Photo Caption: Luis Suau, of the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, discusses the state’s Track Chair Program and explains how the all-terrain chairs can be borrowed and enjoyed free of charge.
It’s been three years since NCDHHS hosted its Annual Assistive Technology Expo live and in person. In that time there’s been a boom in technological innovations designed to assist people with disabilities in their daily activities, communication and recreation.
The expo was held in the McKimmon Conference and Training Center in Raleigh on Oct. 5, and it wasn’t just the first one held in person for the last three years – it was also the first time it’s ever been held as a hybrid event.
“It was wonderful to see people be able to attend in person and have the opportunity to meet new people and reconnect with old friends – while getting a chance to try new devices hands-on,” said Tammy Koger, Director of NCDHHS' Assistive Technology Program. “We also had a huge turnout on the virtual side, which was fantastic to see.”
This year’s theme was “A Day in the Life with AT,” and the 349 people who attended in person were able to attend the day’s speaker series and stroll through the vendor hall where they had the opportunity to try out some of the latest advancements in assistive technology. The 201 virtual attendees watched the event’s live feed with the benefit of American Sign Language and Spanish translation, live captions, and audio descriptions. Braille and large print materials were also available for those with visual impairments.
The expo drew individuals with disabilities, their family members, employers and organizations from all over. People from North and South Carolina, Virginia and Oregon attended in person. Virtual attendees came from Alabama, Tennessee and Wyoming, and as far as the Virgin Islands and England.
This year’s vendors included a host of organizations and companies touting the latest innovations and programs for people with disabilities. From electronic communication devices and mobility devices to athletic programs, such as wheelchair basketball, sled hockey, and adaptive rock climbing; there was something for everyone.
In fact, the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission was on hand to spread the word about its Tackle Loaner Program, which operates like a library allowing anglers of all ages and abilities to check out a rod and reel free of charge. Attendees also learned about the Track Chair Program that allows NC residents to borrow one of the state’s nine Action Trackchairs, available on a first-come, first-served basis at no cost. The chairs are outfitted with a fishing rod holder and long gun holder, but can be used for hunting, fishing, birding and many other outdoor activities – and they come in a custom trailer so the Trackchairs can be taken just about anywhere.
“So far, the responses from the exhibitors have been overwhelming,” Koger said. “We’ve had several reach out wanting to partner with us at other events and discussed putting products in the AT Labs, saying this is the best event they’ve ever attended. Some exhibitors are volunteering to sponsor additional activities next year.”
Next year’s AT Expo will be held on Oct. 3, 2024, at the McKimmon Center.
NCDHHS' Assistive Technology Program (NCATP) is a state and federally-funded program that provides assistive technology services statewide to people of all ages and abilities. NCATP leads North Carolina's efforts to carry out the federal 21st Century Assistive Technology Act by providing device demonstration, short-term device loans and reutilization of assistive technology. The program promotes independence for people with disabilities through access to technology. There are 10 NCATP Centers located throughout North Carolina.