4. Assistive Technology
Assistive technology is any device or system that allows a participant to perform tasks that they would otherwise be unable to do, or which increases the ease and safety with which tasks can be performed. Assistive technologies can also be referred to ‘aids’ or ‘equipment’.
In addition to enabling participants to be more independent or participate more fully in daily activities, assistive technology may:
- reduce the need for assistance;
- make assistance safe and sustainable; or
- prevent or slow the development of further impairment.
Assistive technology ranges in complexity, cost and risk, from simple mass-produced consumer products like non-slip mats through to complex, individually tailored technology.
The amount of assistance a participant needs to make an assistive technology selection varies according to the complexity of the equipment and the participant’s level of knowledge, need and experience.
In relation to assistive technology supports, the NDIA must consider, amongst other matters, whether the support is related to a participant’s disability (see what are the general criteria for supports?).
The NDIA will generally not fund household items that are not related to the participant’s functional limitations or which would normally be purchased by any person. For example, general household furniture or appliances would not be funded, but the extra cost of furniture or appliances adapted or designed to address the participant’s functional limitations may be (e.g. a stand up lounge chair).
Before including any assistive technology support in a participant’s plan, the NDIA must also be satisfied that the support will assist the participant to pursue their goals, objectives and aspirations.
Assistive technology related supports may come into consideration where a participant’s goal is either quite specific (for example, the desire to be able to undertake a particular task) or quite general (for example, greater independence).
When considering whether a proposed assistive technology represents value for money, the NDIA will also consider:
- the comparative cost relative to alternative equipment, taking the lifetime cost of the equipment into account including repairs, maintenance and availability of spare parts;
- the cost, compared to the long-term cost of alternative supports which provide a similar level of independence and function; and
Where assistive technologies are being considered, it is expected that the NDIA will generally only fund the minimum necessary or standard level of support required (i.e. a wheelchair with standard specifications and features, as opposed to funding additional items that are not related to the functional specifications required to meet the participant’s goal).
Where a particular type of assistive technology is being considered, the NDIA may seek expert assessment and assistance to be provided by a person with appropriate qualifications and experience in that particular type of assistive technology (see requesting further information or reports to inform a participant’s plan).
Generally, a written report detailing clinical reasoning and justification of recommended assistive technology is required prior to approval of funding for complex, high risk or specialised assistive technology. For further information, please refer to the AT Complexity Level Classification guide.
The NDIA may provide funds for a participant to receive necessary expert assessment or assistance with selection, fitting, configuring and training where these services are not otherwise available as part of the purchase price or part of the standard service offering.
In limited circumstances, specialist assessment and assistance may be considered to be unnecessary. For example, when:
- the assistive technology is not complex (i.e. standard or low risk equipment);
- the participant has relevant expertise; or
- a participant’s needs have not changed and there is a need to replace equipment that is no longer serviceable with the same equipment.
Where assistive technology supports are funded, or otherwise provided, to a participant it is generally expected that the NDIS will also fund reasonable and necessary:
- delivery costs to the place of intended use;
- costs associated with set up and configuration with other equipment; and
- repairs and maintenance to equipment due to regular wear and tear.
Participants will have the use of assistive technology supports for as long as necessary. When no longer required by participants, equipment is to be returned to the relevant NDIA approved service for refurbishment, reissue or recycling as appropriate.
The NDIA will use its presence in the market to encourage the development of best practice assistive technology advice, sourcing and support to enhance efficient and timely access to assistive technology for participants.