Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky Donates $125k to Hazard’s new Appalachian Center for Assistive Technology

By Ryan Clark
CHS Communications Director

HAZARD, Ky. (March 10, 2023) — The University of Kentucky announced today a $125,000 grant from Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky to support the new Appalachian Center for Assistive Technology, or ACAT, located in Hazard. 

Patrick Kitzman, PhD, PT and professor in the College of Health Sciences' Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation and Health Sciences PhD programs, is director of both the Kentucky Appalachian Rural Rehabilitation Network and ACAT. He said the new center will have its grand opening April 10.

“We are very thankful for the generous gift from Toyota Kentucky to support the work of the Appalachian Center for Assistive Technology,” Kitzman said. “This funding will substantially expand our ability to support individuals living within eastern Kentucky.”

The Appalachian Center for Assistive Technology (ACAT) will serve the disability population in eastern Kentucky through education, demonstration and loan of assistive technology. A makerspace will be established to allow for the rapid adapting of equipment to meet individuals’ needs. The ACAT will also serve as a training site providing foundational level training in disability and accessibility to rural high school students as well as advance training opportunities for professional students in Speech Language Pathology, Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy, etc.

Located in the Center of Excellence in Rural Health, and part of the Kentucky Appalachian Rural Rehabilitation Network at 750 Morton Road in Hazard, the new center will benefit from the gift in several ways. Serving the period from 2023-2024, it will help to adequately plan, establish programming, bridge contract and grant funding, and set up long-term staffing (as well as critical capacity building support) for the Center’s makerspace.

The KARRN ACAT Makerspace provides broad-ranging benefits to a wide variety of stakeholders across the state through assistive technology refurbishing projects, service-learning programming, and early-stage workforce development planning. The ACAT Makerspace works to improve the health, community participation, and quality of life for individuals with disabilities across Kentucky. The makerspace serves as an Assistive Technology Resource Center to support access to and understanding of assistive technology and a multi-level training program to support foundational and advanced learning opportunities for high school and university students. 

ACAT serves as the primary makerspace for all of Kentucky’s Assistive Technology Resource Center (ATRC) sites. As such, donated assistive technology equipment from other ATRC sites may be sent to the makerspace for assessment and repair. The 1,395 square-foot space includes both hi-tech equipment (3D and 3D laser printers) and low-tech equipment (standard hand tools, drill presses, basic electric tools, etc.). Desk and project spaces allow room to engage community volunteers, local high school students, and UK students with the programs.  

“Toyota is committed to supporting our neighbors and improving our local communities,” said Kim Ogle, senior manager corporate communications, Toyota Kentucky. “We are proud to partner with the University of Kentucky to help expand access to critical services and mobility devices for many across eastern Kentucky.”

The ACAT Makerspace supports outreach programming that includes:

  • Project CARAT (Coordinating and Assisting the Reuse of Assistive Technology) – CARAT provides refurbished, used durable medical equipment (wheelchairs, walkers, etc.) and assistive technology to community members free of charge. Project CARAT works to sanitize, repair, and re-home used equipment in local communities.  
  • Together One Priority (TOP) – TOP is an intergenerational service-learning program in which high school students and community mentors participate in an accessibility and assistive technology service-learning program. To date we have worked with two cohorts of students. Each cohort had a different focus related to accessibility and inclusion. The Spring 2022 group focused on improving accessibility within the built environment, specifically, adapting Perry County Park. The Fall 2022 group focused on proving access to adapted toys for children within their region. Students chose this focus because of losses sustained during the historic flooding.
  • Toys with a Purpose – Toys with a Purpose is a free adapted toy lending library that serves families of children with disabilities. Off-the-shelf toys are designed to serve children without disabilities and often have specific characteristics that make them inadequate or unusable for children with physical and developmental disabilities. The ACAT makerspace addresses this challenge by adapting toys to allow interactive and positive play using principles of Universal Design in Learning.  
  • Workforce Development – The workforce development component provides internships and apprenticeships that give basic and advanced training in assistive technology.

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $501 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.