Thursday, May 22, 2014

Assistive Technology Alternative Financing Program

The Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services proposes a priority under the Assistive Technology Alternative Financing Program. The Assistant Secretary may use this priority for competitions in fiscal year (FY) 2014 and later years. This priority is designed to ensure that the Department funds high-quality assistive technology alternative financing programs that meet rigorous standards in order to enable individuals with disabilities to access and acquire assistive technology devices and services necessary to achieve education, community living, and employment goals.

There is an open comment period which ends on June 11th, 2014. It is important to follow the instruction on commenting listed on the Federal Registrar’s site. This is the actual commenting site for other regulations as well:!home

Here is some additional information on the changes:

Please take the time to comment on such a critical topic and potential resource for students who have significant access needs.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Important Update: Changes to Medicare & Medicaid Impact AAC & Power Wheelchair Access

Please share this information with as many people as possible. I have copied and pasted the notice I received from Tobii ATI. This is a follow-up to the Proposed Changes to Medicare & Medicaid Impact AAC & Power Wheelchair Access Post on8/23/13.
We all need to act!


I am hoping that you will be able to support and assist the President of Tobii ATI and Executive Board Member for the Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA), Tara Rudnicki during her next trip to Washington DC to visit our elected members of government.  

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has decided, in their quest to cut spending, they have and will continue to implement new guidelines of coverage for recipients.  The horrendous changes that will come into effect will be a significant detriment to those whom we are so honored to serve and support each day.

Tara has, for several months, been working with the entire industry, consisting of professionals, industry associations, clinicians, recipients, researches, etc. to work together as one voice to advocate for those who may not have the ability to do so.

1.       On April 1, 2014 Medicare changed their policy from purchasing a speech generating device to renting them under a “capped rental” procedure.
a.       rental means that the SGD will not be owned until the caped rental period has been satisfied. (13 months) The device will have to be ‘locked’ and can no longer be unlocked.  Therefore, the device may not be used for anything other than face to face communication. No e-mail, no environmental control, no phone, no Skype, and no web access.

b.      If the beneficiary goes into a hospice program, long term care facility, and or extended hospital stays, the SGD is no longer a covered rental and has to be returned. Therefore, when a beneficiary is at their most vulnerable time they will not be able to actively participate in their own care due to the inability to communicate their medical concerns or necessity.

2.       On September 1, 2014 CMS is also mandating any SGD that has the capability of word processing, web/e-mail, remote control and the like will not be covered at all.

3.       Add insult to injury, we have been receiving many many denials for eye gaze access on the SGD. Medicare reviewers are saying that this is not needed and think people are using it to play games and surf the web, not recognizing that with most of our clients, eye gaze is the only access method that will successfully work for them. They are not paying for beneficiaries to play on their computers all day.  This practice is denying and delaying our very special population access to communication.

Tara has asked for as many letters from as many people as possible to set forth an impact statement to CMS and Congress. She is looking for letters from users, their families, caregivers, professionals such as SLPs and OTs and even co-workers of users. She believes each and every one of our industry would be there advocating if possible.  Would you be willing to write a letter or an e-mail about how a SGD and specifically eye gaze helped you or  your family? Here are the kinds of things she has asked for:

If you are comfortable explaining your need for a communication device for example diagnosis had did that just changed your life.
What/how has a communication device (SGD) changed their lives?

What impact has eye tracking had?  If they didn’t have eye tracking what would things be like?

Has eye tracking been instrumental in giving those and ability to work longer? Stop abuse, physical, mental, or monetary? Communicate an emergency? Able to communicate with their children, doctors, or clergy or other users?  (or any other examples)

What should Capitol Hill be aware of if patients going forward will be denied eye gaze across the board?  What if all claims would have to be appeal all eye tracking?  (CMS appeals right now at three year wait, yes that is not a typo)

How would losing the ability to use Skype, email, text, phone, to teleconference with their doctors/family/friends, and internet impact them?

If you have the ability to support us please remember to include your name, the town and state you are a resident of.

It would be helpful but not required if you list your age.

None of us can overturn this alone.   We need to work together.  Most importantly we have to make sure the powers that be know and understand who they are affecting with such poor cost cutting decisions which in the long run will cost them millions more.

We are hoping you will be able to show your support.    We know this decision is detrimental to the quality of life you deserve. 

Time is of the essence I am afraid.  Can you contribute your letter by Monday May 12, 2014?  E-mail it to me if you could.

On behalf of Tobii ATI,  I sincerely appreciated your help in this. If these regulations go into effect unchanged the consequences will be devastating to many pAls.  The impact your words can make a difference to thousands.  Let’s stand together and say NO .

THANK YOU in advance!                              

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

AAC Ferret APP to Make Comparisons Across Other AAC APPS

The AAC Ferret at by Spectronics allows you to make comparisons between AAC apps. It will be free until May 16th!

This has the potential to be a wonderful resource for individuals who use AAC, families and professionals. With all of the AAPs out there and no ability to have a trial of the full application at this point, this particular app could assist in providing a more efficient and productive way to identify what might be appropriate for a specific person. The lite versions of apps often do not have enough of the core features to fully assess their potential use. This would at least add another source of data for AAC decision making.