Stroke survivor Conrad Schmidt



Assistive Technology Center at CRH


The loss of independence associated with disability is often devastating, both physically and psychologically. Assistive technology can help an individual regain independence in activities of daily life such as self-care, communication, work, driving, and recreation.

In order to meet a growing need in the Central Coast region, Cottage Rehabilitation Hospital (CRH) recently expanded its assistive technology services by establishing a comprehensive Assistive Technology Center (ATC).

This new center, which debuted in spring 2009, serves the Tri-Counties and is available for referrals from throughout Southern California. The CRH Assistive Technology Center offers individuals a wide range of choices in assistive technology, including these:

  • Speech Synthesizers that help individuals communicate.
  • Computer Access with adaptive pointing devices and keyboards, voice-activated systems, and head-controlled systems that make computer use available, even for those with the most severe impairments.
  • Home Automation via electronic aids that operate household devices such as the TV, mechanical bed, lights, telephone, and infrared-operated curtains that increase safety and independence.
  • Home Safety monitoring systems such as wheelchair and bed alarms that decrease the potential for falls and wandering.
  • Adaptive Driving Program which provides clinical and on-the-road assessments to determine the ability for safe driving.
  • Neuroprosthetic Systems that compensate for upper and lower extremity limb paralysis and weakness caused by central nervous system disorders such as stroke, spinal cord injury, brain injury, and multiple sclerosis.
  • Adaptive Leisure Skills Training with the use of a Wii game console to help improve balance, upper-and lower-extremity function, and cognitive and visual skills.  

For additional information about CRH’s Assistive Technology Center, please call Denise Dowd at 805- 569-8999 ext. 82311.




Back on the Water


For Conrad Schmidt, life on the Central Coast just wouldn't be the same if he lost the ability to drive his sporty GTO or race his sailboat.


Conrad, 61, of Ventura, faced that gloomy reality last year when he suffered a stroke that partially paralyzed his left side.


But after two months at  Cottage Rehabilitation Hospital, where he spent six weeks using an assistive technology device, Conrad was soon behind the wheel of his sportscar and his boat, once again enjoying an active lifestyle. For Conrad Schmidt, life on the Central Coast just wouldn’t be the same if he lost the ability to drive his sporty GTO or race his sailboat.


An assistive technology device is defined as equipment or a system that is used to increase, maintain or improve the functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities.

Conrad’s path to recovering his motion included doing specific exercises with the help of a special device that uses electrical impulses to improve muscle function. One exercise required him to open and close his left hand, a task he found difficult to do on his own.


“If I tried it by myself, I couldn’t move it as far as I could when I was using the device,” he explained. “It allowed me to have a larger range of motion than trying to activate the muscles on my own.”

Kelly Matutina, an occupational therapist at CRH, remembers the gains Conrad made in movement, not only from using the device but also because of his positive outlook.

 “Conrad constantly engaged his arm outside of therapy in functional tasks that were meaningful to him. His attitude and consistent perseverance is the main reason that Conrad has returned to living his life to the fullest. This is what occupational therapy is all about,” she said. “I’ve pushed myself to do things by setting my mind to it,” Conrad explained.

For example, he waited four months after his rehabilitation to renew his driver’s license. His goal was to drive his 2005 GTO, a car he purchased just before his stroke and didn’t want to give up.

“That car had a manual transmission and I managed to drive it again,” he beamed. “That was really important to me because I didn’t want to have to sell my car.” 

Driving a stickshift isn’t all Conrad can do these days. He’s also back to sailing and participating in competitions. “I’m very pleased that I could do that again,” he said.

His can-do attitude has allowed him to improve his range of motion even a year after his stroke. It’s evident in little things he does every day.

A few months ago, Conrad needed to buy new foot-wear because he had worn out the sole in the front part of his left shoe.

 “I had been dragging my foot when I walked,” he recalled. “When I bought new deck shoes, I prevented them from wearing out by thinking about picking up my toes every time I take a step.”

 “Even now,” he says proudly, “I can learn to get better at things.”



Read other stories from the Winter 2010 Cottage Magazine here.