Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Funding for Assistive Technology: Step-By-Step

Meet Rick Raducha, AKA “Rapid Rick,” who is a race car enthusiast. Recently, Rick purchase a brand new, accessible van. While servicing it at our shop, he shared an amazing story about his vehicle, detailing how he was able to purchase it.

He told me, “I had a hard time asking for help as I was raised to do as much for myself as I possibly could, with my diagnosis of Osteogenesis Imperfecta, also known as Brittle Bone Disease. I didn’t let that stop me from following my passion of car racing though. I was 8 years old when I attended my first race, and I knew it would not be my last. I have been in the race pits regularly since I was 19 years old, and still to this day, am one of the few people who uses a wheelchair for mobility to do so. But the best part is that, on May 18th, I am driving my new accessible vehicle from St. Pete, Florida to the Indy 500, which has been my life-long dream. I would never be able to do this without the help of my sister, who realized late last year that my old, 14-year old van, would soon be undriveable. I knew that I needed to figure out a way to raise money for a new van because I did not have any other funding options. She suggested that I start a Facebook and a Go Fund Me Campaign. This was successful because I wrote a very compelling reason how and why a new vehicle would improve my safety, quality of life, and independence. I was able to raise enough money, with the help of my friends, to purchase a new 2018 Ford Transit totally accessible van!”

Many people think that assistive technology is simply a computer, or some type of electronics. Really, it’s so much more than that. In fact, it can have a huge impact on your life. Assistive technology (AT) is defined as, “Any item, piece of equipment or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of individuals who have a disability.” There are many categories of Assistive Technology, which include devices that assist with: speech communication, vision, hearing, learning cognition, developmental cognition, daily living, vehicle modifications, transportation, computers, recreation, sports, leisure, environmental adaptations, mobility, and seating/positioning.

AT can improve an individual’s quality of life, in so many ways; however, it can be very expensive. To get the equipment that you need, how do you find adequate funding? Follow these 14 steps below to find out:

  1. Determining the best piece of assistive technology
    • It is important to begin this process by asking the simple question: “What do I need?” Your answer will steer you toward specific items, aimed at increasing your quality of life and independence. AT will provide you with many tools and will assist in most aspects of your life. Namely, it will have a large impact on your physical health, your social wellbeing, your academical performance, your recreational activities, and your vocational success. Reach out to other parents, talk to teachers and therapists, and attend various events, especially those geared toward people with disabilities.
  2. How much will your AT cost?
    • Check your local area, and search for a company that can provide you with the necessary equipment or service(s). Though it can be exciting, don’t forget to ask for a written and detailed quote. Afterward, it’s important to inform the company that you intend to apply for funding. As a result, the funder may request a discount.
    • At Custom Mobility, we are more than happy to help with most equipment quote requests. If you’re interested in receiving a quote from us, please call: 800-622-5151.
  3. To showcase your need for the equipment, it’s important to take a photo of your child or yourself, using the requested item. • A photo is worth a thousand words! When asking for funding, this step is extremely important. Doing so tells a story, and shows why the device is so important to your health and wellbeing.
  4. Ask your physician to write a Letter of Medical Necessity (LMN)
    • An LMN is typically written by a physician, but can also be written by a teacher or therapist. These pieces of documentation are extremely important, because they justify your need for AT. LMN’s can only be written by a professional, who is qualified to create an official assessment of your need.
  5. Your application will require you to provide important documents
    • Funding sources may request additional, financial documents. This documentation can include: last year’s W-2, recent pay stubs, and copies of insurance and medical history, including diagnostic codes, your surgical history, etc.
  6. It’s time to submit your application!
    • In this next step, you should submit a request for AT funding, and provide a quote to your insurance company. Before submitting your request, call your insurance company and outline your situation. If you receive a Denial Letter, don’t worry! Call prior to this, it can help to speed up the process.
  7. If you receive a Denial Letter, it’s important to write a high quality ASK Letter
    • Because this step is the most important, be sure to take your time. Don’t be discouraged, because this letter is your time to shine. Simply tell your story and demonstrate why this equipment is so important. Clearly describe how the AT will change your/your child’s quality of life. Unfortunately, there is usually a surplus of people who are requesting funds. The organization has a limited amount of money, so it’s import to ask for support, and make sure that your letter stays at the top of the pile! As you explain your need for AT, remember to remain clear and concise.
  8. It’s research time
    • How do you find the best funding source? Funding sources can be very specific, meaning that some may only cover certain types equipment. Some of these sources may only provide AT to people with certain diagnoses, in specific, geographic areas. To speed up this process, it might help to first look at the geographical location that they cover, then read into the types of AT that they fund.
  9. You could be one call away
    • Calling the funders is always a great idea! Think of a question that is relevant to your needs. At the very least, the funder will begin to remember you, which could provide additional help. It’s good to give them a face to associate with your name!
  10. Let’s fill out some forms!
    • Your funder may request that you fill out additional forms. Even though this process can seem repetitive to you, it’s important to note that some funding sources have their own applications. Things like changing the order of, or skipping questions, may make it impossible to award you with funding. Be as clear and concise as possible, and refrain from typing in less than 12 point font, unless the guidelines state to use a smaller font. If the funder asks for additional items to complete your application, send them as quickly as possible.
  11. It’s been 30 days. Now What?
    • Most of funding sources either meet once-a-month, or on a rolling basis. Checking in after 30 days is a great idea. You never know what may happen, so preparing for this step can prepare you for providing the funding source with additional information that they need.
  12. A “Thank You” letter can go a long way
    • While it may not seem like it, funding AT isn’t just a long process for you. The funder works very hard to get the equipment that you need! Sending a “Thank You” letter, and a photo of you/your child using the equipment, is a nice way to show the funder of the AT’s importance.
  13. Don’t take “no” for an answer!
    • Sticking with this process is extremely important. If you don’t give up, it is only a matter of time before your AT is approved.
  14. Keeping good records is priceless
    • When working on these steps, it becomes very important to keep track of your documents. These items can include tax forms, pay stubs, etc. It’s a good idea to keep additional copies, so that you can send additional applications with minimal time and effort.
Blog Credits: The Funding Guide for children with disabilities by Tamara Simmons. ©2015 ISBN:978-0-9846035-4-1

This book clearly outlines what to do, including checklists, and even contains a full directory of funding sources: wish funders, state funders and national funders. It is a great resource!

Mary Carol Peterson

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