California is a unique state (although, I’m sure every other state considers themselves unique too). A diverse population spread over a large geographic area with several large urban areas and many remote rural communities poses a number of challenges for service providers intent on inclusion and reaching all citizens with AT needs. But those challenges are not unique to California. AT programs across the country face similar challenges to providing services and meeting the needs of their communities.
When it comes to expanding the reuse of AT, the secret to meeting those challenges is to reuse OPI; other people’s ideas. We need not re-invent the wheel. Rather, we only have to look at successful programs and learn from them. For instance, Utah, Wyoming and many other western states have populations spread over vast distances. But AT programs in these states have found creative solutions to the problem and expense of shipping devices. Partnerships with private companies, libraries and others that move goods around their states have helped these programs control their costs and get devices to consumers.
The Create Program makes extensive use of volunteers to refurbish and distribute power wheelchairs, scooters and pediatric equipment. Georgia’s Star Network brings several organizations together to share resources and collaborate to provide reused AT to consumers. Get AT Stuff is a collaboration of several New England states that make used AT available. Another New England collaboration enables school districts to share AT.
There is nothing truly unique in the challenges we face. We have only to look to the rest of the country for inspiration and ideas on how to meet our challenges. It’s time for California to step up, show that we do have what it takes to expand our reuse programs and make used AT a significant part of our efforts to meet the needs of our disabled and aging population.
Have you experienced AT Reuse programs in other states? If so, please share your experiences below.