Finding funding for assistive technology

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By compensating for disabilities, assistive technology increases independence for people with disabilities to participate more fully at work, school, and home.

New technology devices for disabled and people with special needs have raised the expectation that more people with disabilities can function more independently in their homes and communities, and pursue vocational goals.

Every day people benefit from assistive technology (AT) and do gain more independence.

Here is help for finding funding for assistive technology and a comprehensive list of of many free assistive technology programs on the Web.

But the benefits of assistive technology are delayed when people seeking financial assistance to purchase devices are faced with a varied and unknown funding sources, eligibility requirement, paperwork, and rules and regulations governing the funding of assistive technology.

Finding and securing assistive technology funding can be a major barrier in obtaining appropriate assistive technology.

This document will educate family, caregivers, service providers, teachers and child advocates on the funding possibilities and the process to secure the funding, in the hopes of leading to wider use of assistive technology and consequently improve the quality of life and provide more opportunities for people with disabilities.

Sources of funding for assistive technology may be public or private.  Public sources include all agencies that are funded and operated by national, state, or local governments.  If the device is medically necessary (essential to attaining or maintaining health or to replace a missing or non-functioning body part), private insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid may be a funding source.  Private sources include loan programs, charities, fundraisers, civic organizations, corporations, disability specific organizations and others.

Assistive technology-related Legislation

This section provides an overview of the laws passed by the national and state legislatures, court decisions, and agency regulations that have impacted assistive technology funding sources.

The Vocational Rehabilitation Act of 1973 requires that electronic office equipment purchased through federal procurement meet disability access guidelines.

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) prohibits discrimination against all individuals with disabilities, requiring both the public and private sector to provide "reasonable accommodations." ADA requires employers, governmental and nonprofit service providers, and businesses that have public access to take reasonable measures to accommodate persons with disabilities.

The application of this mandate is interpreted to also apply to the acquisition and modification of equipment and devices, such as assistive technology. No business can be made to provide accommodations that would create an undue financial burden, but, in many cases assistive technology represents the best and cost-effective method for meeting the need. Note: Since the business pays for the accommodating technology, the user does not become the owner.

According to IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Act of 1990), an "assistive technology device" is used to maintain or improve functional capabilities of a person with a disability. An "assistive technology service" assists in the selection, acquisition or use of an assistive technology device. assistive technology services include evaluations, adaptations, maintenance or repair of assistive technology devices, training or technical assistance for professionals, the individual or the family.

The Tech Act's 1994 amendments provide funding to establish programs to promote the use of technology-related assistance. The Tech Act authorizes the Department of Education to provide grants in order to establish and operate statewide programs that provide people with disabilities and their family information about the availability of assistive technology products and services. Funded through the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR), the Tech Act programs now operate in every state, and each state shows variety in program design and fund use.

Private Funding

Community Funding

Most communities have their own resources that can help an individual or family to obtain assistive technology. These sources are particularly useful for new and untested assistive technology that has not yet been picked up by major funders. Community funding includes local service groups, churches, labor unions, and school organizations and fund-raisers. Community organizations are more likely to fund an individual's assistive technology needs than national organizations.

Independent Living Centers (Title VII)

Independent Living Centers (ILC's) help people with disabilities live independently. ILC's provide information and referral, independent living skills training, peer counseling, and advocacy. Independent Living Centers can offer guidance, advocacy and technical assistance in the finding and funding assistive technology.

Fund-Raisers

Local churches, high school clubs, neighborhood organizations, labor unions, and special interest groups may plan a fund-raiser to help purchase assistive technology. College fraternities and sororities may give money or time to help a special cause and participate in a fund raiser. Local media (radio, television, newspapers) sometimes will sponsor or support fund-raising activities by publicizing it.

Volunteer health agencies

Voluntary health agencies that help people with disabilities and other special needs may provide assistance and guidance.

An occupational therapy department in a local hospital or rehabilitation center may also offer assistance in locating assistive technology.

Charitable foundations

Charitable foundations such as the United Way and religious organizations may provide help with funding assistive technology. The following are a few such organizations:

DREAMMS for Kids is an assistive technology information clearinghouse located in
New York. Founded by the parents of a child with Down syndrome, DREAMMS is committed to increasing the use of computers, instructional technology, and assistive technologies for students with special needs in schools, homes and the workplace. http://www.dreamms.org

Save The Kids Fund (STK) is a charity dedicated to improve the lives of children by providing financial support for medical treatments, medications or handicap aids. savethekid.com

The Make-a-Wish Foundation grants the wishes of children with life-threatening illnesses. http://www.wish.org.

United Way national.unitedway.org/

Employers

Employers who receive federal funds may provide assistive technology as a way of making a " reasonable accommodation" as required by ADA and the federal Rehabilitation Act. In addition, there are tax incentives for small businesses providing reasonable accommodations.

Corporations, that are upgrading to new computer systems, may donate their used computers to employees, schools or to organizations that will place them with individuals.

Civic organizations

There are many local civic organizations that may provide money to help people with special needs in their community. Lists of these organizations are available from the local Chamber of Commerce. Some of these organizations have a national focus on a particular disability, while others will fund devices for a particular child who is known to the local club.

Civitan International, P.O. Box 130744, Birmingham, Alabama 35213-0744. Phone: 205-591-8910 Fax: 205-592-6307, http://www.civitaninternational.com

Kiwanis International, 3636 Woodview Trace Indianapolis, IN 46268 Phone: 317-875-8755 Fax: 317-879-0204, http://www.kiwanis.org

Knights of Columbus, 1 Columbus Plaza New Haven, CT 06510 Phone: 203-752-4000, http://www.kofc.org

Lions Club International Foundation, 300 22nd Street, Oakbrook, Illinois 60523-8842 630-571-5466, ext. 383 Email: lcif@lionsclubs.org, http://www.lionsclubs.org

Rotary Club International, One Rotary Center 1560 Sherman Ave. Evanston, IL 60201, USA Phone: 847-866-3000 Fax: 847-328-8554 or 847-328-8281, http://www.rotary.org

Sertoma International, "Service to Mankind" 1912 East Meyer Blvd., Kansas City, MO 64132 Phone: 816-333-8300 Fax: 816-333-4320 Email: infosertoma@sertoma.org, http://www.sertoma.org

Soroptimist is an international volunteer service organization for business and professional women who work to improve the lives of women and girls in local communities throughout the world. Headquarters:1709 Spruce Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103-6103, Phone: (215) 893-9000, Fax: (215) 893-5200, http://www.soroptimist.org

Shriners International Headquarters 2900 Rocky Point Dr. Tampa, FL 33607-1460 Phone: 813-281-0300, http://www.shrinershq.org

Veterans of Foreign Wars, National Headquarters, 406 West 34th Street, Kansas City, Missouri 64111, (816) 756-3390, FAX (816) 968-1149 http://www.vfw.org

Resource: http://abilitytools.org/

Foundations

Foundations are most likely to give grants and loans to organizations rather than to individuals. When access to assistive technology rather than its possession meets the need, this is a good funding option.Gore Family Memorial Foundation (for students with physical disabilities), 4747 Ocean Dr., #204, Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33308 (954)781-8634

Disabled Children's Relief Fund (DCRF) is a non-profit organization that provides disabled children with assistance in obtaining wheelchairs, orthopedic braces, walkers, hearing aids and eyeglasses, assistive technology, physical therapy, and surgery. The DCRF grants modest awards for assistive devices, rehabilitative services, arts and humanities projects, or for efforts to bolster compliance with existing laws for the benefit of children with disabilities. Families (parent or guardian) may submit applications for an individual child and non-profit organizations may apply on behalf of a small group of children. Disabled Children's Relief Fund P.O. Box 7420 Freeport, New York 11520, 516/377-1605, http://www.dcrf.com/

Optimist International, 4494 Lindell Blvd., St. Louis, MO. 63108, Phone: 800-500-8130 fax: 314-371-6006, http://www.optimist.org

Nock is dedicated to providing programs that improve the quality of life of chronically ill kids across America http://www.nockonline.org

Foundation Center is a resource for information on grant makers in the U.S. With centers in Atlanta, Cleveland, New York, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C., The Foundation Center maintains libraries and training facilities where grant seekers can research potential grants and foundations and receive relevant training.Foundation Center is an independent national service organization established to provide information on private philanthropic giving. It publishes directories to identify funding sources in your area and determine whether you qualify for funding. The Center maintains information in over 180 libraries across the U.S.; the national office can give you information about participating libraries in your area. 79 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10003, 800/424-9836, http://fdncenter.org/

Other grant resources are: Chronicle Guide to Grants, 1255 3rd St. NW Washington, DC. 20037 Phone: 800/287-6072 or 202/337-4267 Fax: 202/331-4267 and the Council on Foundations, http://www.cof.org/

Organizations

Organizations may donate computers, but mostly these donations/loans are to non-profit organizations rather than to individuals.National Cristina Foundation (NCF) provides computer technology and solutions to give people with disabilities, students at risk and economically disadvantaged persons the opportunity to lead more independent and productive lives. Equipment donations can be directed only to qualified organizations that have been declared exempt under Internal Revenue Code 501 (c)(3) or are a public agency. Priority is given to organizations responsible for fostering the training of people with special needs in educational or training environments. http://www.cristina.org

Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation (assists young people with disabilities), 1560 Wilson Blvd., Suite 1150 Arlington, VA 22209 Phone: 703/276-8240; Fax: 703-276-8260, http://www.meaf.org/

AT&T Foundation 32 Avenue of the Americas New York, NY 10013-2412 Phone: 800/222-6300, http://www.att.com/foundation/

Resource: http://www.techsoup.org

Assistive technology exchange in New England - The goal of the Assistive Technology Exchange in New England is to put AT equipment that is not currently being used into the hands of someone who can benefit from it. The Assistive Technology Exchange in New England is primarily for New Englanders, although we do accept entries from neighboring states. The program is designed to facilitate equipment exchange between individuals and is not for vendors or distributors to buy and sell equipment. Vendor participation through donations of equipment is welcomed.

Loans

Loans have not been widely available for the purchase of assistive technology. A few strategies will improve the odds in dealing with lenders. Research what loans are available through your local lending institution. Deficiencies in credit-history reports, sometimes arising from interruption of earning power due to the onset of disability, should be explained to senior officials of the lender. When the acquisition of assistive technology is directly linked to income enhancement, as in the case of a job offer or a return to work, this should be emphasized.The Assistive Technology Loan Program is funded in part by People's Bank, the State of Connecticut, and NIDRR. The loans are offered to consumers and their families who meet eligibility requirements. Based on a sliding scale, they offer very low interest rates and long-term repayment schedules. Information about and applications for loans may be obtained by contacting the Peer Technology Counselor at the nearest Independent Living Center or by calling (860) 298-2024 or (1-800) 537-2539 (TDD). Loans are available for individuals and their families, not agencies.

The Assistive Technology Loan Program, Connecticut Assistive Technology, 25 Sigourney Street, 11th Floor, Hartford, CT 06106 860.424.4881, 860.424.4839 TTY, techactproject.com

Nonprofit loan programs have been established in the disability community. These include programs set up by consumer and membership groups, efforts conducted by major nonprofit organizations, and joint efforts between assistive technology vendors and banks.Bank of America Loan Program 800/843-2632 (assistive technology loans)Some state rehabilitation agencies and state Tech Act projects have loan programs or loan guarantee programs.The American Foundation for the Blind, in cooperation with Xerox Corporation and the Bank of Boston, established a low-interest loan program to help people who are blind pay for the purchase of personal readers.

The Telework program provides loans for primarily adults with disabilities who want to work from home. This program is not only for assistive technology, but can also be used to purchase business equipment. http://www.telework.gov

Resource: These are some of the many disability organizations which may be able to loan equipment or provide information about funding sources.

American Foundation for the Blind - http://www.afb.org

American Council of the Blind, 1155 15th St., NW Suite 1004, Washington, DC 20005, http://www.acb.org

American Association of People with Disabilities, 1819 H Street N.W., Suite 330 Washington, DC 20006 800/840-8844 or 202/457-0046 fax: 202/457-0473, http://www.aapd-dc.org/
Easter Seal Society (National office) 230 West Monroe Street, Suite 1800 Chicago, IL 60606 800-221-6827, http://www.easterseals.com

Leukemia Society http://www.leukemia-lymphoma.orgMarch of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation, 1275 Mamaroneck Ave. White Plains, NY 10605 888/663-4537, http://www.marchofdimes.com/

Muscular Dystrophy Association Affiliates (MDA) is a national voluntary public health organization that provides assistance to people with neuromuscular diseases through its state and local chapters. MDA National Office, 3300 East Sunrise Drive, Tucson, AZ 85718. 800/527-1717; 602/529-2000. http://www.mdausa.org/

Muscular Dystrophy Association, 78 Eastern Boulevard, Glastonbury, CT 06033, (860) 633-4466 National Alliance of the Mentally Ill. (NAMI) is a statewide organization for families of individuals with prolonged mental illness, providing support, education, and advocacy. (860) 882-0236, 30 Jordan Lane, Wethersfield, CT 06109, http://www.namict.org

National Federation of the Blind 1800 Johnson Street Baltimore, MD 21230 Phone: 410-659-9314 Fax: 410-685-5653, http://www.nfb.org

National Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Society helps people with multiple sclerosis to live as independently as possible to their capabilities within the least restrictive environment. Greater Hartford Chapter, 705 North Mountain Road - Suite G102 - Newington, CT 06111 (860) 953-0601 or 1 (800) 233-7617 (TTY) or Western CT Chapter, One Selleck Street, Norwalk, CT, (203) 838-1033, (800) 634-4710. http://www.nationalmssociety.org

National Organization for Rare Disorders, 55 Kenosia Avenue, Danbury, CT 06813, (203) 744-0100 or 800-999-6673, http://www.rarediseases.org

National Spinal Cord Injury Association works with local agencies to develop programs and services for people with spinal cord injuries and act as community advocates for improved access, housing, transportation, employment, and leisure activities.Connecticut Chapter, Gaylord Hospital, 400 Gaylord Farms Road, Wallingford, CT 06492. http://www.spinalcord.org/

Nonverbal Learning Disorders Association (NLDA) is an international non-profit corporation committed to facilitating education, research and advocacy for children and adults with the syndrome of nonverbal learning disorders. NLDA, 2446 Albany Avenue, West Hartford, CT 06117. Telephone: (860) 70-0217 http://www.nlda.org

Spina Bifida Association http://www.spinabifidaassociation.org/

Tourette Syndrome Association of Connecticut, http://www.tsact.org

United Cerebral Palsy Associations, Inc. (UCPA) assists with worksite accommodations, environmental controls, computer access for pre-school children, school-age youth and adults, adaptive toys and switches, augmentative communications, and other assistive technology. Services offered by affiliates vary; some provide financial assistance and/or equipment loan programs. Local affiliates also provide information and referral for assistive technology services and funding. 1522 K Street NW, Washington, DC 20005. 800/872-5827; 202/842-1266 (both are Voice/Text Telephone). http://www.ucp.org/

United Cerebral Palsy Association, 80 Whitney Street, Hartford, CT 06105, (860) 236-6201, http://www.ucpa.org

Private insurance

First check your own private insurance sources for assistive technology funding because many other programs require proof of rejection. Coverage is different under each private insurance company and is described in the insurance manual. HMOs may, on occasion, pay for assistive technology. Requests are usually considered on a case-by-case basis, and eligibility policies vary among providers. In addition to health care insurance, there are other types of non-health care insurance that covers assistive technology. If your need to file for more than one type of insurance, file for liability first, followed by worker's compensation, then health insurance, and lastly, disability income insurance.

Here is a procedure to file a claim with an insurance company:1. Determine the coverage you already have from the manual2. Check if the device is covered by various policies that already exist3. Keep records of related info such as medical history and needs4. Determine the assistance needed.5. Get good recommendations and medical diagnoses.6. Request bids from vendors for assistive technology.7. File the claim.8. Contact your insurance agent to find out how to file a claim.9. Everything regarding the claim should be in writing.10. Keep in touch with the company for the status of the claim.11. If claim is denied, Reach the agent for reconsideration or re-filing procedure.12. Consider assistance from an advocacy group.13. Request a hearing or appeal. If the company refuses the claim, Reach the Insurance Commissioner for the State for an appeal.

Public Funding

Many public (government-supported) programs provide equipment, advocacy, training, and assistance in obtaining assistive technology.

Medicaid

Established under Title 19 of the Social Security Act and administered by state agencies, Medicaid is a program of medical assistance for the poor, including people with disabilities. For Medicaid funding, the assistive device must fall under one of two categories: Durable Medical Equipment (DME); or, with children, arise under the Early Periodic Screening, Diagnosis, and Treatment (EPSDT) program. While EPSDT has resulted in the availability of important medical treatment for children who might otherwise go without health care, it has been of limited value in facilitating access to assistive technology.Medicaid sometimes funds devices that the individual owns. Provision for augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) devices has made the greatest progress under Medicaid because they have a better possibility to be described as a medical necessity and because they are dedicated systems for communication.

A team of professionals, including a licensed Speech/Language Pathologist (SLP), Occupational Therapist, Physical Therapist, teacher, parent or caregiver, psychologist and technology specialist, must be gathered for the purpose of evaluating AAC devices for their client. The SLP coordinates the evaluation of AAC devices. The client has the opportunity to use the devices in the evaluation period. At the end of the evaluation, the client, with the support of the team, will make a decision on what device is best.The SLP writes a justification, including a profile of the client including vision, hearing, motor and cognitive abilities, ability to communicate, communication situations he may regularly encounter, medical necessity, and summary of the client's ability in the interaction with each AAC device, and states why one device is more appropriate than the other. A complete list of equipment including the AAC device and associated peripherals must be a part of the justification as well as a request for funds for repair/maintenance.

If the device is to be funded by Medicaid, it often must be rented for a trial period, usually one month. In this case, the justification includes a portion that states that upon successful use during a trial period, the device will be recommended for purchase. The original request is updated to request a purchase before the end of the rental period.If an individual has private insurance, the justification must be submitted through private insurance first. If denied, then it is submitted to Medicaid. If Medicaid denies the request, this can be appealed verbally by the SLP. Each submission takes six to eight weeks for processing so the time between trying out different devices and actually obtaining one can be significant. AAC devices funded by insurance or Medicaid can only be purchased once in 5 years.In Connecticut, Medicaid also includes assistive technologies such as augmentative communications devices. Resource: Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services: http://www.cms.gov


Social Security Administration

The Social Security Administration (SSA) administers the Medicare program, which provides funding to qualified recipients for certain assistive equipment and services considered medically necessary. The SSA also administers the Plan to Achieve Self-Support (PASS), which enables some recipients to accumulate funds for purchasing assistive devices. Eligibility for PASS includes an income and/or resource exclusion that allows a person who is blind or disabled to set aside income and/or resources for a work goal such as education, vocational training, starting a business.People with disabilities who receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) are mindful of the risk that small amounts of work or tiny increments in income will jeopardize their benefits.

Although many people perceive that employment is not feasible while receiving SSDI benefits, work incentives are available to bridge the gap. The ability to work determines eligibility for benefits, and income is a major factor in assessing that ability. SSI, by contrast, is strictly means-tested, with payments reduced proportionally as income or resources rise above specified levels.Among work incentives, several relate directly to the ability to obtain assistive technology. An SSDI recipient's income will be considered to have demonstrated the ability of the recipient to work or perform substantial gainful activity (SGA) if it exceeds certain monthly levels. But to the extent that this income is used to meet impairment-related work expenses (IRWEs), it will not count for purposes of the SGA determination. assistive technology devices, services, and training needed for work are a prime illustration of IRWEs.

Although income above the individual's benefit level will result in reduction or eventual elimination of the monthly payment, the IRWE concept will allow the exclusion of income from being counted. For SSI recipients, the PASS can be used to shelter income and resources for use in obtaining education or training, as well as for the purchase of technology that will contribute to or be necessary for work. PASS benefits are subject to approval requirements and must be something that furthers the self-sufficiency.

Veterans Administration

The Veterans Administration (VA) provides services to eligible veterans of the American Armed Forces for treatment of any/all disabilities.. The VA is one of the largest purchasers of assistive technology for the disabled. The VA Medical Centers (VAMC) provide veterans health care and rehabilitation through in/out-patient services. VAMCs provide services related to selection or procurement of assistive appliances. For eligibility, assessment of needs and information on obtaining assistive technology, contact your local VAMC - http://www.va.gov.

Vocational Rehabilitation

The Department of Vocational Rehabilitation is a federal/state program designed to obtain, maintain, and improve employment for people with disabilities. They offer employment services for people with disabilities, including guidance and counseling, finding and keeping a job, assistive technology, and training. http://www.dss.state.ct.us/svcs/rehab.htmState telecommunications equipment programs Telecommunications access equipment programs provide the devices needed by people with hearing, vocal communications, motion, visual, or other disabilities so that they may use the telephone network, such as speaker phones, text telephones (TTYs), phones with large buttons, and amplified phones. These programs vary between states in what disabilities and types of equipment are covered, and their use of means tests.

Tax Laws

Favorable tax laws can lower the net cost of technology for individuals, families, and businesses. With attention to the details of justification and documentation, the cost of assistive technology can qualify for tax deductibility either as medical expenses, impairment-related work expenses, or architectural or transportation barrier-removal expenses.

State School System

For a child with a disability, the need for assistive technology and services must be considered when developing an Individual Education Plan (IEP). The school district has to first identify children who need special services, and then offer the services to the child. The parents of the child will meet with the multi-disciplinary team at an IEP meeting to discuss the objectives and activities of the child for the school year. The need for assistive technology must be considered, identified, and evaluated, and parents have the rights to appeal if assistive technology is not approved.

Workers’ Compensation

In some workers’ compensation claims, insurance companies will purchase assistive technology to enhance personal functioning, especially if it results in improving the potential for employment


Assistive technology for Children

If a device is necessary to a student's highest functioning in the least-restrictive school setting, then the school should write the need for the device into the student's IEP (Individualized Education Plan) or IFSP (Individualized Family Service Plan).Special education and related services are administered under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), a program that mandates assessments and services that school systems must provide so students with disabilities may receive a " free and appropriate public education."

IDEA mandates that the school provide: The evaluation of the needs of a child with a disability, including a functional evaluation of the child in the child's customary environment; Purchasing, leasing, or otherwise providing for the acquisition of assistive technology devices by children with disabilities; Selecting, designing, fitting, customizing, adapting, applying, maintaining, repairing, or replacing assistive technology devices; Coordinating and using other therapies, interventions, or services with assistive technology devices, such as those associated with existing education and rehabilitation plans; Training or technical assistance for a child or the child's family; Training or technical assistance for professionals, employers, or other individuals who provide services to the child.

Assistive technology devices and services must be considered and provided for each student when appropriate. Parents have important rights in the process, including the right of participation, the right to have experts of their own choosing at the IEP conference, the right to administrative appeal, and even the right to court appeal if dissatisfied. Assistive technology may be covered by Medicaid even at the school level. In some states, if a school purchases the assistive technology, then that device belongs to the school. If another entity, like Medicaid, helps to purchase the assistive technology, then the device usually belongs to the child.If it's determined in an IEP that the child needs to take the assistive technology home, then the school must permit the device to be brought home even if the school purchased it. To avoid complications, schools and families need to work out whose insurance pays for the assistive technology. The school's policy usually covers the purchase of the device even if the device is taken home. If there is no coverage, then some arrangement might be made where the school providing a portion of the insurance and the parents pay for the rest. Or, the school may pay the deductibles and premiums should something happen to the device, but the parents’ insurance is used to cover it.

When a student moves to a new school district, the general rule is that the assistive technology device remains the property of the school. In some states steps have been taken to allow a graduating student to retain an assistive technology device upon graduation. For graduating students, one source of assistive technology could be the State Vocational Rehabilitation agency.If the graduating student clearly needs the assistive technology device for training or employment, the best approach would be to have the VR agency purchase the device in the first place or purchase it from the school district. The need for the device would continue to be reflected in the IEP with reference to the VR agency as payer (or purchaser upon transfer). The assistive technology device would also appear in the IWRP which is developed before the child finishes school. There is nothing to prohibit the VR agency from purchasing the assistive technology outright for the student while still in special education or from purchasing it from the school district.

Assistive technology for Adults

If assistive technology is necessary for work, your state's division of vocational rehabilitation, operating under the Federal Rehabilitation Act, the vocational rehabilitation program (VR, DVR, OVR, or DR) provides assessment, training, placement, and other services to people with disabilities who could benefit in employability or other identified goals. Services are planned and provided according to an annual contract between the agency and client, called the Individualized Written Rehabilitation Program (IWRP).

Once an individual opens a case with the vocational rehabilitation agency, she and the agency develop an annual plan called the Individualized Written Rehabilitation Program (IWRP). This plan can include assistive technology as a service that must be provided, either in training for a job or for use in performance of a job.

Assistive technology can be written into the IWRP in two ways: first, rehabilitation technology may be designated as one of the services that must be provided; second, technology may be deemed to be an element of another service, such as job placement.

In the VR process, there are three technology-related goals:1. To ensure that all eligibility determinations take full account of technology's potential to help achieve program goals.2. To ensure that provision for technology is incorporated into the IWRP in sufficient time to be available when it is needed for employment.3. To identify and resolve any problems that might prevent the VR agency from acquiring the technology you need.

To receive services an individual must be disabled and require VR services to prepare for, enter, engage in, or retain employment. Employability is defined as full or part-time competitive employment to the greatest extent practical, supported employment, or other employment consistent with the individual's strengths, abilities, interests and informed choice. Persons must show a substantial mental, physical or learning disability that interferes with the ability to work (persons who receive SSDI or SSI benefits are presumed to meet the disability criteria). Although VR services may be denied if a person cannot benefit from them, a person is presumed capable of employment despite the severity of a disability unless the VR agency shows by clear and convincing evidence that he or she cannot benefit from services.

If independence in the home is related to pursuit of a vocational goal, the VR agency can be helpful in covering assistive technology that contributes to, or is necessary for work.Medical equipment or a communication device (AAC) prescribed by a physician, Physical Therapist, Occupational Therapist or Speech Pathologist, may be covered by private insurance, Medicaid or Medicare.

Some unique governmental organizations, such as housing and redevelopment agencies, offer housing modification grants to low-income individuals - http://www.homemods.org/pages/links.shtml

Resources: http://www.fape.org

Assistive technology for the Classroom

The most common assistive technology devices used in the schools include computer equipment and adaptations; augmentative communications systems; assistive listening devices; and adaptive seating systems.Teacher Centers may be found in many school districts. Districts may be organized under another "umbrella" educational agency (such as a Board of Cooperative Educational Services). These agencies fund small demonstration grants, professional development grants, and research grants.

Foundations and corporate grants exist that may help to fund technology. Foundations generally fund organizations more readily than individuals. Schools are often not included as candidates for these grants as it is commonly perceived that schools receive adequate funding for addressing most needs. Carefully reviewing requirements for grant proposals will indicate if schools are able to apply.

The Foundation Directory from the Foundation Center is found in most libraries. It lists foundations and corporate donors as well as schedules for applying for each grant and contact information.Local foundations often will sometimes fund demonstration projects, and at the end of the grant period, will leave hardware and software with the school or classroom that has been awarded the grant.

Get started with requesting funding for assistive technology

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