Courtesy of the National Disability Institute
What is Assistive Technology?
Today, many people use smart phones, computers, assistive vehicle features, and smart home technology to make their lives easier. These are examples of assistive technology (AT). AT also includes vision and hearing aids, accessible entryways, kitchens and bathrooms, stair climbers, and adaptive recreational equipment. AT can help people live and recreate in their communities.
What is an Assistive Technology Assessment?
Often a physician will provide a referral for a functional assessment that may determine if occupational or physical therapy, and/or assistive technology may help a person. A person who is experiencing hearing loss is often referred to an audiologist, while a person who has vision loss may be referred to an eye doctor or a local vision loss center. Many times, a person simply knows the time has come and they need a modified vehicle or a scooter.
Many states have assistive technology assessment services and lending libraries that allow people to try out assistive technology prior to making a purchase. Many communities also have re-use centers that provide gently used equipment. Often equipment can be borrowed from these centers, indefinitely.
What if a grant or funding is not available?
Medical insurance, grant programs, schools, colleges, employers, and vocational rehabilitation may pay for the purchase of AT. Although, in many cases, the responsibility remains with the family or the person who needs the item. Most assistive technology vendors provide financing options for the purchase of AT. This is often quick and easy, but in many cases, there are introductory teaser rates, and /or terms and conditions that can increase interest rates. These types of financing may significantly increase the overall cost of purchase.
Many states have Alternative Financing Programs that provide referrals for AT grants and offer affordable loans, with flexible lending terms, helping people to purchase assistive technology and develop good credit. Some of the programs also offer re-financing options that can save a borrower thousands of dollars.
Why are programs called Alternative Financing Programs?
Alternative Finance Programs (AFP) are an alternative to high interest loans for the purchase of assistive technology. A person can purchase the assistive technology of their choice and the AFP simply writes a check to the AT vendor. AFP interest rates are usually between 3% to 6% percent interest. In addition, the terms of lending are favorable, meaning it may be easier to qualify for a loan through an AFP program.
People who contact the Alternative Finance Programs are provided guidance on finding AT services within their communities, including AT assessment, re-use and grant programs. Any person who needs assistive technology may reach out to these programs; there is no income limit or age restriction. To find a local program near you, see https://tinyurl.com/hf397rfe.
The National Disability Institute influences thinking and behavior through pioneering research, advocacy, policy development, training and technical assistance. Learn more at www.nationaldisabilityinstitute.org/