Academic journal article The Journal of Rehabilitation

State-Wide Planning for Access to Technology Applications for Individuals with Disabilities

Academic journal article The Journal of Rehabilitation

State-Wide Planning for Access to Technology Applications for Individuals with Disabilities

Article excerpt

Technology offers the potential to improve the quality of life for all who have access to it. This is especially true for people who have lost some functional ability due to disease or trauma. Unfortunately, access to technology is limited for many persons. Recognizing both the potential of this technology, as well as problems with access, new federal legislation, P.L. 100-407, has been enacted that encourages state level technology initiatives. This paper describes the state level planning activities in New York between 1987 and 1989, prior to the passage of P.L. 100-407, and provides an analysis of problems and successes with the process.

One of the greatest opportunities that the advancement of technology offers to people with disabilities is improved independence and an increased standard of living. Through the assistance of a variety of existing and newly emerging technologies, persons with disabilities are able to undertake tasks which had previously been beyond their means. Being able to perform these tasks opens opportunities for gainful employment and personal fulfillment. The existence of special technology, however, does not guarantee its availability to those who need it. " (New York State Governor's Task Force on Computing and Disabilities, 1987, p. iv)

"I..speak to people using a speech synthesizer.. The synthesizer and a s 11 personal computer were mounted on my wheelchair... The system has made all the difference. In fact I can communicate better now than before I lost my voice. (Hawking, 1988, p. vii-viii)


Value of Technology

Technology has had a major impact on the quality of life for many persons with disabilities. Through technology many persons can work in jobs that would have been impossible just a decade ago. Students can attend school with much greater ease. However, not everyone who could use this technology has enjoyed its benefits. Access to this technology is often difficult. Many of the problems associated with access to technology can only be solved through coordination of activities among service providers, technology developers and retailers, third party payers, and consumers. With the passage of P.L. 100-407, the Technology-Related Assistance for Individuals with Disabilities Act of 1988, virtually every state will institute a planning process within the next few years, if one is not already in place. This paper will describe the process for planning technology access that has been used in New York, and will analyze both problems and successes with this process.


Service Delivery Models

A major problem with access to technology is the lack of a clear service delivery model. This is understandable, as the introduction of these revolutionary tools has occurred just within the last decade, and there is a very large range of applications of this technology- across disability categories and across age groups. What has developed is a mix of models for technology service delivery- none without limitations. The most simple model could be called the "Consumer Purchase" model. The person with a disability, or a family member, hears about a device, purchases it, often from a catalog, and the device or software is put into use. This may be the least expensive model relative to initial purchase cost, but often it turns out to be the most expensive model. Purchases are made that do not work, are not appropriate, are not compatible with other equipment, or that require additional installation, service, or training that is often not available.

A second model is to provide technology through well established rehabilitation facilities. Following the medical model, these rehabilitation programs prescribe technology in much the same way medicine is prescribed. Compliance rates for low technology assistive devices prescribed in hospitals are typically low, and usage or compliance rates may also be low for more high technology solutions prescribed outside of the home and community environment. …

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