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TAP Bulletin - April 1995


OUTCOMES OF THE TECH ACT PROJECTS

In March 1995 the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR), U.S. Department of Education requested outcomes data on Tech Act projects from the RESNA Technical Assistance Project and the 55 Tech Act projects currently funded under the Technology-Related Assistance For Individuals With Disabilities Act of 1988, as amended. This issue of The TAP Bulletin shares some outcomes/successes/systems change results of the projects to date. It is important to note that the Tech Act Program is just six years old. Nine projects were funded in 1989; 14 in 1990; eight in 1991; 11 in 1992; ten in 1993; and three in 1994.

The Tech Act Projects As A Nation

The Tech Act projects were asked to review their files looking back over the last twelve months and to estimate the number of times they provided a variety of services. Here are the results.

Did you know, in the past 12 months, that more than 200,000 individuals with disabilities were helped to find assistive technology (AT)! Yes it's true! 201,833 people were assisted through Tech Act project information and referral services to find the AT they needed!

And, more than 130,000 individuals were taught through Tech Act project training services how to make the system work and get assistive technology to improve independence, education and employability. Primary ways individuals with disabilities are using AT include:

  • for personal care (50%);
  • for transportation (50%);
  • for employment (29%); and
  • for school (39%).

At least 97% of persons with disabilities who use assistive technology reported it to be useful.

Individuals with disabilities use assistive technology in other aspects of life such as:

  • for communication (32%);
  • for mobility (63%);
  • for hearing or seeing (33%); and
  • for reading or writing (42%).

Again, at least 97% of persons with disabilities who use assistive technology for these purposes reported it to be useful.

Over the past two years, consumers reported improvement in obtaining assistive technology services and devices in the following areas:

  • getting information and referrals (41%);
  • getting AT needs assessed (31%);
  • trying out or borrowing AT (27%);
  • getting help paying for AT (20%);
  • getting help learning how to use AT (26%); and
  • finding knowledgeable professionals (28%).

Other outcomes realized in the past 12 months as a result of the Tech Act include:

124,535 persons with disabilities and their family members received services from Tech Act project on:

  • how to obtain AT devices and services;
  • how to obtain funding;
  • where to go for additional information; and
  • how to ensure access to AT.

77,297 service providers working with persons with disabilities and their family members received services from Tech Act projects on:

  • how to obtain AT devices and services;
  • how to obtain funding;
  • where to go for additional information; and
  • how to ensure access to AT.

54,625 persons with disabilities and their family members received training from Tech Act projects on:

  • successful strategies to use in obtaining AT devices and services;
  • ways to decrease time in obtaining AT devices and services;
  • proven methods to access funding for AT devices and services;
  • ways to use AT devices and services to improve employability, increase self-sufficiency and independence, and improve access to schooling opportunities.

75,934 service providers working with persons with disabilities and their family members received training from Tech Act projects on:

  • successful strategies to use in obtaining AT devices and services;
  • ways to decrease time in obtaining AT devices and services;
  • proven methods to access funding for AT devices and services;
  • ways to use AT devices and services to improve employability, increase self-sufficiency and independence, and
  • improve access to schooling opportunities.

6,298 persons with disabilities were directly and instrumentally involved with Tech Act project staff in planning, implementing, and evaluating Tech Act activities. This involvement included serving as staff, serving as members of advisory boards, and serving as key consumer advisors.

25,699 persons with disabilities shared their views on AT activities in their states and territories as well as their views on access to, availability of, and funding for AT.

1,450 persons with disabilities and their family members were referred by Tech Act projects to Protection and Advocacy organizations in their state to obtain legal advocacy services and representation in gaining access to AT devices and services and funding for devices and services.

429 persons with disabilities were granted low-interest or no-interest loans to purchase assistive technology devices and services. The establishment of these loan programs was supported in part with Tech Act dollars.

$65,891 was loaned to 429 persons with disabilities in low-interest or no-interest loans to purchase assistive technology devices or services.

The National Consumer Survey: Outcomes Relating To Vocational Rehabilitation, Independent Living And Funding Sources

In 1991, the RESNA Technical Assistance Project developed a Consumer Survey and invited the states then funded under the Technology-Related Assistance for Individuals With Disabilities Act of 1988, to participate in a national data collection effort to find out more about how many consumers have assistive technology, usefulness of AT, how many consumers would still like to obtain AT, problems they encountered while trying to obtain AT and a host of other issues. Each year since 1991, RESNA has continued to invite the Tech Act projects to participate in this effort. Reported below is some of the data collected over the past four years on the Consumer Survey.

Total Number of Responses:



1991                   1992                          1993                     1994                          

1,941                  1,954                         3,767                    3,854                         

Respondents with physical disabilities:

1991                   1992                          1993                      1994                          

___                    67%                           64%                        67%

Respondents using assistive technology for mobility:

1991                   1992                          1993                      1994                          

59%                    67%                           62%                        63%

Assistive technology devices used to help do job:

             1991          1992           1993             1994

Not used:     77%           77%            75%              71%
Used but 
not helpful:   2%           ___             1%               1%
Used and 
helped some:   6%           13%            13%              11%
Used and 
helped alot:  15%           14%            15%              17%

Main way AT devices have been paid for:
                   1991             1992           1993        1994                                     
                                                                         
Loan program:           6%               4%              5%         4%
Private medical
insurance:             25%              22%             21%        20%
Medicaid:              __               21%             20%        22%
Vocational 
Rehab.:                25%              18%             20%        20%
Education:             11%              12%             12%        13%


Employees in competitive business (paid work outside home):

1991                   1992                    1993                 1994                          

___                     45%                     41%                  40%

The Road Ahead

Fifty-four percent of all people with disabilities still need assistive technology. Lack of funding is cited by 62 percent of these individuals as the main reason they do not have assistive technology. However, many simply do not know where to get assistance they need in obtaining assistive technology (23%) or determining what type of assistive technology they need (37%).

Additionally, many consumers reported on the problems they encountered when seeking assistive technology. These problems include:

  • obtaining copies of reports;
  • being treated with courtesy and respect;
  • getting prompt timely appointments;
  • getting calls or letters returned;
  • paperwork;
  • understanding professionals;
  • knowledgeable professionals; and
  • transportation.

The chart below shows the percentage of consumers who experienced the problem listed.

PROBLEMS ENCOUNTERED GETTING A.T.


Knowledgeable professionals    49%

Paperwork                     38%

Transportation                37%

Getting prompt 
timely appointments           35%

Understanding professionals   33%                         
                       
Getting calls or 
 letters returned             32%

Getting copies 
of reports                    30%                           
             
Being treated w/ courtesy 
  & respect                    26%

Interesting Facts and Figures

Alaska: The number of Alaska residents who received AT from the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) increased by 82% from FY92 to FY 94. AT expenditures increased by $110,315 or 34% from FY93 to FY94.

Illinois: The Illinois Department Of Rehabilitation Services (DORS) almost doubled the amount of funding spent in VR on AT from $1.5 million to more than $2.5 million per year. DORS also increased its budget for AT in its Home Services Program (state funded Medicaid Waiver program) by more than tenfold from $40,000 to $504,000 (with an overall budget increase of only 250%). Assistive technology is used to offset the need for personal assistance.

Indiana: In 1993 over 3,200 adults received some type of AT device or service. The average cost per case was $1,170 with a range between $5 and $41,295.

Minnesota: Over 30,000 rural Minnesotans with disabilities have had access to AT design, fitting, prescription, training, and follow-up as a result of the STAR Program's mobile outreach program.

Mississippi: The Mississippi START Project led CHAMPUS (military insurance) to change its policy to purchase augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) devices for dependents of retirees. START also assisted in getting Blue Cross/Blue Shield to agree to pay a percentage of AAC costs.

New Jersey: The New Jersey Technology Assistive Resource Program's equipment recycling center, better known as Back In Action (BIA), has matched 64 items of used equipment with consumers and/or agencies in the eighteen months of its existence. Ninety percent of these items were available at a very low cost.

Tennessee: VR fiscal personnel have reduced the waiting time for purchase of AT devices by granting direct purchase power to VR counselors for items under $1000.

Wisconsin: There has been approximately a 60% increase in the number of consumers using AT since WisTech established regional centers in the Centers for Independent Living.

What Is An Outcome?

outcome: -n. A natural result; consequence.¹

An outcome is something that can and should be measured.

Outcomes are change oriented and should include words such as "increased" or "decreased" or "became more accessible" or "became less complex."

Outcomes are not activities! Creation of an I & R system is an activity designed to accomplish the goal of increased information. Funding demonstration centers is an activity designed to increase knowledge about the efficacy of AT.

Outcomes should be replicable and transportable. Since all states under the amended Tech Act must perform seven priority activities, there should be a degree of replicability that goes from year to year in a state and transportability or similarity across states.

Footnote 1: The American Heritage Dictionary, (Houghton Mifflin, 1987), Microsoft Bookshelf 1992, s.v. "out come."


The RESNA Technical Assistance Project (#HN92031001) is funded by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR), U.S. Department of Education (ED) under the Technology-Related Assistance for Individuals with Disabilities Act Amendments of 1994. The information contained herein does not necessarily reflect the position or policy of NIDRR/ED or RESNA and no official endorsement of the material should be inferred.