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TAP Bulletin - January 2000
DRAFT VERSION


NIDRR FUNDS FOUR TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE PROJECTS ON ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY

The National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) recently awarded four technical assistance grants under the Assistive Technology Act of 1998 (P.L. 105-394) (AT Act). This was the first grant competition under the AT Act, which replaces the Technology-Related Assistance for Individuals with Disabilities Act of 1988, as amended. The Secretary of Education authorized the funding of the four grants to improve the activities of assistive technology (AT) projects that serve individuals with disabilities. This bulletin provides information about the grants and their planned activities as well as contact information for each project.

Background
The AT Act of 1998 continues the work of the state AT projects. It recognizes the progress made since 1988 in providing access to and funding for AT to individuals with disabilities, but it also acknowledges that many challenges remain. These challenges include limited resources to pay for AT devices and services, scarcity of trained individuals to provide devices and services, lack of knowledge by consumers about the availability of AT, and lack of coordination among state and human service programs, to name just a few. There have been changes over the 10 years in the delivery of AT devices and services because of an increase in managed-care providers as third-party payers of AT devices and services; an increased focus on universal design; the importance of AT in employment; and the increased role that telecommunications plays in education, employment, health care, and social activities.

Two technical assistance programs are designed to assist and enhance the efforts of the state AT Act grantees and the protection and advocacy (P&A;) agencies that are funded under the AT Act. The technical assistance grantees will address issues raised by states, individuals, P&A; providers, and other organizations through a variety of mechanisms to meet the diverse needs of the recipients of technical assistance. Two other grantees will provide additional AT information through data collection activities and a National AT Internet Site. Those grants are described below.

Technical Assistance to AT Act Grantees
The Secretary of Education was authorized under the AT Act to establish a project to provide assistance to the state AT Act grantees in reducing barriers and increasing access to AT devices and services for individuals of all ages with disabilities. That project would also provide technical assistance in the areas related to universal design, state procurement actions, and funding of AT.

The Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America (RESNA) will continue its work as technical assistance provider to the 56 state AT Act grantees. Over a 3-year period, the project will provide timely, responsive, and proactive technical assistance using a comprehensive model to deliver a variety of services and assistance. The technical assistance needs of the state grantees will be continually assessed, and plans will be tailored to meet those needs. Delivery strategies will include on-site visits and training by expert consultants; national meetings focused on policy issues; "tool kits" filled with ideas, strategies, sample documents, and other information; on-line services and communication tools; and others.

The RESNA Technical Assistance Project will maintain an accessible Web site that will serve as the state AT Act grantees' electronic community and will be a key vehicle for sharing and dissemination of information among the grantees. The Web site will provide information on federal legislation and policies that affect state AT access. It will also serve as a reference library where publications and documents from the Technical Assistance Project and the state AT Act grantees will be easily accessible.

The RESNA Technical Assistance Project will emphasize dissemination of information on exemplary policies and practices that lead to improved access to and funding for AT. It will provide support to assist states in developing effective consumer-controlled systems. The project will also assist grantees to promote universal design principles as they relate to the built environment, telecommunications, and transportation; state compliance with section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act; improved policies related to government and private insurance to increase financing for AT; and modification of state revenue policies to increase the resource base for funding AT. Specially tailored technical assistance to individual state AT Act grantees will be delivered by a cadre of technical and policy experts who will help the state grantees to implement legislative mandates and strengthen programmatic elements.

The RESNA Technical Assistance Project will partner with two highly respected national advocacy organizations-the National Association of Protection and Advocacy Systems, Inc. (NAPAS), and the National Council on Independent Living. A third partner, Meeting the Challenge, will provide advice and technical expertise on enhancing the project's accessible Web site. Other collaborators include a range of national disability and industry organizations, rehabilitation engineering research centers, and individuals with expertise in the areas of technology and policy. RESNA will also collaborate and share resources with the other three technical assistance grantees funded under the AT Act.

Technical Assistance to State Assistive Technology Act P&A; Agencies
The Secretary of Education was also authorized to fund a project to provide assistance to state AT Act P&A; grantees to help individuals of all ages with disabilities in acquiring, utilizing, and maintaining AT devices or services. The project would provide assistance in areas related to participation by individuals with disabilities in informal advocacy and formal representation activities. Neighborhood Legal Services, Inc., Buffalo, New York, was awarded this grant.

The National Technical Assistance (TA) Project to state AT Act P&A; grantees will provide services during a 3-year period that began October 1, 1999. The project will serve a primary customer base of attorneys and advocates who work for the 56 P&A; AT (PAAT) projects. The goals of the project are to:

  • Provide advocacy-related technical assistance via telephone, fax, E-mail, and mail to attorneys and advocates to aid them in their activities.
  • Provide management-related technical assistance to P&A; managers and fiscal officers to help them with management and fiscal responsibilities associated with their PAAT grants as funded through NIDRR.
  • Provide advocacy-related training through an annual, 3-day project conference; sessions at the annual NAPAS conference; and distance training events on special education, Medicare, and other topics to be determined.
  • Provide management-related training through its subcontractor, NAPAS, at four annual NAPAS-sponsored training events. This training will assist P&A; managers and fiscal officers to meet their grant obligations with NIDRR.
  • Prepare publications on AT funding through a variety of sources. Publications will include newsletters, feature articles, booklets, and training handouts.
  • Act as a clearinghouse for documents related to AT funding through an in-house resource library containing administrative hearing decisions and a wide range of court-related documents, including briefs and complaints.
  • Maintain a project Web site containing information on AT funding, including many of the project's publications, and links to other Web-based resources to support AT advocacy efforts.

As a result of the National TA project's activities, attorneys and advocates from PAAT projects will have inexpensive and ready access to high-quality information about AT funding to support their advocacy efforts. P&A; managers and fiscal officers will likewise have inexpensive and ready access to high-quality information needed to manage their grants with NIDRR.

AT Data Collection Project
The Secretary of Education established a priority for an AT data collection project. The purpose of this project would be to collect data from the state AT Act grantees that can provide policy-relevant information to federal, state, and local decision makers about the availability, use, and reliability of AT devices and services, as well as about exemplary practices to improve access to AT. This grant was awarded to InfoUse, a California-based firm specializing in data collection and disability statistics.

InfoUse, in collaboration with the Research Triangle Institute (RTI), will conduct the Assistive Technology Act Data Collection Project. This 4-year project will provide a Web-based performance standards reporting system that conforms to NIDRR policy and the requirements of the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993. The performance standards will be developed through a broadly inclusive process involving the sate AT Act grantees and other key stakeholders and beneficiaries of information regarding the outcomes of the AT Act state grantee program.

The project will also provide useful information on the availability, use, and reliability of AT devices and services to policy makers on all levels. InfoUse and RTI will provide descriptive and evaluative information on model approaches clustered around key program areas and service delivery systems. They will also provide individual state estimates of the need for and use of AT and conduct additional evaluation studies related to underserved populations, implementation of legislation targeting specific aspects of AT, and other issues.

The InfoUse/RTI team will collaborate closely with state P&A; programs, the 56 state AT Act grantees, and the National AT Internet Site, as well as consumers and experts in AT design, policy, and service provision.

National AT Internet Site
The AT Act authorized a National AT Internet Site that would provide information to individuals with disabilities and the general public to increase access to AT devices, services, and other related information.

Georgia Tech's Center for Rehabilitation Technology (CRT), the grantee, will develop and sustain the Global Assistive Technology Explorer (GATE), a comprehensive, up-to-date, easy-to-use national public Internet site on disability-related resources. GATE will increase the availability of and access to information about AT, services, and resources for individuals with disabilities. The site will provide 24-hour access to all those with Internet capability.

The GATE Web site will serve all individuals in the nation, focusing on individuals with disabilities, their families, service providers, educators, and employers, as well as other members of their communities. CRT will draw on its 21 years of experience in research and information referral to ensure that no individuals, regardless of disability, will be excluded from the information and services provided through GATE.

The GATE National AT Internet Site will include the following features:

  • Internet access to a comprehensive, accessible library of information on AT and rehabilitation equipment available for all environments.
  • An automated, intelligent agent to assist users in problem definition and selection of appropriate AT devices and services.
  • A Vendor Data Entry Interface to ensure up-to-date information on AT devices and equipment.
  • A Web-based meeting place where all people concerned with disability and AT can meet and discuss ideas, problems, and solutions.
  • Electronic links to appropriate and accessible public and private resources, and information related to all types of disabilities, including low-level reading skills.

CRT will coordinate among individuals with disabilities, disability-related organizations, educators, medical and disability professionals, and business entities to ensure effective dissemination of information about GATE.

GATE's success will be evaluated quantitatively and qualitatively to measure usability and effectiveness of the Web site, as well as the project's impact on AT use.

Contact Information
The federal program officers for these projects are Judith Fein and Carol Cohen. Judith Fein will serve as the program officer to RESNA regarding the technical assistance to state AT Act grantees and to InfoUse on the Data Collection Project. Carol Cohen will serve as program officer to the Georgia Tech National AT Internet Site and to Neighborhood Legal Services, Inc., on the technical assistance to P&A; agencies.

For more information about these projects, contact the projects directly or the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR), U.S. Department of Education, 400 Maryland Avenue, SW, Washington, DC 20202. Judith Fein can be reached at 202-205-8116 or judy_fein@ed.gov. Carol Cohen can be reached at 202-205-5666 or carol_cohen@ed.gov.

RESNA Technical Assistance Project
1700 North Moore Street, Suite 1540
Arlington, VA 22209-1903
703-524-6686, 703-524-6639 (TTY)
703-524-6630 (FAX)
Project Director: M. Nell Bailey
E-mail: nbailey@resna.org
Web: http://www.resnaprojects.org/

Neighborhood Legal Services, Inc.
295 Main Street, Suite 495
Buffalo, NY 14203
Project Director: Jim Sheldon
716-847-0655 ext. 262, 716-847-1322 (TTY)
716-847-0227 (FAX)
E-mail:jsheldon@nls.org
Web: http://www.nls.org

InfoUse
2560 Ninth Street, Suite 216
Berkeley, CA 94710
Project Director: Stu Hanson
510-549-6520, 510-549-6523 (TTY)
510-549-6512 (FAX)
E-mail: Shanson@infouse.com
Web: http://www.infouse.com

Center for Rehabilitation Technology
Georgia Tech
490 Tenth Street, NW
Atlanta, GA 30332-0156
Project Director: Robert L. Todd
404-894-4621, 800-726-9119 (toll free)
404-894-0240 (TTY), 404-894-9320 (FAX)
E-mail: robert.todd@arch.gatech.edu
Web: http://ddinsite.gatech.edu

The RESNA Technical Assistance Project, Grant #H224B990006, is an activity funded by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR), U.S. Department of Education (ED), under the Assistive Technology Act of 1998. The information contained herein does not necessarily reflect the position or policy of NIDRR/ED or RESNA, and no official endorsement of the materials should be inferred.