Assistive technology explained

AT explained

Assistive Technology (AT) provides the support a person with a disability might use to reach their potential at home, in the community and the workplace.

AT may be equipment or systems which help you with moving around your home or community, communicating with other people, processing information, and other daily tasks. 

Supports may be included in your NDIS plan where it is a reasonable and necessary support that will meet your needs and help you pursue your goals. 

It is important to know that the NDIS will not fund items that are more appropriately funded by another body or agency (for example the health sector). For further detail please refer to the Operational Guidelines (Planning)

Identifying your AT needs

Like many technologies, AT ranges from the really simple to the very complex and sometimes you may need help to figure out what is the right AT solution for you.

The process you will follow to access AT in your NDIS plan will depend on:

  • your specific AT needs
  • how complex your AT needs are
  • how you manage your AT budget.

The NDIS uses four levels to describe the complexity of your AT needs, and the AT complexity table provides some guidance and examples.

Low Cost Assistive Technology for Support Continuity during coronavirus (COVID-19)

During the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic response, we are hearing about innovative ways providers including Allied Health professionals are continuing to deliver services to participants – some of these are online.

We recommend participants and their families and carers work with their existing providers to discuss the best way to receive services and supports while maintaining physical distancing – this may include using available technology, developing exercise programs participants can do at home or borrowing equipment and keeping in touch over the phone. 

Parents and guardians should also talk to their child’s provider about everyday activities they can do with their child, using items available at home and including new activities in everyday play.  
To help participants continue to receive their NDIS funded supports and services during this period, the NDIA has temporarily broadened the flexible approach to purchasing low cost AT items.

This allows participants to access low cost AT items, such as smart devices and fitness equipment, in consultation with their existing support providers.  

Participants can now use their existing NDIS funding to purchase an item if: 

  • it will maintain funded NDIS supports like a program, therapy or requirement (for example physiotherapy or Auslan interpreting provided via video conferencing), and
  • the provider of supports has confirmed in writing the device is necessary to continue supports and services while maintaining physical distancing requirements, and
  • it is the lowest specification that will maintain funded supports, and 
  • they do not already have the item, another suitable item or access to the item, and
  • the item has not been funded by another service system (such as education), and 
  • the item or circumstances are not specifically excluded.

Participants are able to spend up to $1500 on low cost AT items from their existing budgets. Participants should not spend more than $750 on electronic devices needed to maintain existing services. 

In the case of computer tablets or iPads for telehealth and care or participating in online video classes, advice from AT specialists is that most NDIS participants will not need more than a standard tablet, which costs no more than $600. 

Participants can use their funding flexibly to purchase low cost AT using funding in their core - consumables budget. Plan managed or self-managed participants can purchase these items from any provider, and Agency managed participants can purchase these from any registered NDIS provider (this could include a therapy or support coordination provider). 

This is a time limited policy which will be in place until September 2020 and will be reviewed at the end of June 2020.

This new approach acknowledges many face to face services are being suspended, and capacity building supports and interpreting services which cannot be delivered face to face are now being delivered online. 

We know not all participants have funding available in core budgets for consumables – so we are working on a system update to make sure this flexibility is available to everyone. This change will happen automatically on 9 May 2020. 

Participants who only have funding in their capacity building budget will be able to use a special line item to enable use of this new flexible approach. 

The following items and circumstances are excluded from this policy:

  • The item does not relate to the participants disability. A participant cannot purchase a smart device for entertainment, education or gaming. A participant cannot purchase fitness equipment not previously used or recommended by the participant’s provider or therapist in existing funded supports.
  • Devices with extra specifications above the basic model. A participant can only purchase device which is fit for purpose for maintaining NDIS funded supports. The NDIS will generally fund the lowest specification. Top of the range specifications can only be justified if they are required as a result of a person’s disability. For example: Therabands and a fitness ball may be sufficient to maintain an exercise program rather than a gym set. In the case of computer solutions, only participants who require ‘head tracking’ and other solutions are likely to need a large screen tablet or iPad, most other participants would only require entry level tablet. You should consult a specialised AT provider to advise you on any more complex products before making a purchase.
  • Smart phones, tablets or iPads with mobile connections cannot be purchased. Video conferencing and other functionality participants will need to access supports is available on tablets, iPads or computers which are in scope and connect using wifi. 
  • Participants cannot purchase multiple devices. A single item can be purchased, where the participant does not already own or have access to a device that would meet their needs to continue to access supports and services. This includes if the participant already owns or has access to a suitable device through:
    • existing individual or family ownership
    • employment (for the purpose of working remotely) 
    • education (for the purpose of studying remotely) 
  • Replacements for loss or damage will generally follow the existing NDIS AT replacement policy (noting that replacement of items will generally not apply once this policy ends).
  • Internet connection and data, these are considered ordinary living costs (utilities) and are excluded from this policy.
  • Software. This policy will not fund applications or software, however apps which have been specified and approved in a plan can be paid for with NDIS funding. 
  • Additional hardware or accessories, other than standard protective cases will not be funded by the NDIS. This includes: 
    • screen protectors
    • additional or back up chargers
    • selfie sticks
    • connection cables

Additional hardware and accessories may be purchased if they relate to using the device because of the participant’s disability, such as mounting on a wheelchair for a person with limited grip or rugged case where related to behaviour issues.

  • Purchase of items when renting the item might be a better option. For example, for some items that cost more than $100, participants should consider renting these items during the COVID-19 constraints if that would be better value for money than purchasing them. 
     

AT assessments

Several people and organisations can help you find the right AT solution.

An AT assessor is able to assess your needs and situation, and identify the most appropriate AT. They may be an allied health practitioner, continence nurse, rehabilitation engineer, AT mentor or other suitably qualified practitioner.

Depending on the risks associated with your disability or the environment where you need to use it, an item of AT may increase in complexity. The appropriate AT assessor will depend on the type of AT and the complexity of your needs. For more complex AT or home modification (HM) requests you may be required to submit a report from an AT assessor and quote(s) for the new AT or HM you feel should be included in your plan.

Below are a series of factsheets to help you understand the NDIA’s AT complexity levels in more detail and how the NDIA will assess these needs.

Depending on the AT required you, a family member or carer can search for AT assessors using the myplace participant portal or other provider registers. In some cases, searching for AT assessors on the internet can help identify Australian advisory services.

Additional information and resources

Our Choosing assistive technology page has more information about:

  • Choosing an AT provider
  • Replacing AT
  • Repairing and maintaining AT
  • Additional features and other funding sources

Contact your local NDIS office

Do you have a question, request or urgent issue relating to assistive technology? You can now email your local NDIA office directly. Find your local office.
 

This page current as of
28 April 2020