Funding support programs for buying assistive devices for persons with a visual impairment vary from one geographical jurisdiction to another.
Where I live in Ontario, Canada, for example, a person who needs an assistive device can obtain government funding for 75% of the costs of purchasing such a device, and even more if they are on some form of social assistance. Other provinces have similar funding programs.
(READ MORE: Look at this white paper for additional funding resources for digital assistive wayfinding and navigation (DAWN) technologies.)
At the other extreme, the World Health Organization reports that “in many low-income and middle-income countries, only 5-15% of people who require assistive devices and technologies have access to them.”
In the United States, funding to support the purchase of assistive devices varies from state to state, as documented in the ATIA Funding Resources Guide. The Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America (RESNA) maintains a list of contacts for financing of assistive devices in each state and territory. Each jurisdiction has a different set of rules and regulations for who is eligible and the amount of money available.
The U.S. government supports the purchase of assistive devices for its employees with a disability through the Computer/Electronic Accommodations Program Technology & Evaluation Center (CAPTEC). Located in the Pentagon, it is a facility dedicated to helping federal employees with disabilities and wounded, ill, and injured service members find the best assistive technology (AT) solutions. It seems to be the only national program for funding assistive devices in the country.
There is a National Deaf-Blind Equipment Distribution Program (NDBEDP) pilot program for assistive devices. According to the website supporting this program,
“The idea behind the NDBEDP is that people with combined hearing and vision loss should have access to modern telecommunication tools (and the training necessary to use them) so that they can interact, communicate, use the internet and contribute more to their community. Access to these tools shouldn’t be seen as a luxury, but as a right. The program provides outreach, assessments, telecommunications technology and training free of charge to those who meet federal eligibility guidelines.”
The same sentiment applies to all persons with a disability – access to assistive devices “shouldn’t be seen as a luxury, but as a right.” But, in researching this topic, it became clear that even in advanced countries, there are significant differences among different states or provinces within the same country. In many cases, inadequate funding is a reality. Few countries have truly national programs for funding assistive devices for their citizens that need them.
Technology can be a wonderful thing, but if it is out of reach for many people because of costs, then its impact may be limited. Use the resources in this post to see if you would be able to get funding support for our latest assistive technology app, Cydalion.
(Photo credit: jeff_golden)