Affordable Assistive Technology Is Alive and Well in Massachusetts: How to Get What You Need

Smart phones, laptops, tablets, desktop computers—these digital devices have become so much a part of our home and work environments that any form of communication other than electronic texts, emails, videos, social media sharing (phone calls? hand-written notes? snail mail anyone?) are considered far too slow and just plain old-fashioned.

So what happens if you can’t use your hands to type? Or suffer a stroke, sustain a brain injury or have some other form of cognitive or physical impairment that severely limits your ability to use electronic devices that are now at the center of our techno-fueled universe?

Fortunately, even as technological advances in size, speed and applications of computing have fostered an over-reliance on digital devices, technology also provides some remarkable ways for people with disabilities to stay connected with the world. Voice recognition devices, dictation software and a host of other high and low tech adaptive tools can make the difference between remaining independent and having to rely on others for even the simplest tasks.

Assistive Technology Options in Massachusetts

So, how do you know where to start, if you or a loved one is in need of assistive technology? Here in the Commonwealth, the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC) contracts with three organizations to provide Assistive Technology (AT) assessments, purchase and set-up of equipment, training and follow-up: Easter Seals Massachusetts, United Cerebral Palsy of Berkshire County, and UMass-Dartmouth Center for Rehabilitation Engineering.

Who is eligible? Any Massachusetts resident

  • who has a severe physical or mental impairment that substantially limits their ability to function independently at home or in their community;
  • for whom AT services and training will improve their ability to function, continue to function or move toward functioning independently in family and community.

Easter Seals Massachusetts provides AT services in its Boston and Worcester offices, including a bundle of free services and low cost loans that can help you determine best options and even sample tools before committing to purchase. Offerings include:

Assistive Technology On-Demand

Free, curated kits of essential assistive technology for people in Massachusetts who have acute, urgent needs for assistive devices to help regain independence and communicate while hospitalized or recovering. Supported by a grant from Comcast NBC Universal.

Assistive Technology at Work

AT assessments and training that help job-seekers gain equal access to the work environment, increase career opportunities and maximize ability to perform essential skills. Examples include assistive computer devices, communication devices, adaptive software, environmental controls, amplification accessories, time management aids, vision aids, and workstation modifications.

Assistive Technology at Home

AT for the home or community setting to improve the ability of individuals with significant disabilities to live independently.

Assistive Technology at School

Consulting services and iPads, tablets, computers, dedicated speech generating devices, access equipment and low tech aids to help meet students’ curriculum and augmentative communication needs.

Augmentative Communication Services

Experts work with individuals with congenital or acquired disabilities who have difficulty using speech for communication.

Try Before You Buy

Easter Seals Massachusetts also operates three regional MassMATCH centers, as part of a state initiative to maximize access to AT. At these centers, you can learn more about available AT, try out or even borrow equipment to sample at home.

In addition, the Massachusetts Assistive Technology Loan Program, funded with state and federal resources, gives people with disabilities and their families access to low-interest cash loans to purchase needed AT devices. For more information and to locate your nearest MassMatch Center, visit mismatch.org.

To learn more about what AT services are available in your Massachusetts community, contact the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission: 617-204-3851 (voice); 617-204-3815 (TDD); 617-204-3877 (FAX); AT@MRC.state.ma.us.

President of Deborah Fins Associates, PC, since 1995, Deborah Liss Fins is a licensed independent clinical social worker and certified Aging Life Care™ manager. Drawing on more than 30 years of professional experience in aging life care management, DFA offers comprehensive assessments and planning, guidance in selecting appropriate care, help identifying resources for financial support and professional consulting. Please contact us to set up a complimentary initial telephone consultation.

For more on coping with aging, follow us on Twitter: @DeborahFinsALCM.

Image Credit: Carl Heyerdahl

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