How to find, fund and access technology
You may already have a good idea about what technology is right or you, or you may need some assistance with this. Listed below are some suggestions of where to go or who to contact to find technology that will suit your own individual needs.
Local authority assessment
Your local authority may be under a duty to provide you with certain equipment. Social services have to promote the needs of people who are disabled and this can include recreational needs. They are also under a duty to provide facilities for social rehabilitation and adjustment to disability, including assistance in overcoming limitations of mobility and communication.
The relevant legislation makes specific reference to the need for a telephone and any special equipment necessary to enable use of a telephone, the provision of, or assistance in, obtaining wireless, television, library or similar recreational facilities. The law could also cover the provision of an appropriate handset, loud telephone (for flash/vibrating signal), amplifiers, inductive couplers for personal hearing aids and visual transmission machines such as textphones, faxes and possibly modems for computer email transmission.
In order to obtain funding for this type of equipment from your local authority you will need to undergo an assessment of your needs. If you are deafblind then your local authority should be assessing you in line with the deafblind guidance. The deafblind guidance states that this assessment should look at the needs of a person who is deafblind and in particular look at communication, one-to-one human contact, social interaction and emotional wellbeing, support with mobility, assistive technology and rehabilitation. If you have not had this type of assessment and think that you need some support from social services you may wish to ask for this.
The deafblind guidance assessment applies to social services. Also, there is an emphasis on social services working closely with health and education and many assessors will look at the educational needs of the child as well. If your child needs equipment in school then funding should come from your local authority through their statement of special educational needs.
The local authority may purchase and supply the equipment for you itself or it may offer you direct payments so that you can use the money allocated to you to purchase the equipment that you need. Depending on the equipment this might be a one off direct payment or direct payment made in instalments.
The local authority may not supply the specific equipment that you would prefer to receive. For example, the gadget you require is made by company A and by company B. The local authority only supply the equipment made by company A even though company B’s equipment is of a higher quality. This is because company B’s equipment is more expensive. You could either accept the gadget made by company A or you could ask for a direct payment to purchase the equipment – you could then top up the money given to you by the local authority with your own money and purchase the gadget made by company B.
In some cases, your local authority may ask you to contribute towards some equipment financially. They will take into account whether you could reasonably afford to contribute by assessing how much income you have. Not all of your money may be seen as income. At present, the care component of Disability Living Allowance/daily living component of PIP is considered as income for these purposes. Read more on the Disability Rights UK frequently asked questions page.
Within the Health Service there is limited provision for assessment and funding of assistive communication technology. Contact your local hospital’s Speech and Language or Occupational Therapy Departments or GP to ask if there is provision in your area.
An example of this NHS service provision is the Access to Communication and Technology Service in the West Midlands. This is financed by five NHS primary care trusts and provides assessments, advice, reviews and ongoing training to meet an individual’s communication needs.
AbilityNet is a national charity helping people who are disabled of all ages find the right technologies to fully access computers and the Internet. They offer free to download factsheets, telephone support and face to face assistance using a network of volunteers. AbilityNet can also provide workplace assessments and assessments for students receiving Disabled Students Allowance.
Tel: 0800 269 545
Disabled Living Foundation (DLF)
DLF is a national charity that provides impartial advice, information and training on daily living aids. Their website contains a useful microsite called Living Made Easy which provides information on products to aid daily living. There is also a database called AskSARA, an interactive online tool that can guide you through useful advice and help your decision-making about products that might help you.
Tel: 0300 999 0004
This is the Disabled Living’s (www.disabledliving.co.uk) service which offers information and advice about equipment. Ther is also an online Supplier Directory which lists a wide range of companies supplying equipment for children, adults and older people who are disabled, as well as information about organisations that offer funding.
Tel: 0161 607 8200
RNIB is the UK’s largest visual impairment charity. They provide advice on technology for blind and visually impaired people and produce a free quarterly e-newsletter about technology solutions. A dedicated Technology Support Squad of volunteers can provide advice by telephone and can arrange home visits if required.
RNIB have a portfolio of technology products they sell. RNIB have a grants service which is able to offer up to £500 towards useful items to help registered blind and partially sighted people live independently. You must be receiving a means-tested benefit to apply. If you are awarded a grant, you will not be able to apply for another one until three years after the date you were paid.
Tel: 0303 123 9999
Aidis Trust is a charity that aims to help disabled people take advantage of computer technology. They offer assessments over the telephone, in local community/parent groups, at exhibitions and in your own home. The Aidis Trust Technical Support Helpline advisors provide free technical support on general computer issues and specialist hardware or software. They also offer online computer training.
Tel: 0808 800 0009
ARCOS is a charity that supports people who have difficulties with one or more of the following: Understanding speech, reading, using communication (speech, gesture or facial expression) and eating and drinking.
ARCOS offers an equipment library which provides a unique service for assessment and practise in using alternative technologies. The library makes the latest ‘high tech’ equipment available for free trial and rental, enabling clients to fully explore the capability and suitability of equipment before purchasing.
Tel: 01684 576 795
Local centres for low vision and deafness
These centres often house shops or resource units where you can see and try equipment. Some provide short-term loans of larger pieces of technology such as CCTVs that allow you to try them out in your everyday life. Details of your local centres can be found online or via your local Citizens Advice Bureau. These centres may be able to offer assistance when sourcing grants to fund technology products.
Direct from the supplier
Contact a company and ask them to show you what is available. Many companies will make home visits and some do either money back guarantees (usually 30 days) or pay nothing for the first 30 days.
First published: Monday 25 February 2013
Updated: Thursday 13 April 2017