Sources of central government funding for assistive technology (AT) in the UK depend on different circumstances and criteria, but are generally grouped into three categories: at work, in education and at home.
When a UK employer employs a disabled person, as defined in the Equality Act, the employer is responsible for making any "reasonable adjustments" in order to avoid the disabled employee being put at a disadvantage compared to non-disabled colleagues.
The costs of AT are generally covered under this legislation. However, how the AT is funded differs from employer to employer. Some may choose to fund the AT themselves and others may seek funding from the government's Access to Work scheme via JobCentre Plus.
More details on the Access to Work scheme can be found on the UK Government website.
Government funding for AT in education operates differently in schools, further education institutions and higher education institutions.
Funding options vary dependent on the type of school, local education authority (LA) and the child’s special educational needs (SEN) status. The first points of contact should be the school's special educational needs coordinator (SENCO) or the LA.
More details about provisions for children with special educational needs in schools can be found on the UK Government website.
Institutions in England and Wales receive government funding for costs of providing additional support to disabled students. These funds may be used to provide AT for disabled students. The first point of contact should be the further education institution's additional learning support adviser.
Disabled Students' Allowances (DSA) are available to all eligible undergraduate students and some postgraduate students in England and Wales.
DSA helps to meet the additional education costs directly resulting from a disability, as defined in the Equality Act, with the aim of helping disabled students study on an equal basis with other students. DSA funding is available from LAs.
More details on the Disabled Students' Allowances can be found on the UK Government website.
In January 2011, the UK Government's Home Access Scheme, which was the only source of public funding for AT for disabled people in their personal lives, reached its quota and closed. Some funding may be available from Health Authorities, Clinical Commissioning Groups or LAs but this is becoming increasingly limited.
Grants for buying technology
There are many grant giving bodies around the UK. Some have funds allocated to help people with sensory impairments. Most organisations will only provide grants when all possible statutory sources of funding have been declined and may also be dependent on the recipient being on a low income.
Below are some potential sources of grants for those with sensory impairments.
Barchester’s Charitable Foundation
Barchester’s Charitable Foundation gives grants to disabled adults where an application will encourage people’s mobility, independence and improved quality of life.
Tel: 0800 328 3328
Address: Grants Management Team, Barchester’s Charitable Foundation, Suite 201, Second Floor, Design Centre East, Chelsea Harbour, London, SW10 0XF
Blind Children UK
Blind Children UK offers a grants programme to help children and young people access the most appropriate technology and sensory equipment.
The Headley Trust will consider unsolicited proposals for small grants to provide practical aids for disabled people.
Tel: 020 7410 0330
Address: The Sainsbury Family Charitable Trusts, The Peak, 5 Wilton Road, London, SW1V 1AP
Lifeline 4 Kids
LifeLine 4 Kids provides essential equipment to help improve the quality of life for children with disabilities and special needs from birth to 18 years. They do not provide cash grants, but can provide equipment. To apply, read the application guidelines and email the address supplied
Newlife Foundation for Disabled Children
The Newlife Foundation for Disabled Children provides grants for essential equipment including communication aids for disabled children under the age of 19.
Tel: 0800 902 0095
Address: Newlife Centre, Hemlock Way, Cannock, Staffordshire, WS11 7GF
Peter Greenwood Memorial Trust
The Peter Greenwood Memorial Trust gives grants to students who are deaf or hearing impaired undertaking courses in further or higher education and training in England and Wales only. To apply, an application form needs to be downloaded from their website and posted to them:
Tel: 01274 436414 voice
01274 433223 text
Address: Nicola Storey, Westbrook Building, Great Horton Road, Bradford, West Yorkshire, BD7 1AY
RNIB Grants may be offered to registered blind or partially sighted people for a range of household items that can help them live independently in their homes, including technology.
Tel: 0303 123 9999
Address: RNIB Information Resource Team, FREEPOST LON20727, London, WC1H 9BR
The Sequal Trust
SEQUAL is an organisation that helps members with speech and/or movement difficulties with the provision of special electronic equipment including computers and speech synthesisers. There are no cash grants available but they assist with fund raising. Once provided, they will also cover the maintenance and repair of any equipment. To apply for help, you need to become a member (free of charge.)
The Snowdon Trust helps students with physical and sensory disabilities in post-16 education. Awards are made for disability related costs including items such as computers
Tel: 01403 732 899
Address: Unit 18, Oakhurst Business Park, Southwater, West Sussex RH13 9RT
The Family Fund
The Family Fund gives grants to lower income families with severely disabled children aged 17 or under.
Tel: 01904 621 115
Textphone: 01904 658 085
Address: 4, Alpha Court, Monks Cross Drive, York, YO32 9WN
Identifying other possible sources of funding
Turn2us has a grants search database which gives access to information about over 3000 charitable funds, including ones based on geographical areas.
The NDCS also has a useful factsheet about sources of funding for families with deaf children and for deaf young people
Your local library should also hold copies of several publications containing comprehensive information on grant-giving organisations, such as
- A Guide to Grants for Individual Needs
- The Educational Grants Directory
- Local Area Grants Guide
In many areas there are local organisations that can either help you to identify where funds are available or provide grants themselves.
Local Council for Voluntary Services
Sometimes called Council for Voluntary Organisations, Community Service Council, or similar, they offer information regarding national and local grant giving organisations. Ask at your local library for contact details.
Local Citizen’s Advice Bureau
Offer information regarding local grant giving organisations. Find your local Citizens Advice Bureau on their website www.citizensadvice.org.uk
Local religious organisations
May provide direct funding usually to those who belong to the organisation.
Round Tables, Inner Wheels, Lions and Rotary clubs
Most parts of the country have local branches of theses kinds of clubs. All raise money for causes in their local areas and many are open to applications for grants. Ask at your local library for contact details.
How to apply for a grant from an organisation
AbilityNet have information on how to apply for a grant for technology and what to put in a letter of application. It is contained in their factsheet Funding for an Adapted Computer but is equally applicable to other assistive technology items. It is available to download from their website or by calling 0800 269 545.
First published: Monday 25 February 2013
Updated: Friday 24 February 2017