Funding Assistive Technology
Provided by: Muscular Dystrophy Association and written by Alyssa Quintero
Technology has solved countless problems, but it hasn’t come up with an answer to one of the world’s oldest questions: How do I pay for it? Vast technological advances in computers, augmentative communication devices, environmental control units (ECUs) and other high-tech items have enabled people with developmental disabilities to be more independent and more active in virtually every aspect of life. But how do you benefit from new assistive technology (AT) developments if you can’t afford them?
No Easy Answers
AT experts agree that, while technology is moving forward at the speed of light, the funding question is stalled.
“Sometimes getting the money for AT is a whole different ball game,” says Katherine Belknap, project director for ABLEDATA. “There really is no easy answer, but we list some issues that people need to look at, and we list several different kinds of organizations by state where people can get referrals or direct [funding] assistance.”
ABLEDATA, operated by the federal National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR), provides information about AT products and rehabilitation equipment, and their sources, on its Web site and publications.
“AT is expensive because it has a relatively small market, as opposed to a mass market product,” Belknap added. “Generally, the more you can sell, the cheaper you can make it, but AT isn’t like that.”
David Dikter, executive director of the Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA), which represents companies that sell AT, stated, “That’s a struggle for our membership. They want people to be able to have access to their technology, but there will be no technology if they give it all away.”
The reality is that many products “created and developed to enhance function, create greater independence, and create access to the workplace and learning are not generally funded by any clear means,” Dikter added.
If insurance or Medicare doesn’t cover the AT you need, Dikter recommends that you contact an AT manufacturer, vendor or reseller, who may know about other “pathways to funding.” “AT manufacturers/vendors are in business to help people; it’s their passion,” Dikter explained.
Connect with other parents about Assistive Technology.
Visit the My Child Without Limits support communityand talk to parents, caregivers, and professionals about their experiences.
Looking for more information on Assistive Technology and Individualized Service Plans?
Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA)
Alliance for Technology Access
National Assistive Technology Technical Assistance Partnership (NATTAP)
DisabilityInfo.gov (AT resources)
Bank of America Access loans
Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services
Digital Federal Credit Union
Alternative Financing Technical Assistance Project (AFTAP)