What is assistive technology? How can you get it?

September 27, 2022
Natasja Dekock & Liesl Yearsley

Assistive technology (AT) is any item, modification, technology or piece of equipment that makes daily life easier for persons with disabilities. The type of items classed as AT can be as small as adapted knives and forks or as big as a powered adjustable bed. It can also be technology like a voice to text application for a person with a physical disability who is unable to use a keyboard or mouse. People with neurodiversity, psychosocial or intellectual disability can also get assistive technology, to provide communication or cognitive support for activities of daily living.

It is important to remember that not all equipment or technology you use is assistive technology and that items that you use as part of your everyday life, for example a microwave, will not be classified as such.

In this article:

  • How to get access to assistive technology
  • Assistive technology and risk
  • Assistive technology and cost
  • Assistive technology and your NDIS plan
  • How to fund laptops and smart phones in your NDIS plan
  • Getting a tablet computer on your NDIS

Access to assistive technology

So that begs the question, how do I know if this item qualifies as AT and how is it funded? There are different categories and processes depending on the risk and the cost of the item involved and there is no single list of AT. Funding decisions are individualized to the needs of the person with a disability and based on what is considered reasonable and necessary for the individual.

The selected AT should align with the individual’s goals and allow them to perform tasks more easily or safely, help them to continue to do the things they need and love to do and allow them to do tasks more independently.

Assistive technology and risk

Assistive technology is grouped into low and high risk categories. When talking about AT that is low risk, we think about technology that is unlikely to cause harm in the person’s day to day life, is available in store so that you can inspect it beforehand and does not require professional advice or setup to be used safely.

Items are viewed as higher risk if it requires input from a professional like an Occupational Therapist for you to be able to use it safely. High risk items tend to be higher in cost but can also be low cost (for example a weighted blanket, which NDIS typically will not cover because evidence is not consistent. https://ourguidelines.ndis.gov.au/would-we-fund-it/assistive-technologies/sensory-equipment )

Assistive technology and cost

AT is further divided into three cost categories, low, mid and high cost.

The cost of low cost AT falls under $1500 per item. Low cost items are generally easier to set up and use, and available from local suppliers or general dealers. Low cost AT is funded from the Core Consumables budget of your plan and may include items like walking sticks or tablet computers

Mid cost AT is funded from the Capital budget of your plan and is for items costing between $1500 and $15000 per item.

High cost (more than $15000) AT items are complex, custom made and will need an individual assessment and expert knowledge or tools for setup. High cost AT items, like a custom made wheelchair, are also funded from your plan’s Capital budget.

AT and your NDIS plan

The NDIS is committed to improve participants’ everyday lives by providing easier access to AT and low cost, low risk AT, like the a·kin home assistive technology, do not require specific approval in most cases. If they do need approval. aKin will work with you and your plan manager on this

How to fund laptops and phones in your NDIS plan

Laptops and smart phones are generally more challenging to get funded by NDIS, because they often fall outside of the “low cost” bucket. NEVER pay anyone upfront online for one of these devices. Some resellers have sprung up, asking you to pay upfront for a device, and saying you can claim it back from NDIS later. If NDIS don't pay, you are out of pocket and mahy have bought an overpriced device with your own money.
It is best to work with registered NDIS providers (ask to see their registration details). Registered providers will never ask for your credit card details. They will work with you and your support coordinator or plan manager, and only provide the service and technology after NDIS has funded it. It may take a bit longer, but at least you know NDIS has covered the cost

Getting a tablet computer on NDIS:

Generally there are two ways to do this.
One is a using covid measure NDIS put in place to provide “continuity of support” ”https://www.ndis.gov.au/participants/assistive-technology-explained/flexible-low-cost-support-continuity
The second is getting an assistive technology device specifically related to disability. This is a true assistive technology, rather than an off-the-shelf retail tablet.

The aKin team is ready to work with you and plan managers to determine if you are or can be eligible for this type of Assistive Technology. You can contact our friendly team by emailing us: support@akin.com or calling us: 1300 882 546