Empowering Communities: CARAT-TOP Program Enhances Accessibility and Skills in Kentucky

Initiative Description

The Appalachian Center for Assistive Technology (ACAT), our ATRC in Hazard, KY, is in its fourth cohort of CARAT-TOP. CARAT-TOP includes an 8 week program that brings together students of all abilities from local high schools and the community to develop skills in assessing community accessibility, refurbishing used medical equipment, adapting toys and other assistive technology devices, prototyping new parts, and developing strategies for community entities (leaders, businesses, faith communities, local media, etc.). As a part of this program participants work on an overall team project that has a direct impact on their community. ACAT is able to fund this with a variety of community partners, including the Commonwealth Council on Developmental Disabilities (CCDD) and more recently the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation Pre-Employment Transitions Services branch. Because the program is able to provide the required Pre-ETS services of work-based learning and workplace readiness training, for example, they have an agreement with the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation to provide these services in an area of the state that is generally underserved. ACAT also receives funding directly from the community leaders (mayor, judge executive, etc.) to carry out their activities in the community. Examples of the work provided include adding accessible features to a local park, adding accessible features to a high school gym, and adapting toys for children with disabilities.

Lessons Learned/Replication

As a result of this collaboration, to date, approximately 60 high school students have been provided services and learning about assistive technology. Additionally, however, a large impact in the community has been the education of school and community leaders about assistive technology and accessibility in the community. This has allowed the state AT program to reach more into very rural areas of Kentucky (Appalachian region) to people who may not have known about KATS Network or assistive technology previously. The partnership is successful for several reasons. The team at ACAT is well-connected in the community. ACAT is located in the Center for Excellence in Rural Health in Hazard, KY and is local and accessible to community-members. ACAT has been able to utilize funding from several sources to support the program as it develops and it is woven into their overall project mission. The high school students are a very important part of their success, as their buy-in and effort has been able to influence community leaders. It is expected that the initiative will continue, as funding and resources have been considered from the start. ACAT is currently working on development of the curriculum to allow them to expand it across the state to other under-served areas. Watch for their presentation at the 2024 ATIA Conference.

Year of Implementation




Initiative contact information

Carol Weber