Navigating the NDIS can be daunting, especially if the NDIS marks the first time you or your loved one are accessing supports and services. The Inform NDIS 101 series aims to take some of the confusion out of understanding, accessing and using the NDIS by providing straightforward information and resources.
Assistive technology or AT can be complex like a custom powerchair or simple like a non-slip bathmat. What AT can do is provide you with the means and supports to engage with your community, live independently, work or travel or all of the above. Some AT can be expensive or require customisation, others are simple and can be brought straight off the shelf. Whatever your AT needs might be, you may be able to access funding through the NDIS. Read on to learn more about what AT is, how the NDIA defines different AT and what might be involved in including AT in your plan.
What is assistive technology?
Assistive technology comes in a vast range of different shapes and sizes and colours. From power wheelchairs to communication boards to screen reading software, there is an assistive technology to assist you in just about every area of your life. From education and employment to transport and navigating the world around you, the right assistive technology with the right supports at the right time can be a life changer.
According to Dr Kate Anderson, who Inform spoke with in series two of the Inform podcast, assistive technology acts as a bridge between you and your environment.
‘Assistive technology sits in the bridge. It’s not fixing people’s impairment. And it’s also not changing the environment. It’s just providing a bridge between those two areas so that people can access perhaps an inaccessible environment,’ Dr Anderson said.
NDIS and assistive technology
The list of available AT is long with hundreds of different products. In an effort to simplify the process of accessing AT via your NDIS plan, the NDIA split AT into four different levels.
- Level 1—Basic Assistive Technology
Basic AT is safe to operate or use and you won’t need specialised assistance to set it up. Basic AT items cost less than $1500. In addition, you don’t need an assessment for this type of AT. And you can buy it online or from a local shop. Examples include non-slip bathmats, adapted grip equipment or mobility canes.
- Level 2—Standard Assistive Technology
You can generally buy Standard AT from an AT supplier. Standard AT is not customised, however you’ll probably need some assistance setting it up and making adjustments. For example, altering the height. An AT Assessment will sometimes be required for Standard AT. Some examples of Standard AT include transfer benches, laundry and washing line adaptations and handrails.
- Level 3—Specialised Assistive Technology
While Specialised AT is similar to Standard in that you can buy from an AT Supplier, Specialised AT often requires some adjustments or modifications to suit the individual. Specialised AT will require an AT Assessment and a written quote. Examples include electronic Braille displays, stair lifts and pressure mattresses.
- Level 4—Complex Assistive Technology
Complex assistive technology is custom made. It often requires ongoing support including training. This kind of AT requires an AT Assessment and a written quote. Examples includes power wheelchairs, bed rails and hearing aids.
The NDIA guide
The NDIA produces an Assistive Technology and Consumables Guide, which you can find here: https://www.ndis.gov.au/providers/essentials-providers-working-ndia/providing-assistive-technology
However, it’s important to note that this guide does not cover all the AT that is available or that may be funded in your NDIS Plan. What is does is provide a list of the most common assistive technology. In addition, the guide also provides the funding category and line item information for specific AT and advises if a particular AT requires an AT Assessment.
Assistive technology assessments: the why and how
While most Basic and Standard AT will not require an AT Assessment, anything Specialised, or Complex will. The AT Assessment will help you determine what your needs are and what is the most appropriate AT for you. AT Assessors may be an allied health professional, a registered dietician or psychologist or AT Mentor.
How to buy assistive technology
The way your NDIS plan is managed will determine how you purchase assistive technology. For example, if you are self-managed, you can choose your own AT suppliers and you are responsible for paying any invoices and then claiming from the NDIS. However, if the NDIA manages your plan, your Local Area Coordinator or Support Coordinator will assist you to find a registered NDIS provider and the NDIS will pay the provider directly. And if your plan is managed for you, your plan manager will assist you to find the right AT and AT provider and they will pay them on your behalf.
Tips and Advice:
- An AT Assessment prior to your planning meeting can help ensure the NDIA has enough evidence to decide what AT is reasonable and necessary
- AT valued at more than $1500 will require two quotes
- Don’t forget about repairs and maintenance. And remember that you can include these in your plan
- Consider setting up a trial to test if new assistive technology is the best fit for you before you buy
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