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Frequently Asked Questions about Device Demonstration and Device Loan Programs

Program Model/Structure

  1. What is a Device Demonstration?
  2. What is a Device Loan?
  3. How do I decide upon a centralized location or regional centers?
  4. What are the advantages of operating a program directly vs. sub-contracting?
  5. What should be stated in an agreement with a sub-contractor?
  6. How can I find good, collaborative partnerships with other entities in my state?
  7. How can I identify the audience to target in my state?
  8. What are considerations for choosing the space and layout for my demo center?
  9. How can my device demonstration, loan, and reuse programs interact more efficiently?
  1. How do I choose inventory for my device demonstration center?
  2. How do I choose inventory for my device loan library?
  3. What items can be demonstrated but not loaned?
  4. How do I prevent copyright infringement when loaning computer software?
  5. How do I decide whether or not to charge a fee for borrowing or shipping?
  6. What can I do when a device loaned to a consumer is not returned?
  7. When should I purchase extended warranties or service agreements on a device?
  8. How do I know when to upgrade devices in my inventory?
  9. What do I do with equipment that is outdated or obsolete?
  10. What happens when a device is lost or broken while under loan?
  1. Where can I find qualified staff to operate my device demonstration or device loan program?
  2. What resources are available to provide on-going training and professional development of staff?
  3. What can I do if I have no one on staff with specific expertise to demonstrate a particular AT device?
  1. What are some considerations in marketing our programs?
  2. How do I host a successful Open House at our center?
  3. What are ways I can reach remote or rural areas of my state?
  4. How can I leverage resources to stretch my AT Act dollars?
  5. Where can I find external funding support?

Program Model/Structure

  1. What is a Device Demonstration?
  2. "The AT Act states: State shall directly, or in collaboration with public and private entities, such as one-stop partners, as defined in section 101 of the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 (29 U.S.C. 2801), demonstrate a variety of assistive technology devices and assistive technology services (including assisting individuals in making informed choices regarding, and providing experiences with, the devices and services), using personnel who are familiar with such devices and services and their applications."

    A device demonstration enables an individual to make an informed choice, even if that choice is to not purchase any device. To create this outcome, a viable device demonstration meets a number of criteria. A demonstration provides individual, guided experience with the device(s), is interactive, and is conducted in real-time. It allows comparison of the features and benefits of a particular device or category of devices and is led by an individual with technical expertise related to the device(s).

    Though preferably conducted hands-on, there are ways that demonstrations can be done through distance learning or video conferencing if they meet the above criteria. A demonstration is NOT a training that includes showing a variety of devices, a public training activity, or an archived presentation of devices. For example, a pre-programmed tutorial would not constitute a demonstration.

    Demonstrations are conducted in a variety of settings, depending on a program’s structure. Some states have regional demonstration centers, some have a central demonstration location, others have mobile demonstrations, and still more have combinations of these options.

  3. What is a Device Loan?
  4. A second state-level activity is device loan. "The AT Act states: the State shall directly, or in collaboration with public or private entities, carry out device loan programs that provide short-term loans of assistive technology devices to individuals, employers, public agencies, or others seeking to meet the needs of targeted individuals and entities, including others seeking to comply with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (20 U.S.C. 1400 et seq.), the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (42 U.S.C. 12101 et seq.), and section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (29 U.S.C. 794)."

    Like device demonstrations, loans are primarily intended to assist individuals make informed choices about devices, though loans may serve other purposes as well, such as fill in the gap for a consumer waiting for repair or funding for their own device or to provide a short-term accommodation. Devices can be borrowed for self-education for a consumer or professional, and for training. Depending on a state’s policies, only one device may be loaned at a time or several devices may be borrowed at once.

    By definition, device loans are short-term, though each program may determine the length of the loan. An open-ended loan in which the consumer can keep the device as long as he or she needs it is considered a form of device reutilization, not device loan.

    Loans are made in a number of ways: sometimes the devices are shipped from either a central location or regional location to a consumer; sometimes a consumer is responsible for picking up and dropping off a device from a central or regional location. Programs have established their own methods and their own policies regarding device loans based on their structure.

  5. How do I decide upon a centralized location or regional centers?
  6. Model




    1. All information, data, and staff are in one place, so there is direct oversight of these areas. This makes data collection, program evaluation, training, and other activities easier to coordinate. It is easier to leverage state dollars when it is easier to define the scope of your program.
    2. You can set up greater volume purchasing discounts because all inventory is purchased and maintained at the same center rather than divided among regional centers.

    3. You can develop very good communication with vendors because of the single point of entry with the program. Vendors are able to build stronger relationships with a core group of staff members for referrals and sharing of data.
    4. It may be easier to get more high level expertise housed in a central location because the centralized location will often be chosen by population density, urban vs. rural location, better access to professionals from higher education.
    5. It is easier to manage inventory from a central location.
    6. There is better consistency of data because you don’t have to mix and match data from several sources.



    1. It is easier to leverage money for support from the community, as many philanthropic organizations are regionally based.
    2. It is easier to use existing equipment pools at a local level, whether it is focused on some specific type of technology or disability.
    3. You can realize some operational savings because of less travel required from staff or by the consumers you want to reach.
    4. Shipping costs may be lower or non-existent.
    5. The consumer connection when people come in is greater and more personal, whereas centralized centers rely more on telephone and e-mail correspondence.

  7. What are the advantages of operating a program directly vs. sub-contracting?
  8. Some states operate their demonstration programs directly while others subcontract these services to other organizations. There are advantages and disadvantages to the different approaches, and many programs have changed their program model over the years to enhance a particular aspect of their program. For example, they may find one model allows them to better reaching their target audiences; find the right administration, and staff expertise; and manage operational costs more efficiently. Not one model works well for all programs, so you have to analyze your current structure and needs and capacity of your state to determine the best approach for your program. Consider the following when deciding whether to subcontract or operate your program directly.

    • Advantages of Operating the Program Directly

      1. If you run the program(s) yourself, you may gain a better understanding of the entire process and daily challenges faced, whether centralized or regional.
      2. It is easier to do training and to develop staff expertise if handled internally.
      3. Data collection is easier and perhaps more reliable if done internally.
    • Advantages of Subcontracting
      1. Subcontractors may be strategically located around the state, increasing your outreach.
      2. Subcontractors may have specific expertise with certain age groups or disabilities and be able to handle their assistive technology needs, allowing you to focus on other populations or areas.
      3. Subcontractors may provide in-kind support, such as free space, administrative support and operational costs.
      4. Subcontractors may have existing equipment pools that you can use or help to expand to meet your program needs.
      5. Subcontractors may increase your visibility and bring more referrals from new sources.
      6. Subcontractors may have their own marketing through conferences, public awareness activities, publications, and other venues that can carry your message.
  9. What should be stated in an agreement with a sub-contractor?
  10. If you do have partners, it makes good business sense to set up Memorandums of Agreement (MOAs) or Understanding (MOUs) with them. When setting up an MOA/MOU, here is some important information to consider:

    1. MOA/MOU must clearly delineate roles and responsibilities of each entity (lead agency and partner).
    2. MOA/MOU must clearly specify due dates regarding data, success stories, inventory review, etc.(i.e., data is due on the 10th of each month for data collected during the previous month).
    3. MOA/MOU should stipulate a primary contact person in order to facilitate smooth and efficient communication.
    4. MOA/MOU should provide built-in opportunities for at least one mandatory annual training, as well as technical assistance and on-site visits.
    5. Lead agency should make implementation of MOA/MOU easy and straight forward for the implementing entity (i.e., provide data base which implementing entity is to use for data collection purposes and train the implementing entity on its use).

    A sample MOA can be found at

  11. How can I find good, collaborative partnerships with other entities in my state?
  12. Strong collaborative partnerships are critical to building capacity. Choosing good partners in strategic locations is a combination of knowing the players, what the needs are in the region they are located, the expertise of their staff, their current capabilities and how you can enhance them, and a bit of luck. Some programs may already be housed in a university or a state agency where there are many opportunities for collaboration, and there are many organizations you can look to when choosing partners:

    • State and local colleges and universities
    • Rehabilitation hospitals or centers
    • State education Agencies (SEA), local education agencies (LEAs)
    • Vocational Rehabilitation
    • Independent living centers
    • Individual school districts
    • Disability organizations like Easter Seals, United Cerebral Palsy, Muscular Dystrophy Association, Multiple Sclerosis Foundation
    • Agencies for the visually or hearing impaired
    • Early intervention programs
    • Community foundations
    • Advocacy groups
    • Health care agencies
    • Transportation groups
    • Agencies on aging, AARP
  13. How can I identify the audience to target in my state?
  14. Ideally, your program will serve all ages and all disabilities within every corner of your state. In reality, it is not possible to do this, and especially when starting out, you need to decide what your resources are and what the pressing needs are within your state. States may collect this data in several ways:

    1. Perform a needs assessment with different groups across the state. Needs assessment information can be used to help states know which equipment is most requested from targeted audiences and whether they would use, support and recommend the program to persons who could benefit from AT. The needs assessment should ferret out what would be considered barriers to usage of the center and AT programs can then use this information to be more customer responsive.
    2. Conduct focus groups representing different areas and populations to find out more about your intended audiences. The information obtained from focus groups enable programs to make informed outreach to targeted populations and equipment purchasing decisions. The discussion can result in knowledge regarding unmet needs across the state for specific populations.
    3. Ask your advisory council for input on need for specific services in your state. Your advisory council can offer a broad perspective on current services (or lack of), as they represent a cross-section of interested parties, including persons with disabilities.
    4. Hold town hall meetings in different parts of the state to gather input from the community at large. Invite stakeholders from different organizations to identify where the gaps are and what services are needed to complement those already offered or to serve populations that are under-served in their access to assistive technology.
    5. Determine what resources are already available within other agencies or organizations that you can partner with or that already handle these needs for certain groups.
  15. What are considerations for choosing the space and layout for my demo center?
  16. Whether centralized or regional, the building where a device demonstration center is housed affects public awareness. A large storefront on a busy downtown street may invite greater walk-in traffic, while space within the lead agency or another partnering or contracting agency may invite more referrals and may provide in-kind support.

    Because space can be expensive, it is critical to maximize its use to best serve your audience. It is important for AT programs to house demonstration centers in facilities which are fully accessible to individuals with disabilities and provide customers with as much scheduling flexibility as possible. Additionally, the demonstration devices should be readily accessible to the individuals who are visiting the demonstration center. This can be accomplished through affordable, careful design of the space in order to allow easy and convenient access to the equipment.

    Storage space and floor plan will clearly dictate the layout of the center and may determine what items are purchased or housed there, the number of customers who can be served on an average day, and the manner in which device demonstrations can be conducted. If the demonstration space is small, then creative use of tiered shelving (within reach of consumers) and display racks for multiple items, etc. can maximize the space while providing variety for visitors to see.

    If the demonstration area is small, and staff support is limited, then fewer people can be accommodated simultaneously. Larger demonstration centers may accommodate more devices and/or more categories of devices to be displayed. Walk-in traffic of greater numbers could be accommodated, assuming there is staff support available.

    Helpful hints:

    1. Some programs lay out their AT by rooms to showcase the different areas and applications, such as an adapted bathroom, bedroom, kitchen, or office.
    2. Furnishings can be from Goodwill, donations of items, and garage sales.
    3. Set up a resource station at the demo center for vendor information and catalogs.
    4. Label each device displayed with a laminated sheet or tag with the device name, manufacturer, and approximate cost – it helps with organization and handles basic questions from visitors about cost and use.
  17. How can my device demonstration, loan, and reuse programs interact more efficiently?
  18. Not all statewide AT Programs conduct all state level activities, but many that do integrate or coordinate these activities for better management and to provide better service to the consumer. For example, when a user is looking at the alternative financing programs for purchase of AT, he or she may be:

    • Encouraged to set up a demonstration or borrow the item from the lending library first to ensure it is the appropriate device.
    • Referred to the device loan program until the loan is provided and device purchased.
    • Directed to a recycling or exchange program to see if the device is available there.

    Similarly, a person receiving demonstration or borrowing from the loan program may be referred to alternate financing options in their state.

    An outdated device from the demonstration program may be:

    • Sent to the loan library, not to be used for making decisions but to fill in a gap for users that are waiting for a similar device to come in or be repaired;
    • Put into the recycling or exchange program, depending on your state’s requirements for disposition of used equipment.

    Many programs have found that good links between these different activities benefit all because of sharing of equipment and of training. Some programs require that device demonstration, loan, and recycling activities be conducted from each regional center, or that the center partner with another local agency that runs a similar program. This helps to build capacity and increase networking.

    In the cases where the AT Act program does not conduct all of the state-level activities themselves, it is important to be aware of other options in the area and to refer the individual in need to the appropriate resource, so networking and collaboration are critical to meeting the diverse needs of the people you serve. Providing good referrals to consumers to get the services and equipment they need is the key to customer satisfaction, even if you do not directly provide them with that service.


  1. How do I choose inventory for my device demonstration center?
  2. Purchasing devices for demonstration programs will depend on many considerations:

    1. Devices purchased need to reflect the target audience for whom the demonstrations will be conducted.
    2. Inventory breadth is affected by the amount of money available for equipment purchase.
    3. Some devices are more readily available through local vendors or are easier to rent or purchase.
    4. Some devices require customization and specialized training to demonstrate, such as high end power wheelchairs or custom seating, and many programs choose not keep these items in their inventory, whereas some programs may keep more basic wheelchairs for general use but refer people to the appropriate clinics and vendors in the area that can better meet their needs for high end and custom equipment.
    5. There is great variability in what durable medical equipment (DME) may be demonstrated, depending on consumer demand, and space issues. Some demonstration centers limit their inventory to portable ramps, stair climbers, or lifts.
    6. Inventory purchase is influenced by relationships with other programs (whether through sub-contract, MOAs, etc.) that may serve the needs of certain populations or areas within the state. These programs may have specific equipment pools for demonstration or for loan that you can partner with and refer consumers to meet those needs.
    7. Equipment that may pose greater hygiene issues, such as stuffed toys or some bathroom equipment, seat cushions, etc., usually should not be part of a device inventory.
    8. Devices that require specialized staff expertise in providing demonstration, such as high end technology like some augmentative communication (AAC) devices, computer adaptations, and higher end visual aids should be purchased if staff expertise already exists for demonstration, there is good customer support during loan of a device, or external support is procured to make the demonstration or loan an effective trial.

    Some programs will focus on the higher end technology that is more difficult to rent or access, while others will start initially with a higher quantity of mid to low tech devices and build their inventory. Keep in mind that many other agencies that have existing equipment pools often have more low tech devices and items to use for activities for daily living (ADLs). Many programs share equipment (as well as staffing and space) between their device demonstration and loan programs.

  3. How do I choose inventory for my device loan library?
  4. The AT devices available in a loan program may vary in quantity and type from those available in a demonstration program, but in many cases it also is possible to share devices between the two activities. If equipment is shared between the two programs, it is critical that equipment needed for demonstration not be loaned out unless there is another available in-house. If devices are going to be shared between programs, it is recommended that:

    1. You purchase enough of a more popular item that you have the ability to demonstrate even when someone needs a loan for it or vice versa. This means that you have to track the most popular requests over a period of time (see previous section on choosing inventory).
    2. If you don’t have enough of an item in stock to allow a demonstration when something is on loan, you need to (1) have a sufficient tracking system to know where the device is and how soon it will be back and (2) have a policy on how you resolve situations in which a demonstration is required for a device on loan.

    Again, many of the considerations for choosing devices for a lending library are similar to those for demonstration. Some programs have set the following general guidelines:

    1. Try to keep a wide range of generic devices, from low to high tech in order to accommodate the AT needs of a wide array of users whose equipment needs will vary from low to high tech.
    2. Determine policies for DME items in your inventory. The DME you keep in your inventory should depend on consumer demand and your ability to store and transport it. Some programs have no mobility equipment available for loan, while others have found that wheelchairs are popular items to keep, and still others limit their inventory to portable ramps or lifts, or keep no mobility-related equipment in their inventory. Keep limited or no inventory of certain durable medical equipment (DME) like wheelchairs or seating components because they may need careful prescription or customization.
    3. Do not loan devices that have hygiene or high liability concerns.
    4. You may choose to avoid large items that are not "ship-able" or too hard to store, or you can require people to pick these up and drop them off.
    5. Do not stock devices that require installation.
    6. Re-program devices that are customizable to "neutral."
  5. What items are demonstrated but are not typically loaned out?
  6. There are some pieces of equipment that are not feasible to loan for a variety of reasons:

    1. You may not have enough items on your inventory to keep for demonstration as well as loan for extended periods, so until inventory is sufficient, you may choose to keep these items for demonstration only.
    2. Some equipment is too large to loan or may require installation, such as stair lifts and vehicle modifications.
    3. Some loans may not be made due to complexity of use or need for proper fitting, such as custom wheelchair seating. options hygiene issues, or need for installation.
    4. Some items are too large to ship back and forth, but you may make arrangements to have these picked up and dropped off.
    5. Some devices are demonstrated to help consumers make an informed choice but are not loaned out for hygiene reasons, such as some bathroom equipment.
  7. How do I prevent copyright infringement when loaning computer software?
  8. Loaning software presents a number of challenges, primarily due to copyright issues. Many programs will lend software to a borrower under certain conditions:

    1. The borrower agrees to delete the software if loaded on their own computer and signs a form acknowledging this.
    2. Borrower acknowledges that copying software is illegal (and signs a form to keep on record).
    3. In some cases, laptops are sent with the loaned software pre-loaded.
    4. Some centers purchase multiple software licenses to allow the software to be used on other computers.
    5. Another way to avoid copyright issues is to supply demo versions of software are available for trial on CD or downloadable from a manufacturer’s website. These demo versions will automatically expire after a trial period or after a certain number of uses.
  9. How do I decide whether or not to charge a fee for borrowing or shipping?
  10. There are a number of reasons why some programs choose not to charge a fee:

    1. Many programs are concerned that charging even a nominal fee would be a barrier to many and would reduce the use of the device loan program and prohibit some from learning about or trying assistive technology that would be of benefit to them.
    2. There is concern that the increased administrative costs of tracking, collecting, and processing these fees would be prohibitive.
    3. Some state agencies and universities do not have the mechanism to charge fees.
    4. Rather than trying to determine if or how to set up fee structures for different school systems, some programs find it more fruitful to ask for money directly from the state or local education agencies for equipment purchase that will support the needs of the various school systems.
    5. While not asking for fees directly, a "giving" envelope can be submitted to solicit some donations that can be used to offset costs or to provide "scholarships" to help pay for assessments or device.

    If you decide to charge a fee (or need to because it is required by your grantor):

    1. You can implement a sliding fee scale for those with limited means.
    2. You may require a deposit that is fully refundable when the device is returned.
    3. You may charge for requests for technology outside of the scope or goals of your loan program.
    4. You may choose to charge agencies or professionals that borrow, or you can consider requiring a membership and an annual fee to borrow devices.
    5. You could charge for shipping of the device to and/or from the borrower.
  11. What can I do when a device loaned to a consumer is not returned?
  12. One of the main abuses of a loan program is from those borrowers who do not return equipment on time (or at all). This is sometimes a difficult issue to handle, and different programs have come with several approaches to this problem.

    1. Insure your items, or require that the borrower pay for insurance through the shipping company.
    2. Ask the borrower to pay to have the item shipped to them, and then make the return shipping free of charge. There is perhaps less hesitation to return an item when it is picked up for free. UPS and other services will pick up devices from a person’s home with a call tag.
    3. Arrange for staff members traveling to a region where a device is loaned to pick up the device, or to meet at a mutually convenient location.
    4. Charge late fees for equipment not returned on time.
    5. Offer incentives to your agency borrowers for returning equipment on time, finding lost equipment, award booby prizes – all in fun!

    Keep in mind after all of the attempts, you need to budget for loss due to non-compliance with returns, as well as damage, theft, or loss of an item if it is not insured.

    Programs need to develop and follow a policy for the steps they take when someone is delinquent. After several attempts are made in good faith to collect the device, there are a number of options to handle non-compliance:

    1. Some programs will send up to three overdue notices via mail or telephone first.
    2. If there is no response, you can have an attorney send a letter with a final deadline to return the item.
    3. Borrowers may lose future privileges to borrow.
    4. An invoice can be sent for the replacement cost of the item.
    5. In some cases, the local police have been used to help repossess a device.
  13. When should I purchase extended warranties or service agreements on a device?
  14. Warranties can be cost-effective for many high tech devices like AAC, Braille note takers, and laptops. AAC studies have shown that there is a high percentage of equipment that needs servicing, often within the first two years. Software maintenance agreements are a good investment because they usually include upgrades. Programs that cultivate good relationships with their vendors can often leverage service agreements or upgrade costs into the initial purchase.

    Make sure borrowers don’t attempt to repair the device or send it out for servicing themselves, as this may null the warranty. In the initial loan agreement, have the borrower agree to take responsibility for the item, including paying for replacement costs of the items borrowed. For more information on these issues, refer to the previous section on handling non-compliance.

  15. How do I know when to upgrade devices in my inventory?
  16. Having current equipment in your inventory is very important for users to make an informed choice about what AT is available how it could meet their needs. Technology changes rapidly, and not many vendors offer trade-ins or upgrades. Affording the additional inventory or upgrades is often the major challenge. Also, it is difficult to keep track of when devices become outdated. Some manufacturers eliminate their entire line of products and replace them with new ones. Determining when it is worthwhile to repair vs. remove a particular device is another challenge. In order to keep track of what and when to update equipment, here are a few suggestions:

    1. Maintain a current, on-going wish list from consumers of products they are requesting throughout the year. Then, if one-time money appropriated from external sources is given, you can quickly add to your inventory.
    2. Keep track of waiting lists on devices from your library so you can determine what items are most frequently requested and are in short supply.
    3. Attend conferences and trade shows nationally and locally if possible to see new devices.
    4. Maintain a good working relationship with your vendors so that they can alert you to changes in their product line.
    5. Visit manufacturer websites or assistive technology blogs regularly for discussion on new products.

  17. What do I do with equipment that is outdated or obsolete?
  18. When a device is no longer manufactured, you need to determine if and for how long to keep it in inventory:

    1. If the device is still supported by the manufacturer, it can still be kept available for loan.
    2. If the device is no longer supported, you may consider whether to keep it available for specific uses, such as loaning to a user transitioning from one device to another, waiting for funding to procure a new device, or waiting for repair of their current device, which is either the same model or operates similarly.
    3. Many programs will take outdated equipment and move it to their reuse program if available, either for recycle or for exchange.
    4. Some outdated devices can be given to those that do not have adequate resources to purchase the AT they need.
  19. What happens when a device is lost or broken while under loan?
  20. If there is wear and tear that is due to "normal use", the consumer should not be liable. However, some of the other challenges faced include:

    1. Failure to return components that were sent with the device, including cables, plugs, manuals or CDs, despite packing slips and acknowledgement of receipt. Making backups, purchasing extra components like cable and batteries, including packing slips, and asking borrower to acknowledge receipt of all items initially may help.
    2. Borrower reluctance to accept responsibility for damage. Again, asking borrowers to verify receipt of all items in good working order initially may help.
    3. Insurance or warranty may cover the expense, depending on the circumstance.


  1. Where can I find qualified staff to operate my device demonstration or device loan program?
  2. Many disciplines prepare potential staff to work with individuals with disabilities. Education and experience with AT should be an important criteria when considering people for staff positions. The following are disciplines from which to recruit and some skills each may bring to the AT program:

    • Occupational Therapy - activities for daily living, home and job site evaluation for adaptation
    • Speech and Language Pathology - augmented and alternative communication
    • Physical Therapy - mobility, seating and positioning, evaluation and home or job accommodations
    • Special Education - educational software and information technology
    • Rehabilitation Engineering - fabrication of customized equipment
    • Other engineering fields - human factors solutions
    • Vocational Rehabilitation - evaluation of job accommodations, business solutions
    • Case Management - funding
    • Business Administration
    • Nursing
    • Rehabilitation Counseling
    • Therapeutic Recreation-activities of daily living, use of leisure to improve health and well being

    Centers can recruit new staff through a variety of mechanisms:

    • University posting
    • Personnel prep programs
    • School district applicants
    • National networking
    • RESNA job bank at
    • State office of personnel
    • Listserves about AT
    • Graduate students

    Graduate students from OT, PT, Speech and language pathology, engineering, and information technology are a vital source for staffing many programs, and it is a win-win situation for both sides. For programs, students provide inexpensive labor for routine tasks and potential recruitment source for staff once they graduate. For students, working at a demonstration or loan program will increase their knowledge of AT, sometimes earning them graduate credit, and allows them to make a connection to potential employers when finished.

  3. What resources are available to provide on-going training and professional development of staff?
  4. Because technology continues to change, ongoing training is essential to keeping staff up-to-date. For example, staff cannot conduct appropriate demonstrations of new devices they don’t understand.

    • Training
      Programs provide ongoing training in a number of ways:

      1. Offering in-service trainings from vendors.
      2. Providing regular training sessions at staff meetings on particular topics.
      3. Assigning specific staff members to research and develop expertise in a particular topic. This divides the training load, and topic-specific training can be given to the entire group, with the person in charge of training becoming the in-house "expert."
      4. Post and archive specific training presentations on your website for future reference, in the form of Powerpoint presentations, podcasts, etc.
      5. Using video training and teleconferencing, webinars, and other resources for real-time trainings across the state.
      6. Sharing new information with colleagues through e-mail, and listserves.
      7. Shadowing of experienced staff by novice staff; mentoring of new staff by experienced staff.
      8. Inviting paid speakers to present on specific topics. You can consider opening these training sessions to other professionals across the state rather than limit them to in-house staff to help cover the costs and promote networking.
      9. If you have quarterly meetings of regional center coordinators across state, you can do some cross-training on latest devices.
      10. Subscribing to on-line training activities from manufacturers, including virtual classroom, tutorials, online self-directed webinars, and podcasts. You may use bookmarking websites like or to give you updates on AT-related websites so that you do not have to visit these individually.
      11. Supporting further education of staff by salary incentives and allowing flexible work schedules.
      12. Developing an extensive library of resources – publications, CDs, DVDs.
      13. Conducting group studies over the lunch hour or sharing of case studies.
      14. Encouraging staff to be proactive in showcasing their own accomplishments. When setting up goals for the coming year, have staff take the initiative to develop their own expertise in particular areas, and then review annually if these goals have been met.
      15. Building a multi-disciplinary staff allows sharing of different expertise. For example, staff with engineering backgrounds, computer expertise, or therapy backgrounds all bring different academic training backgrounds. The skills from one discipline can be beneficial to another when these staff are working together.
      16. Using open source web-based learning content management systems like provides free resources to set up your own courses with your own content with a number of modules, like These systems can also be used to do collaborative efforts; Websites from the other AT Act programs also provide an excellent resource!
    • Professional Development

      Along with informal methods for training staff, programs also should provide opportunities and funding for staff to take advantage of formal training programs:

      1. Professional conferences at the state and national level offer exposure to new technologies as well as presentations on many related topics from professionals with expertise in their field. Many states offer statewide conferences, and many manufacturers offer local trainings specifically on their category of AT.
      2. Some universities offer free academic courses as a benefit to staff, or you may be able to apply for tuition support through VR.
      3. Formal certification can be obtained through RESNA for assistive technology practice, web accessibility, ECU, ergonomics, vocational evaluator, and others.
      4. Distance learning opportunities offer academic credit or certificate programs.
  5. What can I do if I have no one on staff with specific expertise in to demonstrate a particular device?
  6. Most inventory is chosen to reflect not only the scope of practice with in assistive technology, but also the expertise of your staff, but as new devices are introduced, staff changes, etc. this is a valid concern. If there are other agencies in the area that work specifically with a particular area of AT, such as low vision technology or augmentative and alternative communication, you want to set up relationships with these agencies to refer people back and forth, whether or not you have a formal agreement with them. Some programs will also have arrangements with professionals around the state that have specific expertise in those areas so that they can be contracted to provide demonstration or referred to for evaluation. Finally, the manufacturer of the particular AT device will have different resources to help, such as an area representative who can inservice staff or help with demonstration, on-line tutorials to assist with features, setup, and training, and technical support via telephone.


  1. What are some considerations in marketing our programs?
  2. To effectively market your program:

    1. Know your product.
    2. Create a solid keynote statement about your message (see section on branding below).
    3. Identify your audience, including the people you want to help, those you want to work with, developing partners and patrons. Needs assessments, focus groups, and town hall meetings can all assist in determining the needs in the state. Each program must then determine who their audiences will be based on needs across the state, staffing, program structure, other state programs to avoid duplication, etc.
    4. Build relationships outside of your comfort zone, i.e. with legislators, school boards, chamber of commerce. Keeping a program in front of decision makers is one of the best ways to market to a diverse audience. Periodically sending newsletters, announcements of open houses, press releases, can build name recognition. Be careful not to inundate groups with information as this may have the reverse effect of what you want.

    There are different mechanisms that can be used to spread the word about your device demonstration and loan programs, including:

    • Your website (and links to it from others in the state)
    • Newsletters
    • Articles that you write for others newsletters (professional or disability-related)
    • Video/DVD promotional materials
    • Listserves
    • Brochures to leave with your partners, distribute at shows and conferences
    • Exhibits at local shows, malls, fairs
    • Tagging onto other disability awareness activities
    • "Commercials" before theater movies are available for a reasonable price
    • Local TV, radio, newspapers (write the spots for them!)
    • Hosting open houses
  3. How do I host a successful Open House at our center?
  4. Some programs host open houses as a way of promoting themselves. A successful open house may include the following ideas or activities:

    1. Tie your open house into AT awareness week/month as an activity, invite elected officials, others in the area that are involved with AT, potential payors of AT, and disability advocates.
    2. When elected officials are invited, circulate pictures of these officials so that staff can recognize and greet the honored guests. These officials may be of help to you when looking for future resources or aid.
    3. Know who would likely attend – try to identify audience in advance. Target specific groups, such as school districts, independent living centers, other disability organizations, senior groups, etc.
    4. Food brings people! Provide refreshments and spread them around the center to keep visitors moving through.
    5. Write up a media release to be given to local radio and TV stations to broadcast. If written for them, there is greater likelihood of the message being broadcast, especially when there are spots to fill.
    6. Write articles for the local papers featuring case studies, information about your center, or interesting technology to highlight. If you write it yourself, there is a greater assurance that the information is correct, and it will be prepared in advance when there are spaces to fill.
    7. Involve board members in your open house to talk to visitors, invite other people through their connections, and to make them feel a more active participant in the operations of your program.
    8. Invite consumers who are AT users to talk about their experience, especially if they are happy with the services they received through your program.
    9. Involve inter-agency groups (non-profits in area) who meet regularly and attend their meetings. They can help to spread the word about your services.
    10. Send formal invitations and host separate receptions for staff of centers. Follow up thank you notes and pictures if possible to acknowledge their attendance so that they have a second reminder about your program.
    11. Identify professionals and consumer groups and host a quarterly open house to focus on a different type of AT. Send a postcard across a "drivable" region near your center to announce the event, since postcards are less expensive to print and to mail.
    12. Have trained staff show devices and talk to various groups by giving guided tours or by manning different stations around the center. Set times to overlap end of workday and early evening, or offer at two different times to allow staff from other programs, schools to attend after work.
    13. Have giveaways with your name and logo on them. Prepared packets stuffed with information on other programs and some giveaways will make it more likely for people to walk away with a packet and save you time during the event.
    14. Advertise planned activities ahead of time so that people can plan to attend at specific times for an activity of interest if they are not able to take too much time off.
  5. What are ways I can reach remote or rural areas of my state?
  6. In states with large rural populations or more challenging geography, there can be a number of other issues that make outreach challenging:

    • Mountainous terrain
    • Climate extremes
    • No satellite or phone service
    • Transportation issues – access to vehicles, public transport, cost
    • Generally lower income families
    • Difficulty in finding local professional expertise in AT

    Programs have used a number of strategies to reach rural populations:

    1. Setting up partnerships with agencies housed in these areas and providing them with AT training, and perhaps money and/or equipment.
    2. Mobile units may be implemented, whether through a formal program or staff members with mini-vans or their own cars. As traveling is expensive, there are a number of ways to maximize the efficiency of a trip. For example, you can make multiple stops, establish a regular visiting schedule at certain facilities, and use the local professional expertise to help you in initial contact and for follow-up.
    3. More programs are using or looking into video conferencing. This can be done with webcams via the internet or with special conferencing equipment both at the central location and the local site, such as a local agency or a school. This technology can be used for meetings, trainings, and demonstration if the activity meets the definition of demonstration as defined by the AT Act.
  7. How can I leverage resources to stretch my AT Act dollars?
  8. Programs have used many mechanisms to leverage small and large dollars to broaden reach and to stretch their budget. Examples include:

    1. Finding small and larger ways to leverage in-kind support from your partners. This can be in the form of free rent, storage, telephone, utilities, staff time, sharing of equipment pools, or other resources that save the program in operating costs and benefit both parties.
    2. Partnering with other agencies. There are many equipment pools for specific populations, such as the deaf and hard of hearing, blind and low vision agencies, libraries, MS Society, and school districts. You can consolidate your efforts and offer to become a storage facility to house their equipment, or to network to broaden your reach and pool your resources.
    3. Early intervention programs. Many programs have found these programs to be very interested in connecting with them. Partnering with them helps you reach this population and expertise, but these programs often lack equipment or AT expertise that you can provide. They may also provide funding if your equipment helps them to meet their goals.
    4. Regional sharing of high tech, expensive devices. Some programs have been able to increase access to expensive products that are of infrequent use by sharing these devices and their associated costs with other programs in their region.
    5. Cheap labor. Graduate students through a local university can be utilized (see staff development section for more discussion). Volunteers from many sources are great resources to anything from ramp building projects to recycling of equipment, checking equipment in or out, and more. You may find more highly skilled volunteers from local trade or technical schools, and setting up internships would give a student job experience and possibly train for future employment.
    6. Microsoft Accessibility Resource Centers. MARCs are a great jumping–off point for computer access, and many programs take advantage of this opportunity to set up computer access demonstration, build expertise, and stay current on products and accessibility options. Microsoft equips a center with an HP computer running Windows Vista and Office 2007, with video demonstrations and accessibility tutorials, as well as Accessibility CD Resource Sets to distribute.
    7. Universities. Education facilities may charge a technology fee from students to access their computer labs, and a portion is remitted back to university. If your program is housed in a university, you may be able to apply for a competitive grant offered for tech fees to fund program. The main purpose of the computer labs is for the benefit of university students, but others can use it also, and it provides another demonstration venue on campus.
    8. Telecomm Distribution Programs. Some AT Act programs have bid to become a center for these programs and have found that demonstration and loan volume will increase due to the additional customers served. It is a good program to partner with, as people needing telecommunications equipment often have other AT needs. Telecommunication Distribution funds cannot be used for administrative costs, but it pays for telecommunication equipment. If awarded the contract, the discounts given for the telecommunication equipment program are extended for purchases of equipment for your loan library also.
  9. Where can I find external funding support?
  10. There are many places where you can go for external funding, but there is competition from other programs looking for money to support their initiatives. Here are some strategies that may help you to leverage funding from various sources.

    1. The ideal situation is for your state to recognize how valuable your services are and to set up "permanent funding" through a line item in the annual state budget. This takes diligent effort (and again some luck!), but there are some helpful suggestions to achieving this goal:
      • Find a champion in your state government to assist with a program revision request;
      • Join and interface with other state agencies. A wish list can be used as a vehicle to educate both administration and legislators about programs of value.
      • Look in state plans of all relevant agencies to see what they say about AT, including the Dept. of Aging, Health, Public Welfare, Education, and Labor and Industry. This will guide you in finding ways to work with them, as many of them may have goals that partner nicely with your programs.
      • Invite legislators at all levels to your events, either on special tours, just to drop in, or specifically for open houses and disability awareness activities you may do for public awareness.
      • Collect data! Keep demographics and make calculations on how much money you are saving vocational rehabilitation agencies, Medicare and Medicaid, school districts when equipment demonstration and loan helps people choose the right AT the first time. These agencies have a history of bad purchases, mostly due to not making informed choices or having proper assessments.
    2. For devices that are borrowed by other professionals, track and point this out as a rationale to your state department of education and other agencies to show that you are providing a service and cost savings for them. These other agencies could be a potential external funding source or may help you to get a line item in your state budget.
    3. While some states do not focus on small grants for several thousand dollars, many do because it can help systems change, or they can open doors to future funding. Small money can create linkages to bigger money. Consistency between your centers allows better collaboration, which helps to pursue external funds.
    4. Develop a relationship with the fiscal person at your state education agency. Sometimes there is a pool of dollars that must be liquidated before the end of the fiscal year for programs working with developmental delay or early intervention, part C funding.
    5. Some states can access funding from state tobacco settlement funds. These settlements were agreed upon by 46 states over a 25 year period. More information is found at ;
    6. Check into victim funds. There may be discretionary funds for service providers to help with evaluation, training, and demonstration for victims of crimes. For more information, see
    7. National foundations have local branches to serve the needs of the specific populations they serve. You may be able to leverage one-time dollars, although there may be some restriction as to how that money is spent. Community foundation guides are available in public libraries.
    8. Look at the 990’s repository to find private foundations that give grants. IRS 990 forms that most non-profits and all private foundations must fill out are public record. For more information on how to find these, visit these websites: and
    9. Look for a certified librarian on staff or as a sub-contactor. This could make your program eligible for competitive library improvement grants for reaching special needs populations. For more information about potential grants, visit the Institute of Museum and Library Services website at