Lake, trying to coordinate the assistive technology program. Assistive technology is just a fancy phrase, she said, for the equipment and adaptations that can make life more enjoyable for people who have disabilities.
"We handle people who have really got needs, and the needs are so basic it's incredible," Cheek said. "But people are on our waiting lists from a year to 18 months. And they're the people who are in desperate need. Most of the money (for adaptive equipment) is in vocational rehabilitation, and the people we see are generally not employable, so they can't get rehab."
Because money is scarce, Cheek is trying to round up assistive devices that people have but may no longer need. On her wish list, she said, are wheelchairs (both manual and electric, as well as one over-size chair), bath lifts, speech boards and communication devices, hearing aids, van and other types of lifts and transfer boards.
Besides the need for almost any assistance device, the center is hoping to find a few people to form a volunteer repair program.
Often, Cheek said, equipment is available, but it needs small repairs. Without them, the item is no good. But a gifted handyman can make all the difference.
Anyone who would like to donate to the assistive technology program or to help with maintenance and repairs on assistive devices should contact Cheek at 359-2457.