Story by Emmy Steele
“I felt like it was magic when I was able to see something so simple, like a smart pen, make such a difference in a student’s academic success,” shared Chelsea Hansen.
Although not previously familiar and involved in promoting assistive technology, Hansen has been learning about these services since beginning her new position last September as administrative assistant in the Assistive Technology Resource Center. Now she is helping the ATRC support students, faculty and staff across the Colorado State University campus with various assistive technology needs.
Before joining the ATRC team at CSU, Hansen pursued joint passions of literature and piano performance while obtaining her undergraduate degree in English and music. Playing the piano since the age of four had directed a major portion of her educational path, but she was unsure about pursuing a full-time career as a concert pianist. “Performing constantly is not what I wanted to do for a career,” she said. That decided, she began to explore other professional paths, reserving music and literature as extracurricular pursuits. In the process of applying for jobs at CSU, Hansen interviewed with a variety of departments and feels very grateful that she obtained a job within the ATRC.
“I landed in the perfect position,” she said. “I appreciate the small community and support that this center provides.”
What is the ATRC?
The ATRC, housed within the Department of Occupational Therapy, is unique among higher education institutions across the nation. Unlike many other centers that provide disability support services, the ATRC is located within an academic unit, which allows it to conduct research and deliver assistive technology services to campus from an occupational therapy lens. The ATRC staff ensure that all CSU students and employees with disabilities have access to technology and electronic information while also providing extended work and learning opportunities for occupational therapy graduate students with an interest in assistive technology. Recently recognized for their outstanding work by the CSU Employee Appreciation Board, the ATRC served approximately 430 students and 30 employees in the last year.
To aid students and employees, the ATRC provides campus-wide assistive technology services and resources (assessments, training, and hardware and software loans). Some of the commonly used assistive technology supports for students, faculty and staff include tools for tasks such as reading, writing and note-taking tools, studying and time management tips, alternative computer access (adaptive keyboard and mice), workspace ergonomics as well as technology to enhance access for individuals with low vision and blindness.
“Overall, it has been really cool to see the impact that assistive technology has on the educational experience of the student,” Hansen said. However, she faced a learning curve when she first began to work for the ATRC. “I had to learn what occupational therapy is and does. I also had to learn what assistive technology is and how it uniquely fits with the role of an occupational therapist.”
Supporting the needs of students
As she professionally began working with individuals who utilize the ATRC, Hansen shared that it also took a holistic understanding of the individual and how assistive technology fits with their needs. She believes that the biggest impact the ATRC has on students across campus is giving them the supports that they need to be successful college students. To do this, Hansen not only supports clients’ needs by scheduling ATRC appointments, but she also helps ensure materials are electronically accessible and advocates for accessibility by attending campus events so that students and faculty are aware of the ATRC’s services and resources.
ATRC Director Marla Roll is pleased to have the invaluable administrative support that Hansen brings to the office. “She makes the daily operations of the ATRC run smoothly which benefits both staff and students,” shared Roll.
When asked what she is most excited about when she thinks about the future of the ATRC Hansen said, “I am looking forward to creating a culture of inclusion and accessibility, increasing awareness and being able to serve more students and employees throughout the upcoming years.”
Love of music and writing continues
Hansen looks forward to using her English degree and passion for writing by supporting and increasing grant writing for the ATRC. She believes that her critical thinking skills and her ability to view the world in different ways will support her professional growth in the ATRC and the success of its clients.
In addition to being excited for her future with the ATRC, Hansen still finds time to pursue her initial love of piano performance by working on theatrical productions across northern Colorado. Most recently, she has performed with The Stampede Troupe, Midtown Arts Center and Divabee Productions. She is currently performing in Candlelight Dinner Playhouse’s production of Jekyll and Hyde.