Association of Assistive Technology Act Programs History of the Assistive Technology Act




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Association of Assistive Technology Act Programs

History of the Assistive Technology Act

State Assistive Technology Act Programs : General Background

State AT Programs were originally established under the Technology-Related Assistance Act of 1988 (Tech Act) P.L. 100-407


  • States competed for funds and it took until 1995 to fund all states and US territories.

  • The Tech Act was initially authorized as funding for states to conduct needs assessments and develop and implement a consumer responsive system of technology-related assistance based on their states needs. The subsequent authorization in 1994 focused on systems change activities to increase access to the full range of assistive technology (low technology such as vision magnifiers to high technology such as power wheelchairs).

  • The 1988 and 1994 laws contained a sunset provision such that funding for state grants would cease after designated period. AT Programs were authorized to receive 10 years of funding with states being required to take a 25% reduction in their grant award in their 9th year and a 50% reduction in their 10th year. After the 10 years programs were eligible for continuation for 3 years at a level equal to what they received in their 10th year.

  • Since their inception, State AT Programs have been required to serve all people with all types of disabilities, of all ages, in all environments (early intervention, K-12, post-secondary, vocational rehabilitation, community living, aging services, etc.)

  • Programs are also required to serve family members, service providers, educators, therapists, employers, health and rehabilitation professionals, AT vendors, procurement officials, etc.

  • Programs are currently operating on 30% less than funds than they received at their highest funding level. Grant award amounts are not consistent across states, nor do they reflect population or other formulary factors.

The Act was reauthorized in 1994, 1998 and 2004. With each reauthorization, the program requirements changed significantly from providing needs assessment and direct services, to a primary focus on systems change advocacy activities, to direct services and coordination. In 1998, the Technology-Related Assistance Act was repealed and the Assistive Technology Act was authorized as the Assistive Technology Act (AT Act)


2004 Amendments to the AT Act of 1998 (P.L.108-364)

The AT Act of 1998 was reauthorized in 2004, unanimously endorsed by the House and Senate and signed into law by President Bush.



  • The 2004 amendments to the AT Act again made significant program changes and requirements.

  • All 56 states and US territories continue to be funded under the Act.

  • Focus of the AT Act is to improve access and acquisition of assistive technology.

  • The Act also requires a core set of program services to increase program consistency across the nation.

  • The requirement to serve people with all types of disabilities, all ages, in all environments (school, work, home, leisure), has remained.

  • AT Act authorizes a minimum award of $410,000 for state grants programs. However, 20% of the Statewide AT Programs funded under the AT Act receive a grant awards below the minimum provided under the statute ($410,000 for states and $125,000 for territories). Over 50% (27) of the state programs, not including the territories, are funded at less than $450,000 annually to provide the continuum of required services.


1988: Technology-Related Assistance Act of 1988 (P.L. 100-407)
Purpose: To provide financial assistance to the States to help each State to develop and implement a consumer-responsive statewide program of technology related assistance for individuals with disabilities designed to …
Sections:

  • Title I: Grants to States

  • Title II: Programs of National Significance

    • Part A: Study by National Council on the Handicapped on Financing of AT

    • Part B: National Information & Referral Network

    • Part C: Training & Public Awareness Projects

    • Part D: Demonstration & innovation Projects

Section 102: Development Grants

  • 3 year grants to develop and implement statewide programs of technology-related assistance

    • 1st Year – not more than 10 grants

    • 2nd year- not more than 20 grants

    • Competitive basis to award grants

Section 103: Extension Grants

    • 2 year grant

Authorized Activities Under Section 101:

    • Model Delivery Systems

    • Statewide Needs Assessments

      • Allows for needs assessment of Alternate Finance Systems

    • Support Groups

    • Public awareness Programs

    • Training & technical Assistance

    • Access to technology-related Information

    • Interstate Agreements

    • Other Activities

Funding of AT Programs:

    • 1989: 9 state grants awarded

    • 1990:14 state grants awarded

    • 1991: 8 state grants awarded

    • 1992: 11 state grants awarded

    • 1993: 9 state grants awarded

    • 51 Total Grant Awards received by US states & territories under P.L. 100-407



1994: Technology Related Assistance Act of 1988, Amendments of 1994 (P.L. 103-218)

Purpose: The purposes of this program are to provide financial assistance to States to support systems change and advocacy activities designed to assist each State in developing and implementing a consumer-responsive comprehensive statewide program of technology-related assistance, for individuals with disabilities of all ages, that is designed to--

Sections

  • Title I: Grants to States

  • Title II: Programs of National Significance

  • Title III: Alternative Finance Programs

Types of Awards to States:

  • 3 year development grants to assist States in developing and implementing consumer- responsive comprehensive statewide programs

  • May award an initial two-year extension grant

  • Amendment to allow states to be awarded a second extension grant, for a period of not more than 5years. In the 4th year of the 2nd extension state the AT Programs grant award was reduced by 25%; in the 5th year of the 2nd extension the grant award was reduced b 50% of the amount received the 3rd year of the 2nd extension. No federal funds would be available after the 5th year of the 2nd extension.


1994: Title I: Grants to States

Authorized Activities:

Title I: Any State that receives a development or extension grant shall use the funds made available through the grant to accomplish the purposes and may carry out any of the following systems change and advocacy activities:

(1) Model Systems & Alternative State-Financed Systems: Support activities to increase access to, and funding for, assistive technology, including—

(A) The development, and evaluation of the efficacy, of model delivery systems that provide assistive technology devices and assistive technology services to individuals with disabilities, that pay for devices and services, and that, if successful, could be replicated or generally applied, such as

(i) The development of systems for the purchase, lease, other acquisition, or payment for the provision, of assistive technology devices and assistive technology services; or

(ii) The establishment of alternative State or privately financed systems of subsidies for the provision of assistive technology devices and assistive technology services, such as

(A) A loan system for assistive technology devices;

(B) An income-contingent loan fund;

(C) A low interest loan fund;

(D) A revolving loan fund;

(E) A loan insurance program; or

(F) A partnership with private entities for the purchase, lease, or other acquisition of assistive technology devices and the provision of assistive technology services;

(B) The demonstration of assistive technology devices, including—

(i) The provision of a location or locations within the State where the following individuals can see and touch assistive technology devices, and learn about the devices from personnel who are familiar with such devices and their applications:

(ii) The provision of counseling and assistance to individuals with disabilities and their family members, guardians, …; and

(iii) The demonstration or short-term loan of assistive technology devices to individuals, …); and

(C) The establishment of information systems about, and recycling centers for, the redistribution of assistive technology devices and equipment that may include device and equipment loans, rentals, or gifts.

(2) Interagency Coordination

(A) Identify and coordinate Federal and State policies, resources, and services,..;

(B) Convene interagency work groups to enhance public funding options and coordinate access to funding for assistive technology devices and assistive technology services…

(C) Document and disseminate information about interagency activities …

(3) Outreach:
Funding of AT Programs


  • 1994: 4 state grants awarded

  • 1995: 1 state grants awarded

  • 1989-1995 to fund all Statewide 56 Statewide AT Programs

  • The first round of states funded under the AT were subject to the statutorily required reductions in 1997


Notes:

  • As part of authorized activities under Title I, State AT Programs States were allowed to establish and support the establishment of alternative State or privately financed systems of subsidies for the provision of assistive technology devices and assistive technology services in addition to activities related to Device Demo, Loan, Reuse, Coordination, etc.

  • At least 11 State AT Programs established financial loans programs allowable under Title I Section 101(b) (1)(A) (i) and (ii). Several states continue to fund their loan programs with Section 4 AT Act dollars and/or state funds. Several states have developed other alternate funding mechanisms as allowed under the Act. To date, 14 states report having a financial loan program that is funded with state AT Act dollars and/or state funding.

  • The 1994 law also established Title III which replicated some of the allowable alternate financing mechanisms as contained in Title I

  • The 1994 law included a definition of consumer-responsive and specifically required Title III programs to provide a description of the degree to which the alternative financing mechanism funded under section 301 will expand and emphasize consumer choice and control.

  • AT Act Programs were subject to statutorily required reductions in funding based on sunset provision in Tech Act. As reductions in the grant awards were implemented funds were used to support other AT programs and ultimately Title III.

  • The 1994 statute authorized $8 million to carry out activities under Title III (including technical assistance). No appropriations were made for Title III until 2000.



1994: Title III: Alternative Financing Mechanisms

Technology Related Assistance Act of 1988, Amendments of 1994 (P.L. 103-218)

Note: 1994 law amended the Tech Act of 1988 by adding specifics for Title III

Title III requires the Secretary of Education to award grants to states and outlying areas to pay for the federal share of the cost of the establishment and administration of, or the expansion and administration of, specified types of alternative financing systems for assistive technology for people with disabilities. The alternative funding mechanisms may include the following:



  • A low-interest loan fund.

  • An interest buy-down program.

  • A revolving loan fund.

  • A loan guarantee or insurance program.

  • A program operated by a partnership among private entities for the purchase, lease, or other acquisition of assistive technology devices or services.

  • Another mechanism that meets the requirements of this title and is approved by the Secretary.


1998: Assistive Technology Act of 1998 (P.L. 105-394)

Purpose: The purposes of this Act are to provide financial assistance to States to undertake activities that assist each State in maintaining and strengthening a permanent comprehensive statewide program of technology-related assistance, for individuals with disabilities of all ages,

Sections

  • TITLE I—State Grant Programs

  • TITLE II—National Activities

  • TITLE III—Alternative Financing Mechanisms

  • TITLE IV—Repeal and Conforming Amendments: repealed the Tech Act


Sec. 101. Continuity Grants For States

(1) IN GENERAL. The Secretary shall award grants, in accordance with this section, to eligible States to support capacity building and advocacy activities, designed to assist the States in maintaining permanent comprehensive statewide programs of technology-related assistance ..

((2) REQUIRED ACTIVITIES.

(A) Public Awareness Program

(B) Interagency Coordination

(C) Technical Assistance & Training

(D) Outreach

(3) Discretionary Activities

(A) Alternative State-Financed Systems —The State may support activities to increase access to, and funding for, assistive technology devices and assistive technology services, including—(i) the development of systems that provide assistive technology devices and assistive technology services to individuals with disabilities of all ages, and that pay for such devices and services, such as—(I) the development of systems for the purchase, lease, other acquisition, or payment for the provision, of assistive technology devices and assistive technology services; or(II) the establishment of alternative State or privately financed systems of subsidies for the provision of assistive technology devices and assistive technology services, such as—

(aa) a low-interest loan fund;

(bb) an interest buy-down program;

(cc) a revolving loan fund;

(dd) a loan guarantee or insurance program;

(ee) a program operated by a partnership among private entities for the purchase, lease, or other acquisition of assistive technology devices or assistive technology services; or

(ff) another mechanism that meets the requirements of title III and is approved by the Secretary;(ii) the short-term loan of assistive technology devices to individuals, employers, public agencies, or public accommodations seeking strategies to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (42U.S.C. 12101 et seq.) and section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (29 U.S.C. 794); or(iii) the maintenance of information about, and recycling centers for, the redistribution of assistive technology devices and equipment, which may include redistribution through device and equipment loans, rentals, or gifts.

(B) Demonstrations

(C) Options For Securing Devices And Services —The State, through public agencies or nonprofit organizations, may support assistance to individuals with disabilities and their family members, guardians, advocates, and authorized representatives about options for securing assistive technology devices and assistive technology services that would meet individual needs for such assistive technology devices and assistive technology services. Such assistance shall not include direct payment for an assistive technology device.

(D) Technology-Related Information.—

(E) Interstate Activities

(F) Partnerships & Cooperative Initiatives.—

(H) Advocacy Services
Notes:


  • AT Act of 1998 provided extension funding for AT Programs. Programs not allowed to receive an extension grant after September 30, 2004

  • Consistent with 1994 provisions, grants awarded under Title III required the following: no state may receive more than one (1) grant under Title III; cash state match (federal share not allowed to exceed 50 % in 1994 & 1998); assurance of permanency; assurance that funds would be used to supplement and not supplant other Federal, State and local public funds expended to provide alternative financing mechanisms; structure of operations (including, but not limited to, separate accounts, contract with community-based organization, expand and emphasize consumer choice and control)

  • The 1998 law required that a state that receives a grant under Title III and any community-based organization that enters into a contract with the state under this Title, shall develop and submit to the Secretary, policies or procedures including a procedure to assure consumer-controlled oversight of the program

  • Initial funding for Title III’s AFPs was in FY 2000 (6 AFPs funded); 14 in 2001; 26 in 2003; 7 in 2005; 4 in 2006



2004: Assistive Technology Act of 1998, as amended in 2004 (P.L. 108-364)

Background

  • In preparation for reauthorization, Senate convened multiple stake holders (representing AT Programs, AFPs, P&A, Easter Seals, UCP, ATIA, mainstream technology advocates, IT Accessibility advocates, etc.) to provide input on reauthorization of the AT Act.

  • Workgroups established on device demo, loan, equipment reuse and exchange, financial loan.

  • Documents prepared by CCD on

    • Reuse: http://www.c-c-d.org/task_forces/tech_telecom/equipexchange.htm

    • Short-term loan programs: http://www.c-c-d.org/task_forces/tech_telecom/STequiploan.htm

    • Financial loan Programs: http://www.c-c-d.org/task_forces/tech_telecom/loanprog.htm

  • Excerpt from CCD Document on Financial Loan Programs

1.  States are not easily able to acquire "match" funds to start an AFP.

Title III requires that states match one dollar for every three dollars provided by the federal grant.  AFP advocates typically approach their state legislatures or state agencies for match funds.  Most states are currently experiencing large budget deficits, so this requirement is potentially difficult for states to meet.  The difficulty securing match can be seen in the FY 2001 grant competition where $15 million was appropriated and available for state grants, but only $13,633,286 was awarded.  States were not able to raise the required match funds to receive the additional funds.  During the last grant competition, one third of the state grantees did not have the cash mach in-hand at the start of their grants October 1, 2003.  Instead they are relying on acquiring their match funds by the date they need to obligate the funds, which is September 30, 2004.

 


  1. Too small a loan program is not financially sustainable over a long period of time.

The amount of funds needed to start and maintain a loan program is critical in order for the program to be self-sufficient (fully self-financed).  There is an expectation under Title III that the alternative funding programs become sustainable and remain in operation for many years.  For a loan program to be sustainable, its income must exceed its expenses.  Income from these loan programs is derived from several sources:  interest from loans and un-disbursed funds, fees, from loan fund capital, etc.  Expenses include personnel, rent, marketing, loan loss reserves.  A loan program that does not have much capital does not generate much interest income from its investments and therefore cannot recover its costs.  If a loan program has a small match and receives a small federal grant, it cannot become self sufficient.  It may be better for a state to wait until it has a large enough match and funding reserve to create a large enough program that can sustain itself, than create a small program that is under-funded right from the start and stays that way until it runs out of funds.

 

3.  A loan program meets the needs of only a segment of the population of people with disabilities.



Loan programs, even low-interest loan programs designed for people with moderate and low incomes, do not reach all people with disabilities.  These loan programs are for a niche market composed of a certain set of people with disabilities who can afford to pay back a loan.  However there are still many people with disabilities who will never be able to afford a loan.   Other funding sources are more appropriate for some consumers.  These include grants, equipment lending libraries, and reuse programs.

 

4.  An effective loan program requires special partnerships to be formed. These partnerships cannot be forced.



Effective AT loan programs should have strong consumer control and direction, one or more willing lending partners and a strong community based champion in the state with a vision for the loan program.  If these components are not available, a quality program cannot be developed.

 

5.  AT loans should be part of a larger strategy to provide loans to benefit people with disabilities.



Loan programs for assistive technology need to be seen within a broader context of loan programs to benefit people with disabilities.  Assistive technology is an essential part of an individual’s life.  Currently these loan programs are limited to that purpose only.  The need exists for individuals with disabilities to have access to home loans, regular vehicle loans, etc.  Loans could also be given to businesses that wish to make their offices and shops accessible for people with disabilities, or to individuals seeking self employment.  The limitation of loans exclusively for assistive technology restricts what is possible to meet the whole life needs of the individual.

 

Also, the various departments of the federal government have varying ability to allow grantees to grow and leverage investment funds to create larger capacity.  The Department of Education has several restrictions on what grantees can do with funds they receive.  They are not allowed to invest funds to create larger capacity, or to pursue fundraising activities with program funds.  Other Departments, such as Economic Development are able to do this in such a way that the funds are leveraged to their maximum capability.



 
Assistive Technology Act of 1998, as amended in 2004

October 2004, Congress adopted the 2004 amendments



State AT Program Components & Requirements: 2004 Amendments

State Level Activities:


  • At least 60 percent of the funds received by each state AT program must support the following activities:

    • State Financing Activities (includes, but not limited to, financial loan programs which were previously an allowable and funded activity under both Title I: Grants to States and Title III: Alternative Financing Mechanisms of the AT Act)

    • Device Reutilization Programs

    • Device Loan Programs

    • Device Demonstration Programs

State Leadership Activities:

  • A maximum of 40 percent of the State’s federal allocation can be used for the following required activities

    • Training and Technical Assistance

      • General awareness

      • Skills-development training

      • Use and application training

      • Assessment and implementation training


Special Rule For Fiscal Year 2005.

The 2004 authorization contained a special rule that allowed if the amount of funds appropriated was greater than the base year amount, the Secretary could award grants on a competitive basis for periods of 1 year to States or outlying areas in accordance with the requirements of title III of the AT Act (as in effect before the enactment of the Assistive Technology Act of 2004). Appropriations were made available in FY 2005 and FY 2006.


In 2007 Congress passed a Continuing Resolution which funded programs under the Assistive Technology (AT) Act for FY 2007 at the FY 2006 level.  In response to the CR, Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) published a Notice of Proposed Priority for awarding grants under Title III in effect before enactment of the 2004 amendments.  The appropriation for Title III grants was rescinded based on language in another bill and funds were shifted to the statewide AT programs.
Appropriations in subsequent years have only funded Sections 4: State Grants for Assistive Technology; Section 5:State grants for protection and advocacy and technical assistance, data collection and the national internet site in Section 6.

July 2009






The National Organization Representing State Assistive Technology Act Programs

PO Box 32 ♦ Delmar, NY 12054



518.439.1263 (voice/TTY) ♦ http://www.ataporg.org ♦ 518.439.3451 (fax)




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