$600,000 grant boosts assistive technology reuse
4:40 p.m., Jan. 4, 2007--The Delaware Assistive Technology Initiative (DATI) at the University of Delaware has received a three-year, $600,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Education's Rehabilitation Services Administration to improve access to assistive devices by Delawareans with disabilities. UD President David P. Roselle made the announcement at a news conference Jan. 4.
DATI and its partners will use the grant to make reutilization of assistive technology an efficient, cost-effective and safe alternative for Delawareans who have disabilities and who are in need of such devices but cannot afford them. Assistive technology includes any device that helps people with disabilities complete various tasks, and includes everything from canes to special chairs to unique hardware and software for computers.
The DATI consortium, which includes 19 state agencies and organizations that serve people with disabilities, is holding a kickoff retreat Jan. 4-5 at Clayton Hall on the University of Delaware campus to explore ways to make equipment reutilization a reality across Delaware.
"The project is unique in that it not only provides a service to people with disabilities, but it also is fiscally and environmentally responsible," Beth Mineo Mollica, DATI director, said. "We are grateful to the Department of Education for providing funding to help us better serve the people of this state."
Mollica said a large number of state residents have unused assistive devices in basements, closets, attics and garages. At the same time, she said there are thousands of people in Delaware who need assistive devices that they cannot afford to purchase. Many Delawareans are uninsured or underinsured, so they cannot rely on insurance to cover their needs for assistive devices, and most insurance plans exclude the vast majority of assistive devices from coverage.
Mollica said reutilization of equipment saves taxpayer dollars and individual resources, and it keeps previously owned equipment out of landfills.
"In supporting innovative efforts to provide for the reuse of assistive technology devices, this new grant provides a very interesting twist on the notion of recycling," Roselle said. "It is a way to be both fiscally responsible and environmentally friendly, in addition to meeting for the needs of Delawareans. It's a win-win-win situation."
Mollica said the grant will help the state to build on its existing capacity relative to recycling and reuse of assistive technology devices to create a coordinated, streamlined system for connecting individuals in need of such devices with sources in the community. The goal of the project is the formation of a coordinated equipment reutilization network, with a public awareness campaign being an important component.
The Colonial Chapter of the Paralyzed Veterans of America has operated an equipment recycling program for many years and the Milton Lions Club maintains a warehouse of hospital beds, crutches, walkers and wheelchairs.
The Delaware Solid Waste Authority operates numerous recycling initiatives, including those targeting consumer electronics and other mainstream goods, and the Opportunity Center, Inc.'s electronics recycling program not only serves the state's commitment to environmentally appropriate waste disposal but also employs individuals with disabilities in this pursuit. It maintains warehouse locations and a fleet of vehicles to transport equipment and materials.
Also, Mollica said, DATI has developed a web-based Assistive Technology Exchange that efficiently connects those having technology they no longer need with those seeking such technologies.
Jeremy Buzzell, program specialist with the Department of Education's Rehabilitation Services Administration, said promotion of the reuse of assistive technology is a priority for the federal agency. He said the administration considers the grant "an investment" because the work accomplished in Delaware will serve as a model to help other states improve their efforts.
DATI was established with federal funding in 1991 to help improve access to assistive technology for Delawareans. Among other services, the DATI operates Assistive Technology Resource Centers in each county that provide equipment demonstrations and short-term loans of equipment for trial use periods at no cost.
Recognizing how much equipment was out there but not being used, in 1993 DATI launched an assistive technology exchange program that enables individuals to buy, sell or give away used devices through "want ads." At that time, those having devices and those looking for devices called a central number to place their listings, which were then published quarterly in The AT Messenger, the DATI's newsletter. With the launch of the DATI's multi-featured website [www.dati.org] in March 2004, the service became automated, making it much more interactive and efficient.
Joining DATI in the consortium are Alfred I. du Pont Hospital for Children, Avenue Medical, Chesapeake Rehab Equipment, the Colonial Chapter of the Paralyzed Veterans of America, the Delaware Department of Education, the Delaware Developmental Disabilities Council, the Delaware Division of Developmental Disabilities Services, the Delaware Division for the Visually Impaired, the Delaware Division of Medicaid and Medical Assistance, the Delaware Division of Services for Aging and Adults with Physical Disabilities, the Delaware Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, the Delaware Solid Waste Authority, the Disabilities Law Program, Easter Seals Delaware and Maryland's Eastern Shore, the Hearing Loss Association of Delaware, the Milton Lions Club, the Opportunity Center and the State Council for Persons with Disabilities.
Article by Neil Thomas