Review: Financing Assistive Technology (A Bimonthly Newsletter)Smiling Interface
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The focus of this newsletter addresses a concern of consumers, service-providers, and public policy makers: How can assistive technology be funded? The first issue not only examines one possibility of funding, but shows promise of exploring the topic in depth in subsequent issues.
The newsletter is broken down into five sections:
- Editor's Welcome
- Feature: Reauthorized Tech Act Provides Funding as a priority
- Program Focus: What Does a Technology Funding Specialist Do?
- Reviews: Books and Directories on Funding
- Small Business Corner: The Disabled Access Credit: A Tool for Lowering the Cost of Assistive Technology
In this section, Mr. Mendelsohn sets the foundation of the newsletter by establishing its goal: "...to enhance the level and utilization of resources to pay for assistive technology that so many Americans want and need." The methods used to achieve this goal are: to provide information on assistive technology funding resources, to offer a vehicle for the sharing of experiences, to establish a venue for discussing and marshalling proposals for making technology more affordable and accessible.
The importance of technology in employment, education, and personal life is discussed, but Mr. Mendelsohn states that technology remains illusory for far too many people. He continues by stating that living with a disability costs more than living without a disability, and this is evidenced in technology. Two reasons are given for this:
Sometimes technology is needed to perform tasks which normally don't require it. In other activities, technology may be needed for anyone to perform the task, but people with disabilities require assistive peripherals in order to access the original technology.
Mr. Mendelsohn concludes by stating that efforts to increase the availability of assistive technology make good sense for businesses who need customers and employees, good sense for government that seeks to reduce dependency, good sense for every institution from every point of view.
Mr. Mendelsohn ends this section by providing his credentials for editing such a newsletter. These include a decade of research and advocacy for assistive technology funding, a book published in 1987 (_Financing Adaptive Technology: a Guide to Sources and Strategies for Blind and Visually Impaired Users_), and his new book (_Tax Options and Strategies for People with Disabilities_). He concludes by stating that as an attorney, as an individual with a disability, and as a citizen, he can bring perspective and commitment to his role as editor.
FEATURE: REAUTHORIZED TECH ACT INCLUDES FUNDING AS PRIORITY
This article begins by stating that on March 9, 1994, the President signed into law the Technology-Related Assistance for Individuals with Disabilities Act Amendments which will be extended through September 1998. Mr. Mendelsohn states that in the area of assistive technology this means many of the original positive programs can be retained, and some features worth knowing about have been added. He then moves in to the background of the original Act.
According to the author, the Tech Act was the first major federal legislation to specifically address assistive technology as a topic worthy of Federal attention and financial support in its own right. He discusses Title I which authorizes grants to states to operate statewide programs of "Technology-Related Assistance."
Title II of the Act provides authorization for programs of national significance. These programs are not operated through states, but are implemented by grants, contracts, or other agreements between the federal government and various entities. Mr. Mendelsohn notes the productive studies which have been conducted with Title II funds, and comments on the excellence of the March 1993 "Study On The Financing Of Assistive Technology Devices And Services For Individuals With Disabilities."
He points out how Title I is not a direct-service program like Vocational Rehabilitation, or an Entitlement program such as Medical Assistance. Even if a state wanted to spend the bulk of its funds on equipment purchases or services delivery, Mr. Mendelsohn shows how with a limited annual allotment of funds-- ranging from $500,000 to $1.5 million, states would be able to do little.
According to Mr. Mendelsohn, the Amendments of 1994 were implemented by Congress because despite states' efforts, there is still a lack of resources to pay for assistive technology. He then discusses some of the programs states might implement with the funds: demonstration centers, information centers, short-term loans, and redistribution centers.
He discusses advocacy, and takes an in-depth look at redistribution as an option. He discusses "universal design" and shows how mainstream technology should take the responsibility of adapting equipment for "all" potential users thereby reducing the need for assistive technology.
Mr. Mendelsohn points out that Title III is called "Alternative Funding Mechanisms" and its name should portray the potential importance of this Section. He explores Title III in depth, discussing its duration, dollar amount limit, and goals.
He concludes by commenting "Even in this era of budget stringency, the Tech Act, as is possible with small but highly visible and effective discretionary programs, has witnessed a steady increase in appropriations levels, to the point that total authorized expenditures for FY 1994 have risen above 50 million."
PROGRAM FOCUS: WHAT A TECHNOLOGY FUNDING SPECIALIST DOES AND HOW CONSUMERS CAN BENEFIT
This is an interesting interview with Pat Ourand, Technology Funding Specialist for the Maryland Technology Assistance Program (MD TAP). The interview begins with how Ms. Ourand became interested in Technology Funding, and continues by discussing the MD TAP. The discussion then moves to the job duties of a Technology Funding Specialist.
The interview is well done, and the knowledge that all states except Arizona have Technology Funding Programs give consumers a starting point. The RESNA telephone number is also listed so that consumers can find out who manages the Technology Program in their state.
In this premier issue, a bibliography of work underway in the technology area is provided in lieu of book reviews.
SMALL BUSINESS CORNER: THE DISABLED ACCESS CREDIT CAN REDUCE THE COST OF ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY FOR SMALL BUSINESS
The information in this article was taken from the Editor's new book, _Tax Options and Strategies for People with Disabilities_. The article is well written, and can be an excellent tool for individuals with disabilities who are promoting access in buildings and job accommodations. The article defines what a "small business" is, and the dollar amount which can be deducted. The question and answer format makes it easy to follow, and would be easy to reference for quick access to the information.
This newsletter shows much promise as a reference tool for businesses, individuals, and agencies. Although the focus seems to be a little heavy on the legal side, the outlined article prospects for the coming year include a more rounded menu. A variety of authors would assist in giving each morsel of information a different flavor, but it is difficult to be too critical of the "first" issue.