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TAP Bulletin - March 1995


NATIONAL ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY RESOURCES

Several federally funded projects and private disability-related organizations provide a host of services and information that relate to the provision of assistive technology. This edition of The TAP Bulletin covers a handful of these resources: Rehabilitation Engineering Research Centers; Research and Training Centers; Protection and Advocacy Systems; Regional Resource Centers; Independent Living Centers; Alliance for Technology Access Centers; ADA TACs; and Parent Training and Information Centers. The RESNA Technical Assistance Project hopes that the Tech Act assistive technology programs with collaborate with these projects, exchanging information and using them as resources as well as being a resource for them when appropriate.

Rehabilitation Engineering Research Centers

Sixteen Rehabilitation Engineering Research Centers (RERCs) are funded by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) to develop and test new engineering solutions to problems related to disabilities. RERCs conduct research and work to transfer the information gained on rehabilitation technologies into rehabilitation practice. Information is disseminated through articles, monographs, training curricula, and other publications.

Each of the 16 centers specializes in a unique area. For example in California, one RERC specializes in technology for the rehabilitation of children with orthopedic disabilities, another develops and evaluates new technology for people who are blind. In Delaware, one RERC specializes in augmentative communication, another in the use of robotics. In New York, there are three RERCs, one specializing in assistive technology for older persons with disabilities, another in assistive devices for hearing enhancement, and another in technology evaluation and transfer.

Other RERCs research includes:

  • modifications to worksites and educational settings (KS);
  • accessible and universal designs in housing (NC);
  • improvements to wheel chair mobility (PA);
  • rehabilitation technology services in vocational rehabilitation (SC);
  • personal licensed transportation (VA); and
  • adaptive computers and information systems (WI).

RERCs provide technical information on rehabilitation technology and some are co-located with programs that offer direct services to individual consumers. Thus they can be good referrals for Tech Act Projects' clients. RERCs are often in need of input from consumers on technology design and other issues so input from Tech Act Project consumer groups are welcome. For a list of all the RERCs, contact the RESNA TA Project, 1700 N. Moore Street, Suite 1540, Arlington, VA 22209. Telephone: 703/524-6686 (Voice), 703/524-6639 (TTY), 703/524-6630 (Fax).

Research and Training Centers

Almost 50 Research and Training Centers (RTCs) are funded by NIDRR to conduct research and institute training programs to disseminate research findings. Dissemination activities include conferences, training materials, newsletters, and monographs, among others. They also work to attract new professionals to research and service via training.

RTCs specialize in various areas:

  • enhancing employability (AR);
  • collecting disability statistics (CA);
  • aging with a disability (CA);
  • rural rehabilitation services (MT);
  • blindness and low vision (MS);
  • spinal cord injury (AL, TX, CO);
  • the effectiveness of independent living services for the underserved (KS);
  • promoting placement of persons with disabilities (MA);
  • improving the quality of life for American Indians with disabilities (AZ); and
  • determining how to reach underserved persons who are deaf (IL).

A national clearinghouse for information on adults with learning disabilities is housed in a Georgia RTC.

For more information, check the NIDRR Program Directory or contact NIDRR, U.S. Department of Education, 600 Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, DC 20202-2572. Telephone: 202/205-8134 (Voice), 202/205-5516 or 202/205-5479 (TDD), 202/205-8515 (Fax).

Protection and Advocacy Systems

Each state has a federally mandated protection and advocacy system (P&A) to protect the rights of persons with disabilities. Advocacy for assistive technology devices and services is a new component that has been added to these systems when the Tech Act was amended in 1994. Tech Act projects subcontract with their state P&A to support protection and advocacy services. These services include legal representation of individuals with disabilities in cases regarding funding of and access to assistive technology, as well as training of individuals in advocacy for assistive technology devices and services.

Some areas that P&As might address include insurance funding restrictions for augmentative communication devices, use of assistive technology to achieve least restrictive environment placements in the public schools, and assurance that assistive technology is included in transition plans of students from school to work.

For more information about P&As in the states, contact the National Association of Protection & Advocacy Systems (NAPAS), 900 Second Street, NE, Suite 211, Washington, DC 20002 Telephone: 202/408-9514 (Voice), 202/408-9521 (TDD), 202/408-9520 (Fax).

Regional Resource Centers

A network of six Regional Resource Centers (RRCs) provide technical assistance to state education departments of special education. Each RRC serves from seven to 14 states and jurisdictions. They provide technical assistance to build state capacity to improve policies and practices regarding special education. A current emphasis is on promoting systemic change in state education agencies.

Technical assistance services are tailored to fit the needs of the individual states. They may include providing consultation, training, information dissemination, and linking states with other resources. For example, assistance has been given to states recently to create a regional assistive technology consortium, to develop educator guidelines for the use of assistive technology, to gather information on regional funding sources for assistive technology, and to facilitate training of a cadre of regionally located experts in AT within a state.

The Federal Resource Center (FRC) was established to coordinate the technical assistance services of the RRCs. For more information on the RRC serving your state, contact, Federal Resource Center, 1875 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20009-1202 Telephone: 202/884-8214 (Voice), 202/884-8443 (Fax).

Independent Living Centers

Community-based Independent Living Centers (ILCs) assist individuals with disabilities in their goal to live a more independent lifestyle. Hundreds of these organizations exist nationwide, providing information and referral and advocacy services. The centers are run and operated by people with disabilities. Clients range from persons with disabilities still living at home looking to move out on their own, to college students with disabilities adjusting to a new independent campus life, to rehabilitation counselors and other professionals who assist individuals with disabilities in attaining their goal for independence and are looking for additional community resources.

Many ILCs are serving as Tech Act program resource centers, providing information and demonstrations on assistive devices.

Independent Living Centers can assist by:

  • finding accessible housing;
  • teaching independent living skills, such as money management and homemaking skills;
  • offering peer support groups;
  • offering counseling;
  • working with individuals to make the community more accessible; and
  • providing resource lists of local resources to assist in one's independent living efforts.

To find out more information about the hundreds of ILCs nationwide contact: The National Council on Independent Living (NCIL), 2111 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 405, Arlington, VA 22201. Telephone: 703/525-3406 (Voice), 703/525-3407 (TTY).

Alliance for Technology Access Centers

The Alliance for Technology Access (ATA) is a national network of assistive technology resource centers coordinated by the Foundation for Technology Access (FTA), a joint project started in 1987 by the Disabled Children's Computer Group and Apple Computer. These ATA resource centers assist parents of children with disabilities in accessing assistive technology for these children. No criteria exists for eligibility to receive services.

Services provided by ATA centers vary from center to center. Examples of services provided include but are not limited to:

  • hands-on computer demonstrations;
  • formal technology needs assessments;
  • assistance in getting funding for assistive technology;
  • loans of assistive devices;
  • lending libraries lending software, videotapes, or adaptive toys;
  • constructing/adapting switches and devices;
  • augmentative communication training;
  • transition training for young adults;
  • technical assistance to employers;
  • technical assistance to IEP teams;
  • teacher and parent/family training;
  • early childhood/preschool programs; and
  • newsletters.

ATA Centers exist in 29 states, the Virgin Islands and Canada. For more information on ATA Centers in your region, contact the Alliance For Technology Access, 2173 E. Francisco Boulevard, Suite L, San Rafael, CA 94901. Telephone: 415/455-4575.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Technical Assistance Centers

In 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed, extending full civil rights to people with disabilities by prohibiting discrimination on the basis of a physical or mental disability in employment, public services, public accommodation and telecommunications.

In the fall of 1991 NIDRR funded ten regional ADA Technical Assistance Centers (TACs), which are funded through fall of 1996, to assist public and private entities comply with the ADA by educating personnel on the law and providing referrals to aid in compliance efforts. The regional ADA TACs do this in a variety of ways with activities differing from center to center.

The ADA TACs:

  • develop curricula/training materials;
  • hold seminars and conduct conferences;
  • distribute fliers, informational pamphlets, newsletters, booklets and audiovisuals;
  • perform needs assessments;
  • provide technical assistance;
  • provide information and referral;
  • conduct surveys; and
  • provide service delivery.

Tech Act assistive technology projects should get to know their regional ADA TAC. Collaboration and information sharing between the Tech Act programs and these centers will help ensure that the Tech Act programs receive up-to-date ADA resources and that the centers have access to the latest assistive technology resources in their region as well.

For a listing of these regional centers or contact information on the one that serves your region, call or write: Abt Associates, Inc., 55 Wheeler Street, Cambridge, MA 02138-1168. Telephone: 617/349-2481 (Voice). Contact: Raymond Glazier.

Parent Training & Information Centers (PTIs)

Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), a grant program was created to support organized parent-to-parent training efforts designed to provide parents with the information and training they need to meet the needs of their children with disabilities.

The Office of Special Education Programs, Division of Personnel Preparation, within the U.S. Department of Education funds 77 PTIs in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Palau, and the Virgin Islands.

These programs are designed to educate and train parents of children with disabilities so that they are more effective in their interactions with professionals and in meeting the educational needs of their children. These PTIs offer parents:

  • training on understanding their child's individual special needs;
  • training on transition planning;
  • education on their child's rights and their parental rights under federal, state and local laws;
  • strategies in working with Individualized Education Program (IEP) teams to get what their child needs incorporated into his/her IEP;
  • ways to communicate better with educators, administrators and related service personnel; and
  • information on federal, state and local resources that could further assist parents in seeing that the educational goals for their child are met.

For more information contact the National Parent Network on Disabilities, 1600 Prince Street, Suite 115, Alexandria, Virginia 22314. Telephone: 703/684-6763 (Voice/TTY), 703/836-1232 (Fax).


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.