Minnesota's Assistive Technology Act Program
Device Demos Device Loan Device Exchange Reutilization Funding

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Minnesota State Plan for Assistive Technology

Attachment 5: State-level Activities

5.1 State Financing Activities

Describe how the State will implement State financing activities as described in section 4(e)(2)(A) of the AT Act.

See Attachment 6 of the state AT plan.

5.2 Device Reutilization Program

Describe how the State will implement a device reutilization program as described in section 4(e)(2)(B) of the Act.

Device Reutilization Programs provide for the exchange, repair, recycling, or other reutilization of assistive technology devices, which may include redistribution through device sales, loans, or rentals. Although the STAR program does not currently operate a device reutilization program it has in the past subcontracted a computer recycling program through United Cerebral Palsy of Central Minnesota. During the three years of this state AT plan, STAR will (1) explore the possibility of establishing a reutilization network within Minnesota ; (2) establish an equipment exchange Web site; and, (3) contact community colleges to discuss establishing a program for training students to inspect and repair AT devices. These activities are described in detail below.

1. Reutilization Program Network [ footnote 1 ]

During the first year of the state AT plan, STAR:

a. Met individually with six agencies that have device reutilization programs to discuss their current services and opportunities for collaborating with similar reutilization programs. We also spoke with several other reutilization programs to better understand their services and determine their interest in discussing opportunities to network and collaborate with similar programs Examples of current reutilization programs in Minnesota include:

During year one of its state AT Plan STAR determined that there is an interest in exploring the possibility of establishing a reutilization network in Minnesota for the purpose of sharing knowledge and possibly resources, as well as, connecting with other reuse programs to identify common barriers and possible solutions to help reutilization programs better serve Minnesotans. In May 2006, STAR attended, Pass it On, a National conference on reuse of assistive technology sponsored by the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation (OSERS), Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) with the assistance of the Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society (RESNA). As a result of information gathered at this conference, STAR plans to convene a reuse conference in 2007 with an open invitation to all those in Minnesota with an interest in this topic. During the reuse conference STAR will survey attendees to identify those interested in participating in a statewide reutilization network. STAR will amend its state AT plan to include a summary of the reuse conference including survey results and additional information about the reutilization network, if one is established as a result of this conference.

b. As a facilitator of reutilization activities in Minnesota during years two and three STAR will:

2. Equipment Exchange

The STAR program often receives requests from consumers to help them buy and sell used equipment. During the three years of this state AT plan, STAR will help Minnesotans with disabilities gain access to used equipment by establishing an equipment exchange Web site. This Web site will connect buyers and sellers of used assistive technology and will be accessible from any computer with an Internet connection or by calling STAR from anywhere in the state using the program's toll-free phone number.

State level activities planned to implement this service include:

STAR will also use this site to provide additional information regarding assistive technology services such as assessment, training and funding options. Those visiting the site will find links to similar exchange programs to increase their options for buying and selling used equipment. The equipment exchange site will be open to all used AT devices that are in good working condition and meet current technology requirements. Items for sale will be categorized by device function. Individuals using this site will be required to pass through a disclaimer page that explains the terms of the listing and use of the site. Terms include:

STAR will file an amended state plan at the end of year two. The amended plan will outline the status of the equipment exchange program and identify activities to be conducted during year three.

3. Connect with Community Colleges

Access to equipment repair and servicing is a real need and concern of most AT users. Often a device must be sent back to the vendor for servicing and repair, which leaves the consumer without a device to use-sometimes for a prolonged period of time. There are more than 20 community technical colleges located across Minnesota . The AT Advisory Council requested that during the three years of this state AT Plan STAR contact community colleges to discuss the possibility of establishing a program to train students to perform equipment repairs and/or safety inspections. STAR also hopes that collaborating with community colleges will promote student interest in the field of assistive technology.

During year one STAR:

At the end of year two, STAR will amend its state AT plan to reflect the status of this state level activity.

5.3 Device Loan Program

Describe how the State will implement a device loan program as described in section 4(e)(2)(C) of the Act.

Device Loan Programs provide short-term loans of assistive technology devices to individuals, schools, employers, public agencies, or others seeking to meet the needs of people with disabilities. Minnesota's AT Act Program is in the process of developing a statewide device loan program with the intention of complementing and collaborating with existing loan programs throughout the state. In the past, STAR has funded loan programs in parts of the state. Loan programs that have received STAR funding include: Minnesota Assistive Technology Loan Network (MATLN), which loans augmentative and alternative communication equipment and three Assistive Technology Network agencies that loan a variety of devices and serve the Northwest, Northeast and Southwest regions of Minnesota.

PACER Center (which currently has over 2,000 AT items in its Simon Technology Center) has been a source of device loans and information for a number of years. Another resource available to Minnesotans is the Telephone Equipment Distribution Program specializing in telecommunications equipment available to eligible Minnesotans.

Equipment loan programs provide a valuable service by enabling:

During the three years of this state AT plan, STAR will work to form a collaborative between existing device loan programs in Minnesota and to create new loan programs in un-served regions of the state.

Consumers currently may contact MATLN, PACER Center, the Telephone Equipment Distribution Program, STAR or one of Minnesota's six regional ATNs [ footnote 2 ] for assistance. Each agency provides assistive technology services that meet the needs of the individuals in their region or statewide.

During year two of its state AT Plan, STAR will facilitate discussion among loan programs in Minnesota to determine opportunities for collaboration among interested programs. Possible collaborative activities include creating a centralized online database of loan equipment to provide consumers with a one-stop resource for locating available equipment statewide. If preferred, consumers could call STAR's toll-free phone number for assistance in obtaining device loan information.

In year one STAR planned and wrote an RFP to establish 7 AT Centers throughout Minnesota for the purpose of delivering AT demonstrations and device loans. STAR will announce the RFP in August 2006 and will award funding in October 2006. It is anticipated that these Centers will expand options for device loans and demonstrations in Minnesota.

Mailing requested loan items provides homebound or rural consumers with equal access to the device loan program; however, costs associated with mailing items can place a strain on loan program budgets. During year two, STAR plans to explore low-cost, no-cost ways to defray costs associated with transporting devices to consumers.

During year one of the plan, STAR:

Cooperative Buying Program

In a time of limited funding and constrained budgets, cooperative buying programs provide a needed cost saving benefit. Minnesota currently has a state cooperative buying program. STAR had hoped to pass cost savings on to its subcontractors through use of the cooperative buying program to purchase AT devices.

During year one, STAR contacted the cooperative buying program currently in existence in Minnesota to see if it was possible for STAR's subcontractors to purchase assistive technology through this program. Unfortunately, STAR discovered that using the existing state cooperative buying program was impractical at this time due to state policies and procedures. Instead Minnesota will rely on the nation-wide efforts of organizations such as NATTAP and ATAP to negotiate better prices with vendors. STAR will in turn pass those savings through to its subcontractors.

5.4 Device Demonstration Program

Describe how the State will implement a device demonstration program as described in section 4(e)(2)(D) of the Act.

Device demonstrations provide consumers with product information, and an opportunity to ask questions and try devices, as well as, providing general information regarding AT services including assessment, training and funding options. Device demonstrations provide important hands-on experience and information necessary to ensure purchasing the right device. Demonstrations may be held in-center or on-the-road to meet the needs of the consumer. The STAR Program has a variety of AT devices that it demonstrates at conferences, public information fairs, workshops, and AT training or upon request at its office. STAR also provides referrals to other device demonstration programs. Referrals increase the opportunities to see a variety of products in action.

During year one STAR:

Footnote #1: Refers to a group of reutilizations programs interested in coming together, either formally or informally to share knowledge, to discuss barriers to reutilization and explore potential solutions, as well as, provide an opportunity for collaboration.

Footnote #2: The Assistive Technology Network (ATN) is a collaborative of six agencies created by STAR to help assure access to and the acquisition of AT devices and services for individuals with disabilities and their family members, guardians, advocates, and authorized representatives throughout Minnesota.

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