By PCB’s Technology Access Team
Living on a fixed income or low income can present obstacles to obtaining the tools and technologies that can assist with independence. This article is designed to provide some options that you may have not considered.
There are two specific services in Pennsylvania that provide free telecommunication devices. Each program has guidelines for eligibility including low income and certification of disability. The Telecommunication Device Distribution Program (TDDP) provides land line telephones that have been adapted to meet the needs of a person with a disability. These phones may include; large buttons, tactile buttons (some with Braille), talking keypad, talking caller ID and phone book. All include a level of amplification as many older adults have some hearing loss in addition to vision loss. Eligible recipients must be residents of Pennsylvania, have low income and have a land line phone service in the home. At present this program does not include wireless phones. The National Deaf/Blind Program in Pennsylvania is known as ICanConnectPA. Persons eligible may receive devices that connect to digital communication such as wireless phones, tablets, and computers with assistive technology. To be eligible for the ICanConnect program a person must: be legally blind and have documented hearing loss, be a resident of Pennsylvania, and have a low income. To learn more about either of these telecommunication programs please visit: www.disabilities.temple.edu/tddp or www.disabilities.temple.edu/icanconnect. You can also call 800-204-7428 Monday through Friday during business hours for more information.
Grants and gifts are another avenue to obtain funds to purchase the tools you need. In Pennsylvania persons with a disability may apply to receive a $200 grant to support the purchase of an assistive technology device through the Del Sorto fund managed through Pennsylvania’s Initiative on Assistive Technology (PIAT). These funds are provided from a bequest of a deceased and much-loved employee of PIAT. The application can be obtained by contacting PIAT at 800-204-7428 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Applicants must describe the device and its use and provide evidence that you have sought or have been denied funding from other programs or services.
The Association of Blind Citizens Assistive Technology Fund is a national program which provides grants to obtain assistive technology. You will need to submit an application posted within an email describing the technology, your need and purpose for it, and provide income documentation as to your financial need. These applications can be submitted twice per year with deadlines of June 30 and December 31. Assistive Technology Fund (ATF) will provide funds to cover 50% of the retail price of adaptive devices or software. The products covered by this program must retail for a minimum of $200 with a maximum retail price of $6,000. Applicants must be legally blind and a resident of the United States to qualify for this program. Persons eligible to apply for assistance must have a family income of less than $50,000 and cash assets of less than $20,000. All applications must be submitted by copying and pasting the application form into an email message. Visit www.blindcitizens.org/assistive_tech to get the application form. Send completed applications to email@example.com
The Pennsylvania State Council of Lions Clubs can assist with funding to purchase devices for persons with vision loss and demonstrated need who reside within the geographic reach of the local Lions Club. The application process varies with each local club and may include a letter of support request, demonstrated need, and purpose for the equipment. Contact the Main Office to find your local club by calling 717-564-2556; visiting www.palion.org; or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
The CCLVI Dr. Samuel Genensky Memorial Magnification Award Program offers persons with low vision an opportunity to receive a magnification device. Applications are taken each year and 3 to 5 qualified applicants are chosen to receive one of the donated magnification devices. If you are interested in this program, you can begin the process by registering an account that will allow you access to the application. Visit http://cclvi.org for all the details.
The iDevices for Independence project of the Pennsylvania Council of the Blind provides recycled iDevices loaded with independence-related apps for a low price for residents of Pennsylvania who are blind or have low vision. Equipment is donated, restored to factory default and then made accessible with VoiceOver speech or Zoom magnifier. Devices are collected from donations and are limited to current availability. Please contact the PCB office at 877-617-7407 or email@example.com for additional information.
Low Cost computers with assistive technology can be obtained from Computers for the Blind. Each recipient of a computer is asked to provide a $110 processing fee for a desktop or $130 for a laptop. Computers are refurbished and run the latest Windows operating systems however supply may be limited. Included with each system is NVDA software as a screen reader and demonstration versions of other software such as JAWS and Zoomtext. A discount coupon is included to purchase full versions of JAWS or Zoomtext at reduced price. To learn more and obtain an application please call 214-340-6328 or visit www.computersfortheblind.net
Pennsylvania Assistive Technology Foundation is an alternative financing program. They can sometimes provide a mini grant along with cash loan programs. The cash loan can be repaid without interest if you fall within their guidelines as low income and with a low interest rate should your income exceed their guidelines. With either loan re-payments are spread over time and in accordance with your budget. The alternative financing program takes the place of reliance on high interest credit cards and traditional bank loans. For more information and an application call 888-744-1938 or visit www.patf.us.
Last but certainly not least, consider obtaining a used device from the Reuse Equipment Exchange Partnership (REEP). All devices must be in working condition when listed with this program and can include devices such as video magnification (CCTV), scanning devices and other technology used by the blind or those with low vision. This program is managed through Pennsylvania’s Initiative on Assistive Technology and its purpose is to get unused equipment out of the closets or garages and into the hands of those who can put them to good use. Those who have equipment they no longer use can either donate it or list it for sale in the online classified listings. Nine resource centers located across the state can provide information on devices available. Please call PIAT at 800-204-7428 or visit www.disabilities.temple.edu/reep to learn more about REEP partners and the classified listings.