Today, National Disability Institute (NDI) recognizes Assistive Technology Awareness Day. NDI’s Assistive Technology Loan Program can help residents of New Jersey and New York find and afford the assistive technology they need through providing affordable loans of $500 to $30,000.
Assistive technology (AT) is any item, piece of equipment or product system that increases, maintains or improves the functional capabilities of people with disabilities and older adults. An “assistive technology service” is a service that directly assists a person in selecting, obtaining and using assistive technology.
Many people use smartphones, computers, assistive vehicle features and smart-home technology to make their lives easier. Assistive technology also includes vision and hearing aids, accessible entryways, kitchens and bathrooms. Modified vehicles and adaptive recreational equipment help people commute and recreate in their communities and are also considered assistive technology. Communication technology may allow for text to speech or speech to text and vision tracking, helping people communicate and live more independently within their communities.
Many states have assistive technology assessment services and lending libraries that allow people to try out assistive technology before making a purchase. The services help people try an item 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. If the center is a retail center, purchase prices are often significantly reduced.
Sometimes, a used item is not available. Medical insurance, grant programs, schools, colleges or employers may pay for the purchase of assistive technology. Although, in many cases, the responsibility of purchasing assistive technology remains with the family or the person who needs the item. AT can be very costly, not only in terms of the purchase price but as a result of financing terms. Many states have Alternative Financing Programs that offer affordable loans, with flexible lending terms, helping people to purchase assistive technology and develop good credit. Some of the programs also offer refinancing options to reduce interest on AT purchased through various financing programs.
People who contact the Alternative Finance Programs are guided 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 learn more about assistive technology, visit NDI’s Assistive Technology Loan Program, or find an assistive technology loan program near you.