Assistive Technology Programs History

In 1988, Congress passed the Technology-Related Assistance for Individuals with Disabilities Act, later referred to as the "Tech Act." The Tech Act was reauthorized in 1994 and again in 1998 when it was renamed the Assistive Technology ActPDF . All 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and four territories have state grant projects.

The AT Act of 1998 was reauthorized again in 2004, where it was endorsed by both the House and Senate, and signed into law by President Bush. The AT Act is authorized through the year 2010. The 2004 amendments to the AT Act made significant program changes and requirements. The program changed to a state “formula grant” program, meaning a formula determines the amount of funds each state receives. The US Department of Education (DOE) is the administering agency. The 2004 amendments moved responsibility within the DOE from the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) to the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA).

State Assistive Technology (AT) Programs have always served people with any type of disability, of any age, and in any environment (early intervention, K-12, post-secondary, vocational rehabilitation, community living, aging services, etc.). Programs also serve family members, service providers, educators, and therapists. The reauthorization of 2004 expanded the group of targeted individuals to include: technology experts, web designers, manufactures and sellers of assistive technology devices, allied health professionals, small businesses, and providers of employment and training services.

The focus of the AT Act has always been to improve awareness and access to assistive technology. Passage of the AT Act requires programs to focus on providing direct services that will support individuals with disabilities to gain access to the AT they need. All AT Act programs follow a core set of program services listed below.

State Level Activities

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

  • State Finance System (includes alternative finance programs formerly funded under Title III)
  • Device Reutilization Program
  • Device Loan Program
  • Device Demonstration Program

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
  • Public Awareness
  • Statewide Information and Referral System
  • Coordination and Collaboration (coordination with entities responsible for policies, procedures, or funding for AT devices and services)

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