AT Resources Funding Guide

All hyperlinks included in this document were active as of 04/21/17.

How to pay for needed assistive technology is challenging for many and can seem overwhelming. As an association working hard to ensure access to all, we understand that access does not only include assistive technology but also access to potential funding necessary to obtain what is needed in technology.

This ATIA Funding Resources Guide identifies various sources and resources that you can investigate and explore as prospective funding options. This list is not all-inclusive but can be a good place to begin or expand your funding research.

If you would like to recommend a resource to be added to this Funding Resources Guide, please email your suggestion to info@atia.org.

Organizations

What organizations are known for supporting/funding AT? What is the best way to approach these organizations to request funding for AT?

Funding for assistive technology can be found in both public and private sources.

Insurance Options

What insurance options are available to fund AT for children? What insurance options are available to fund AT for adults (individuals over 18 years)? What is the Medicaid Waiver and how might that support my AT funding needs?

Medicare, Medicaid, private health or disability insurance, and worker’s compensation may pay for some assistive technology.  In most cases, a demonstration of medical necessity for the product or equipment and a prescription from a doctor or other professional will be required.

  • Medicare – a national social insurance program administered by the U.S. federal government for adults over 65 years of age and younger people with disabilities
    • While Medicare may provide coverage for some assistive technology devices, the scope of coverage is limited. Learn more: www.medicare.gov.
  • Medicaid – the U.S. cooperative federal-state health program for certain people and families with low incomes and resources. People served by Medicaid are U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents, including low-income adults, their children, and people with certain disabilities.
    • Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
    • Description of State Medicaid Programs
    • An individual who seeks Medicaid funding for AT must generally meet a three-part test:
      • The individual must be eligible for Medicaid.
      • The specific device requested must be one that can be funded by the Medicaid program.
      • The individual must establish that the device requested is medically necessary.
    • Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnosis, and Treatment (EPSDT) – the child health component of Medicaid. It is required in every state and is designed to improve the health of low-income children by financing appropriate and necessary pediatric services.
    • Medicaid Waivers – allows Medicaid to be used for additional services and may cover specialized medical equipment and supplies. Each state writes a plan that defines what types of services will be provided under its Medicaid Waiver Program.
    • Understanding the Medicaid Waiver – a practical guide for families and individuals with developmental disabilities published by the Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities, Atlanta, Georgia, fall 2006
  • Private Insurance – Many private insurance policies will pay for AT services and devices that are deemed to be medically necessary and prescribed by a physician. Coverage varies by carrier and policy terms.

Federal and State Programs

What options for funding AT are available through the federal and state government?

There are a variety of funding options available through federal and state government programs.

RSA’s major Title I formula grant program provides funds to state vocational rehabilitation (VR) agencies to provide employment-related services for individuals with disabilities, giving priority to individuals who are significantly disabled.

  • RSA Grants & Funding Opportunities – includes discretionary grants and scholarships
  • Race to the Top Fund – provides competitive grants to encourage and reward states that are creating the conditions for education innovation and reform; states are asked to advance reforms around four specific areas:
    • Adopting standards and assessments that prepare students to succeed in college and the workplace and to compete in the global economy
    • Building data systems that measure student growth and success and inform teachers and principals about how they can improve instruction
    • Recruiting, developing, rewarding, and retaining effective teachers and principals, especially where they are needed most
    • Turning around our lowest-achieving schools
  • Client Assistance Program (CAP) – The purpose of CAP is to advise and inform clients, client applicants, and other individuals with disabilities of all the available services and benefits under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, and of the services and benefits available to them under Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
  • State AT Projects – The Assistive Technology Act is intended to promote people’s awareness of, and access to, assistive technology devices and services. Under the law, each U.S. state and territory receives a grant to fund an Assistive Technology Act Project (ATA). These projects provide services to persons with disabilities for their entire life span, as well as to their families or guardians, service providers, and agencies and other entities that are involved in providing services such as education and employment to persons with disabilities.
  • Find your states AT project
  • National Assistive Technology Technical Assistance Partnership (NATTAP) – provides technical assistance to enhance the efforts of the State AT grantees and addresses issues raised by states and other entities through a variety of mechanisms
  • Vocational Rehabilitation Services (VRS) – Every state has a federally funded agency that administers vocational rehabilitation (VR), supported employment, and independent living services. VRS will often pay for assistive technology if the technology will enhance the worker’s ability to prepare for, get, or keep a job.
    • Search for Vocational Rehabilitation Services in your state
  • Medicaid – the U.S. cooperative federal-state health program for certain people and families with low incomes and resources; people served by Medicaid are U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents, including low-income adults, their children, and people with certain disabilities
    • Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
    • Description of State Medicaid Programs
    • An individual who seeks Medicaid funding for AT must generally meet a three-part test:
      • The individual must be eligible for Medicaid.
      • The specific device requested must be one that can be funded by the Medicaid program.
      • The individual must establish that the device requested is medically necessary.
    • Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnosis and Treatment (EPSDT) – the child health component of Medicaid; it is required in every state and is designed to improve the health of low-income children by financing appropriate and necessary pediatric services
    • Medicaid Waivers – allows Medicaid to be used for additional services and may cover specialized medical equipment and supplies; each state writes a plan that defines what types of services will be provided under its Medicaid Waiver Program
    • Understanding the Medicaid Waiver – a practical guide for families and individuals with developmental disabilities published by the Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities, Atlanta, Georgia, fall 2006

Special Education and the Public Schools

For children up to age 21, the public school’s special education system can be a primary funding source for AT. The rules governing special education are in the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and in federal regulations.  IDEA guarantees eligible children a free appropriate public education (FAPE). Since all special education services, including AT, must be free, a family’s income is not a factor.

The child’s needs, the services to be provided, and identified assistive technology must appear in a written individualized education program (IEP), also known by different names in different states.

Advocacy Groups

What advocacy groups may provide funding for AT?

On the local and national levels there are many advocacy groups that provide assistance to persons with disabilities. Several of these organizations assist with funding for AT devices, home modifications, AT assessments, etc.

Local

  • Search by state for options and opportunities
  • Central Illinois Access (hosted on Access4All website) – a Peoria, Illinois-based non-profit organization that delivers 2,500 computer systems to Peorians with low income or disabilities who could not otherwise access the internet
  • Computer Banc – provides free refurbished computers to children in Illinois with learning disabilities and other disabilities; computers are donated by businesses

National

  • AbleData – provides information about assistive technology products and rehabilitation equipment
  • Infinitec.org – a joint effort of the United Cerebral Palsy Association of Greater Chicago and United Cerebral Palsy Associations, Inc., Washington, DC
  • Assistive Technology Act Programs (ATAP) – ATAP was established in 1997 to provide support to state AT Program members to enhance the effectiveness of AT Programs on the state and local level and promote the national network of AT Programs. ATAP facilitates the coordination of state AT Programs nationally and provides technical assistance and support to its members. ATAP represents the needs and interests of the state AT Programs and is the national voice of the AT Programs.

State Vocational Rehabilitation Centers

What options are available for adults with disabilities to receive AT funding support? How might vocational rehabilitation agencies support the funding of AT?

  • The Rehabilitation Act was first passed in 1973. Congress, pursuant to Title I of the Rehabilitation Act, gives money to states to provide VR services to persons with disabilities. On August 7, 1998, President Clinton signed into law the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 (WIA). P.L. 105-220, 112 Stat. 936. Included within the Workforce Investment Act were the Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1998 (Rehab ’98), reauthorizing the Rehabilitation Act through 2003, http://www.doleta.gov/usworkforce/wia/act.cfm.
  • VR agencies can fund a wide range of goods and services, including “rehabilitation technology,” that are connected to a person’s vocational goal. Congress has stated that VR services are to enable individuals to maximize employability, self-sufficiency, independence, and integration into the workplace and the community through comprehensive and coordinated state-of-the-art programs.

Veterans Administration

What options are available for veterans with disabilities to receive AT funding support?

  • Title 38 of the U.S. code provides benefits for veterans of the military. The type of benefits for the disabled varies widely depending on whether the disability is “service related” or “non-service related.” For more information, contact one of the many veterans’ services organizations or check out the official VA website.
  • Compensated Work Therapy (CWT) – a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) program that supports work-ready veterans in competitive jobs and consults with business and industry regarding their specific employment needs; services include job matching and employment supports, vocational case management, work site and job analysis, assistive technology, reasonable accommodations, and ADA regulations compliance

Employer

What does an employer need to do to successfully support his/her workforce with disabilities? Are there any funding options that support employers as they consider individuals with disabilities? What tax incentives are available for helping employers hire and retain people with disabilities?

  • The Employer Assistance and Resource Network (EARN) is a resource for employers seeking to recruit, hire, and retain qualified employees with disabilities.
  • Compensated Work Therapy (CWT) – a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) program that supports work-ready veterans in competitive jobs and consults with business and industry regarding their specific employment needs; services include job matching and employment supports, vocational case management, work site and job analysis, assistive technology, reasonable accommodations, and ADA regulations compliance
  • Disability.gov – a federal website containing disability-related resources, the Employing People with Disabilities section includes resources for employers on recruiting, hiring, and retaining people with disabilities; information is available on assistive technology and accommodations, tax incentives, occupational safety, and success stories
  • Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) – ODEP provides national leadership on disability employment policy by developing and influencing the use of evidence-based disability policies and practices, building collaborative partnerships, and delivering authoritative and credible employment data. ODEP provides funding for services such as AskEARN and the Job Accommodation Network (JAN). The ODEP website has information for employers on the latest news on disability employment policy, events, resources, toolkits, and contact information for technical assistance support centers such as EARN.
  • Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) program for employers – relevant categories include disabled veterans and vocational rehabilitation referrals

Scholarships

What scholarships are available to fund AT for students with disabilities pursuing post-secondary education?

Fundraising Activity Ideas

What are the most effective ways to raise money to fund AT?

Other Private Pay Options

What other private pay options for funding assistive technology might I consider?

In addition to private insurance companies, another private source for funding assistive technology is special no- or low-interest loan programs from private lenders. Loans may be arranged by a government agency or by a technology manufacturer.

Grants

What are options for funding AT in schools? What grant programs are available to fund AT from federal education institutions?What grant opportunities for funding AT are available through foundations? What grant opportunities are available to help individuals with disabilities prepare for and engage in gainful employment?

Request for Proposals – RFPs

What are RFPs? How can I identify RFPs that might support my funding needs for assistive technology (AT)? What funded proposals may be sources of AT funding for individuals and/or organizations in my state?

  • To learn more about a “request for proposal” (RFP), visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Request_for_proposal.
  • To search for federal grant opportunities, visit http://www.grants.gov, where you can search current RFPs or register for a free service that automatically emails you RFPs as they are announced.
  • Government RFP, Bid & Government Contract Finder and Notification (subscription service): http://www.findrfp.com
  • To identify RFPs that might support your funding needs, do a web search by entering, for example, “RFPs for assistive technology”
  • After identifying RFPs that seem relevant to your needs, consider following up with the sponsoring organization to identify grant recipients.

Additional Funding Resources

What other sources for funding AT should I consider? What school budget streams are known to fund AT? How might I find out about helpful features built into mainstream personal and public devices?

  • Organizations, private corporations, and manufacturers of assistive technology are also valuable sources of funding. They may be able to put you in contact with families who have been successful at locating funding and purchasing equipment. Some nonprofit groups and manufacturers sponsor guaranteed loan programs for the purchase of AT devices while others actually loan equipment or computer software.
  • Independent Living: The Rehab Act of 1973 and later amendments require every state to have an Independent Living (IL) Department. The IL Department can provide the funding of AT necessary for the client to have the ability to live an independent lifestyle.
  • PASS (Plan to Achieve Self-Support) is a program offered by the Social Security Administration for people who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). Through PASS it is possible to set aside funds for equipment without causing recipients to lose eligibility for benefits. The cost of AT devices may be deductible from earnings if the unreimbursed cost of these items is related to Impairment Related Work Expenses. Note: SSDI is designed to give workers added protection against loss of income due to disability. However, SSDI does not provide direct funding of assistive technology.
  • Worker’s compensation may fund AT devices and services for persons with work-related injuries.
  • Loans from private banks: Although banks would hesitate to lend money with AT devices as collateral, there are some aspects of the Federal Reserve Regulations, Regulation Z: The Truth in Lending Law and Regulation B: The Anti-Discrimination Law that might assist a user in acquiring a loan for the purchase of AT.
  • Access on Main Street, a searchable website that provides information about helpful features built into mainstream personal and public devices, from cell phones with large buttons to touch-screen voting machines. You are also welcome to contact Jane Vincent, one of the contributors, at 510-841-3224, ext. 115.
  • National Assistive Technology (AT) Advocacy Project “provides technical assistance, training, and a range of other support services, nationwide, to attorneys and advocates who work at Protection and Advocacy programs and specialize in assistive technology issues.” See Funding of AT Manual Series, including The Public School’s Special Education System as a Funding Source for AT; Using Work Incentives under Social Security and SSI to Fund Assistive Technology. The booklets are available in hard copy. While supplies last, one complimentary copy can be sent to any individual or agency. For more than one copy, you can send $2 per copy to cover printing and postage. To request a booklet, contact Marge Gustas at mgustas@nls.org
  • Funding of Assistive Technology: http://assisttech.info/at_info/funding.htm (good general AT funding overview including options for children and adults)
  • From the Family Center on Technology and Disability, a part of their excellent Family Information Guide: Section 3: Funding Assistive Technology
  • From NECTAC, the National Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center: Funding Sources
  • A great site with a lot of info from the Disability Funders Network
  • Info from C-C-D, the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities
  • From United Cerebral Palsy: Info on Assistive Technology Funding
  • Info on federal funding in general from the Michigan State University Libraries: Federal Funding Tools and Links
  • Good info on foundation funding from the University of Delaware: Internet Resources for Foundations and Grants
  • The Public School’s Special Education System as an Assistive Technology Funding Source: The Cutting Edge FUNDING OF ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY SERIES by Ronald M. Hager, Esq., Co-Author – National Assistive Technology Advocacy Project Second Edition – April 2003
  • FUNDING OF ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY FOR PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES – first published in 1997; includes sections with info on “How to obtain AT from the Special Education System,” Medicaid and the State Vocational Rehabilitation Agency
  • Using Mini-Grants to Fund Assistive Technology for Students with Severe Disabilities: http://www.ttac.odu.edu/articles/minigrant.html

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