Research shows that funding is one of the biggest obstacles to the acquisition of assistive technology for children with disabilities (Judge, 20003). For this reason, it is important that parents and professionals work together collaboratively to explore all possible funding options. Some of these options are described below.
Under Part B of IDEA, assistive technology must be provided by the school district at no cost to the family, if it is identified as part of a child's IEP (34CFR§ 300.105).
Under Part C, if assistive technology is identified as part of a child's IFSP, it must be provided at no cost (34CFR §303.13), unless subject to §303.520 and §303.521, where Federal or State law provides for a system of payments by families, including a schedule of sliding fees. Federal regulations also state that Part C programs are "payers of last resort" (34CFR §303.510), which means that Part C dollars may not be used to pay for early intervention services that would otherwise have been paid for from another public or private source. No eligible child can be denied an assistive technology device or service because of a family's inability to pay.
Many private insurance policies will pay for AT services and devices that are deemed medically necessary and prescribed by the child's physician. The use of medical insurance to fund assistive technology must be voluntary on the part of families and must not result in any cost to the family. Excerpts from the following policy letters clarify this subject.
Medicaid is a jointly funded Federal-State medical insurance program for certain individuals and families with low incomes and resources. Medically necessary assistive technology services are covered under Federal Medicaid law, and assistive technology devices that are considered durable medical equipment are often covered under a state's Medicaid regulations. Each state develops its own regulations, within broad national guidelines, and therefore the services covered may vary from state to state. Information about State Medicaid Programs is available online.
The Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnosis and Treatment (EPSDT) program is a required component of State Medicaid programs. This program requires states to provide eligible children, from birth through age 21, any service listed in the Medicaid Act, even if it is not included in that state's Medicaid plan. This can be an important source of funding for assistive technology that may not otherwise be covered by a state's regular Medicaid program.
Many states have loan programs funded under the Assistive Technology Act of 2004. These programs provide low interest loans with long repayment schedules for qualifying individuals. For more information, the Rehabilitation Engineering And Assistive Technology Society Of North America (RESNA) has a contact list of State AT Programs on its Web site.
Assistive Technology (AT) reutilization is another option for obtaining assistive technology. The Pass It On Center: A National Collaboration for the Reutilization and Coordination of Assistive Technology maintains a national database of AT reuse programs in the U.S. to help more people with disabilities aquire reused AT across the country.
Some organizations such as the Lions, Sertoma, Masons or Kiwanis Clubs, National Easter Seal Society, Muscular Dystrophy Association, United Way, United Cerebral Palsy Association and March of Dimes may provide funding for assistive technology. Financial Aid for Persons with Disabilities and Their Families, by Gail A. Schlachter and R. David Weber, is a directory that lists a large number of financial aid opportunities. Indexes for searching the directory by program title, sponsoring organization, geographic coverage, subject field, and application deadline are included. The directory is available at many public and academic libraries.
See also, our list of selected articles on AT and Funding Issues