Assistive Technology Acts
Assistive Technology Acts provide federal funding from the U.S. Department of Education to each state and territory to support "State efforts to improve the provision of assistive technology to individuals with disabilities of all ages through comprehensive statewide programs of technology-related assistance."
Currently, there are 56 State AT programs. For the approximately 50,000,000 individuals with disabilities in the United States, these programs are available to provide them with assistance in selecting and acquiring assistive technology, defined as any device that would help them perform tasks that would otherwise be difficult or impossible.
The Technology-Related Assistance for Individuals with Disabilities Act (P.L. 100-407) was first passed in 1988, reauthorized in 1994 (P.L. 103-218) and again in 1998 (P.L. 105-394). It was designated as a systems change grant and is often called the "Tech Act" for short. Congress passed this legislation to increase access to, availability of, and funding for assistive technology through state efforts and national initiatives. The 1998 law reaffirmed that technology is a valuable tool that can be used to improve the lives of Americans with disabilities.
Every state and territory of the United States was awarded a Tech Act project. The first group of projects started in 1989. Each state project had five years of funding under the 1989 law. A competitive grant application was required to receive an additional five years of funds. Projects were assured of eight years of full funding; the ninth year at 75% of full funding; and the tenth year as a Tech Act project at 50% of full funding.
Legislation supporting the state assistive technology projects was scheduled to sunset on September 30, 2004. The Assistive Technology Act of 2004 (P.L. 108-364) reauthorized the assistive technology programs in all states and territories for five years as a formula-based program, and removed the sunset provision from the law.
Assistive Technology Act of 2004
One of the major changes brought about by the Assistive Technology Act of 2004 was a change in purpose. Previous Acts focused on helping states build "systems for improving access to assistive technology devices for individuals with disabilities." With the 2004 edition, the Act now required States to provide direct aid to individuals with disabilities to ensure they have access to the technology they need. As a result, the majority of State efforts are required to be conducted in the following areas: assistive technology reutilization programs, assistive technology demonstration programs, alternative financing programs and device loan programs.
Accomplishments of State Tech Act Programs
Due to the efforts of the State Tech Act Programs, millions of Americans with disabilities are able to go to work, go to school, participate in recreation activities, and be contributing members of their communities. The State Program accomplishments are summarized each year as part of the Tech Act reporting requirements. A summary of these accomplishments is compiled by the Association of Assistive Technology Act Programs; complete copies of each State Plan can be found at the National Information System for Assistive Technology.