An assistive technology device is any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially, off-the-shelf, modified, or customized that is used to increase, maintain, or improve a person’s functional capabilities. These devices may be as simple as reading glasses or as complex as a speaking personal computer. An assistive technology service is any service that helps an individual select, acquire, or learn to use an assistive technology device. These services include customizing, adapting, maintaining, and repairing devices, assistive technology evaluations, funding, and technical assistance and training on device use.
People with disabilities can turn to many funding sources, both public and private, to help pay for assistive technology devices and services. Success in finding funding sources is often directly related to your persistence, attention to detail, and knowledge of the bureaucratic process.
Steps to Funding
- Get an assessment. Many funding sources require documented proof of your need for the equipment or services you are requesting. An appropriately certified professional such as a doctor or therapist can provide this. They can also help determine which particular devices and services are right.
- Keep accurate records. Write down any disability-related services you receive. Keep copies of all documents related to your disability. Also, make sure you keep records of all phone conversations and contacts.
- Know the main purpose of the device you need. Is it a medical necessity, a tool for education, or a way to hold a job? The answer to this question will help you determine the best funding source.
- File your application as soon as possible. If you think you are eligible for services from a program, contact the agency’s local office to start the application process.
- Provide complete information. Gather all the necessary information in detail. Answer questions directly and completely. Use the same terms given in explanations and questions to save time and get a quicker response.
- Keep close attention to the progress of your application. Follow up with phone calls to make sure your application is given prompt attention.
- Don’t hesitate to ask questions along the way. When you are in doubt about something, have your question answered before you go further.
- Encourage communication between agencies. If you find yourself talking to representatives from different agencies, ask them to talk directly to each other to find out where different policies and procedures can be used to your benefit.
- If your request is denied, find out why. You should strongly consider appealing a negative decision and providing all additional information or making necessary changes to the application.
Funding Options back to top
Private insurance plans and policies often do not contain information about exactly what technology and services are covered, but this does not mean that the company will not pay for all or part of a device or service. Sometimes it is important to show that the assistive technology will improve your condition. Approach your private insurance company first; other funding sources may require a rejection from your insurance company.
Medicaid is a joint federal/state program that pays for medical and health care services to people with low income. Assistive technology devices must respond specifically to medical problems and be prescribed by a physician. If private insurance covers a medical service, Medicaid will not pay for those services. Most assistive technology devices are funded under “Durable Medical Equipment” or "Prosthetics" categories. Most assistive technology services are funded under the “Therapy” category. You need prior authorization from a Medicaid provider before purchasing a device or receiving a service through that provider.
Medicare is available to people over age 65 and people with disabilities under age 65 who have been entitled to receive Social Security disability benefits for 24 months. The scope of coverage for devices is limited. Durable medical equipment and services must be used at home, be medically necessary, and be prescribed by a doctor.
School districts may purchase technology devices for your child. If a school district purchases equipment, then it is owned by the district. If your child is eligible for Medicaid, you should notify your Special Education Coordinator. Contact your school district or the Department of Education for more information.
Children’s Rehabilitative Services (CRS), under the Department of Health and Environmental Control, also provides evaluation, treatment and services (which may include medical assistive devices) for clients up to the age of 21 who have chronic disabilities or certain diseases. Applications for the program can be completed at any county health department throughout the states
State agencies such as the Vocational Rehabilitation Department (VRD), the Commission for the Blind, and the Department of Disabilities and Special Needs, may offer services and pay for devices. Call to see if you are eligible for their services. The Disability Action Center provides assistive technology services including counseling and information on equipment and funding sources, independent living skills training, and advocacy.
back to top