Written by Allan Friedman, CFILC’s Technologies Manager
Seeds have been planted and the sprouts of a new collaboration have begun to emerge. Last fall we convened a summit of organizations that have an interest in AT reuse. The group began to explore ways to work together for the common purpose of increasing access to used AT for all Californians.
Out of that meeting came a small task force that has already met a few times via teleconference to begin to flesh out some of the ideas discussed at the summit for ways reuse programs can work together for their mutual benefit as well as the benefit of California’s disability community. They identified a number of issues to explore including ways they can share information, trade donated equipment, collective purchasing agreements, transportation, public policy and funding.
One of the task force’s first actions was to help AT Network staff determine the best way to utilize AT Act funds to support reuse in California. Today’s release of a Request for Proposals (RFP) for grant funding and the concurrent initiation of the AT Repair and Reuse fund is just one small step in a process of building a true reuse network in California.
$150,000 has been allocated to fund a limited number of grants of up to $30,000 each. Successful applicants will use this funding to make capital purchases or improvements that will enable them to sanitize and repair or refurbish wheelchairs, communication devices, CCTVs and other AT devices. Applications for the competitive grants must be received by March 11, 2011. Visit http://atnet.org/membership/Resources.php for complete details.
In addition to the grants, a repair fund has been established to help small organizations pay for parts and repairs to devices that have been donated to their programs. Organizations that accept donated DME and assistive devices can complete a simple online form for financial assistance to make the devices usable again. While not a competitive process like the capacity building grants, the repair fund is small and available on a first-come, first-served basis. There is a limit of one request per week for any organizations that apply. Details on the program can be found at http://atnet.org/repairfund.php.
Both of these funds will mean a new life for many devices and enable low-income Californians to get assistive technology they might otherwise not be able to acquire.
“We heard a number of people at the summit say they have donations they could reassign to new users, but they are unable to pay for parts or repairs to make the devices usable,” said Kim Cantrell, AT Network Program Director. “The repair fund will allow organizations to request a few hundred dollars for new wheelchair batteries or other parts and have a working device to provide to a low-income consumer.”
By helping organizations make some capital improvements to their reuse programs, we expect to enable them to turnaround even more devices, increasing the supply of quality used devices for Californians with disabilities. These first steps, along with the efforts of the task force, are the beginnings of a statewide network that will make efficient use of donated devices and enable all Californians to have access to AT, new and used, that meet their functional needs and their pocketbooks as well.