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
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:
- Goodwill/Easter Seals of Minnesota provides free loans of medical equipment for up to 6 months. Items are cleaned, repaired and sanitized before each loan. Available items include: walkers, crutches, wheelchairs, transfer benches, and bathtub rails and chairs.
- Courage Center reutilizes donated hearing aids and batteries, manual wheelchairs in good working condition, power wheelchairs in good working condition (two years old or newer), eyeglasses, Hoyer lifts (must be on wheels), walkers with wheels, computers in good working condition (Mac - newer than 4 years; PC - Pentium III or faster) and, laser printers, scanners, color monitors only, keyboards, mice.
- Hear Now accepts donations of old, used and no longer used hearing aids. Donated aids are sold to a repair lab, and money generated through these sales is used to purchase the aids used in the program's hearing aid assistance program. In 2000, more than 23,000 hearing aids were recycled generating more than $150,000 to fund the program.
- Computers Go Round is a program of United Cerebral Palsy of Central Minnesota. This program, which was established with STAR funds, refurbishes donated computers for distribution to individuals with disabilities living in Central Minnesota.
- PACER Center administers Super Service an online device exchange program that was started through a STAR grant. PACER accepts used equipment in the following categories: ambulation and walking, architectural adaptation, augmentative communication, computer hardware and software, daily living aids, ramps and lifts, recreation and leisure, transportation, and wheelchairs and scooters.
- MS Society, Minnesota Chapter has an online equipment exchange program specializing in ambulation and walking, bath safety, daily living aids, ramps and lifts, rehab exercise, seating and positioning, transportation, and wheelchairs and scooters.
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:
- Work to improve statewide access to reutilization services, which may include providing funding to establish services in areas of the state that lack reutilization programs. Funding for this activity may occur in year two or three and is dependent upon available funds.
- Promote acquisition of used devices through awareness activities via its Web site and newsletter.
- Identify trends regarding equipment reutilization such as popular items, increased needs for specific devices, or lack of reutilization resources. This information will be used for reporting purposes and to plan future state level activities.
- Facilitate sharing of equipment between programs if appropriate. For instance if an agency has an abundance of previously owned walkers, it may wish to donate extra walkers to an area of the state that needs walkers.
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:
- Year One - STAR researched software and technology requirements needed to implement a Web based equipment exchange site. Several AT programs in other states offered to share resources with STAR as outlined in our state AT Plan dated 12/31/2005. Based upon available options and input from its Advisory Council, STAR contracted with AgoraNet to establish a Web-based AT device exchange program. It is anticipated that this site will be online and ready for use by September 15, 2006. In addition, STAR is collaborating with the Kansas AT Act program to promote awareness of its site, ATMatch.com, an online marketplace where donors and sellers can locate buyers for a wide range of assistive technology and durable medical products. STAR published information regarding ATMatch.com in its newsletter and has a link to this site on our Web site.
- Once the equipment exchange site is established, STAR will distribute information about the site to state agencies such as Rehabilitation Services, Department of Human Services and the Department of Education. Information will also be distributed to public libraries and other institutions that provide information to the general public.
- Years Two and Three: Individuals using the site will be asked to complete a follow-up survey. The survey will be available online, in print or alternative format if requested. Survey results will be used to monitor the effectiveness of this site and to make changes to the site if needed.
- Years Two and Three: The equipment exchange site will be monitored to track trends including types of equipment routinely purchased or posted for sale and current used equipment needs based upon disability or geographical location. This information will be used for reporting purposes and to provide direction regarding ways to improve this program.
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 does not inspect items listed and does not warrant the condition of any item listed.
- STAR will not be held liable for outcomes resulting from any transaction made through this site.
- Sales are strictly between individuals and not for use by vendors or distributors. Items will be removed after 90 days; however an individual may re-list an item if desired.
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:
- Established a list of contacts at the community technical colleges in Minnesota . Some colleges were contacted informally during year one. It is anticipated that more in-depth discussions will take place during year two of this plan. In addition colleges will be invited to the year two reuse conference where AT device service and refurbishment will be discussed.
- If an interest exists in establishing a training program, STAR will help coordinate future meetings with schools to facilitate the process of developing curriculum and connecting potential partners.
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:
- Individuals to try a device in order to make an informed purchasing decision.
- Professionals to borrow a device for assessment purposes.
- Individuals to borrow a device while their own device is being repaired or while they are waiting to receive a newly purchased device.
- AT Trainers to borrow devices for training and demonstration.
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 ATNsfor 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:
- Met with representatives of Minnesota's AT device loan programs to discuss current services and to pave the way for future discussions regarding opportunities for collaboration.
- STAR researched the database software needs for providing an accessible online device database.
- STAR consulted with other AT Act Programs with existing AT device loan programs to learn more about their policies, procedures, and data collection methods. This information will be used to identify and avoid potential pitfalls and to establish consistent guidelines for device loan programs participating in the network.
- Met with assistive technology service providers to discuss how to provide adequate training and support to consumers during the loan period to ensure that trial devices are used appropriately. Possible options include establishing a mentorship program and/or providing an accompanying fact sheet with online training resources, as well as, providing vendor and state resource information.
- Did not survey users to evaluate service satisfaction and effectiveness of the device loan network of the AT Centers since it has not yet been established. This activity will be started when the subcontracts for the AT Centers have been awarded and the Centers are up and running. STAR expects to award these subcontracts early in year two.
- STAR will submit an amended state AT plan outlining the status of this initiative at the end of year two.
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:
- Worked with Minnesota's ATNs and other state AT providers to promote opportunities for device demonstrations by:
- Facilitating access to devices for demonstration through loans of STAR's devices.
- Referring requests for demonstrations to an appropriate ATN, AT service provider or vendor.
- Conducted an information outreach campaign utilizing its newsletter, Web site, Directory of Resources, and listserv to distribute information regarding device demonstration programs available in Minnesota. STAR will continue to pursue this activity in year two.
- STAR did not coordinate demonstrations at non-traditional host sites such as public libraries, museums, senior centers, and shopping malls/stores during year one but plans to pursue this activity in year two.
- STAR did not coordinate demonstrations at Minnesota WorkForce Centers but plans to pursue this activity in year two.
- Established a listing of statewide device demonstration events on STAR's Web site to educate Minnesota consumers and professionals of opportunities available throughout the state. STAR routinely contacts vendors, agencies and programs that provide AT demonstrations to request event announcements for posting on STAR's Web site.
- Based upon the number of demonstrations during year one, STAR will work to increase the number of demonstrations in years two and three. With the addition of AT Centers, STAR anticipates a 100% increase in device demonstrations during year two.
- Although STAR did not create and distribute a guide for consumers and professionals outlining things they should consider when purchasing assistive technology, it did publish an article on this topic in its newsletter. This article addressed areas of consideration including the need for a professional assessment, training, support and funding. STAR will continue to work during year two to create and distribute this proposed guide to the AT Centers and AT service providers to give consumers who attend device demonstrations.
- STAR did not establish a blog for users of AT to share their experiences regarding the devices they use. Reasons for not going forward with this activity include lack of staffing and resources. At this time, STAR does not plan to pursue this activity during year two.
- STAR filed the required annual report at the end of year one indicating the status of the activities outlined above and based upon the results of year one will provide a timeline of activities for years two and three.
- STAR will issue an RFP in 2006 to establish 7 AT Centers throughout Minnesota for the purpose of delivering AT demonstrations and device loans.
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.