Podcast Episode 11 - Grants To Help Purchase Assistive Technology

the IAP Your Accessibility Podcast

This week on the IAP, we talk about an initiative from the Department of Education making grants available for helping people buy assistive technology.

Show Notes & Links


Announcer: This is the IAP - Interactive Accessibility Podcast with Mike Guill and Mark Miller. Introducing Mike Guill and Mark Miller.

Mark Miller: Welcome to the IAP, thanks for helping us keep it accessible I'm Mark Miller and this is accessibility specialist Mike Guill and this is your accessibility podcast. Do us a favor if you're enjoying the IAP, share it, tell someone about it hey, even link to it from your accessible website. Hey Mike...

Mike Guill: Hey Mark, how you doin'?

Mark: Good... so you've gone out to you ed.gov for today's topic

Mike: Yeah well I didn't go directly...

Mark: Are you bored searching these sites?

Mike: Oh yeah you know browsing the Department of Education website, you know...

Mark: You're all over anything with dot gov I think... In your spare time, no I don't believe that. I don't believe you were searching dot gov. I think maybe you were looking through Twitter and came up with this one

Mike: I think that's a better... I think that's more likely

Mark: So this is actually a news story that I posted on the Interactive Accessibility news feed this week... so interesting story and I'll just put this up here 1.9 million dollars in grants ordered to help individuals with disabilities purchase assistive technologies. Um, so this is where the us Department of Education awarded this 1.9 mil in grants and these organizations were in California, Missouri, and Washington, and what they're doing with them is they're... these organizations are taking this money to buy the these different assistive technologies and the kind of things they're covering is like hearing aids, computers, vehicle modifications, vision aids, and all that sort of thing... so I'm kinda curious from my standpoint, because you're the one who plucked this topic up out of ed.gov... What was your thought on this? Why was this an important thing for you to discuss?

Mike: Well, I'll tell you what the main thing is that... It's an indication that we need to spend money on some things to help level the playing field when it comes to education and access in the real world. And notice that it didn't specifically say about... about schools, right?

Mark: No notice assistive technologies and...

Mike: And it said organizations in those different states to help individuals... it didn't say help students it didn't say to help, you know, college or whatever, or high school students, and it mentioned hearing aids and vehicle mods and vision aids and said "could include other devices depending on a person's disability"... But the main thing is that you know the Secretary of Education is saying that of course assistive technology is vital to someone's success in obtaining employment and living independently which is a which is a pretty big deal, you know, we want everybody to be... you know, productive in their life and have what they, you know, reach their full potential... and that's one thing. So, if you if you make things like this more affordable to people, it's gonna be easier for them to get jobs, it's gonna be easier for them to to learn more, and then even, you know, reach their full potential... I guess that's the the point

Mark: Now I wanna play devil's advocate a little bit on on this one, just for the sake the discussion here, but... so my first question or the first thing I bring up is, why does the playing field need to be even? Why do we, you know, what... from a societal benefits standpoint, why is this so important that we bring people with disabilities up as high as we can to the level of people without disabilities? Is that is there in addition into society that we're seeing there?

Mike: Oh yeah I mean the... You know you've got great thinkers, great minds out there who are just, you know, undiscovered as of yet. I mean, you could use the same sort of argument if you live in... let's say you live in a town and you don't have... You don't have kids of your own, right? I've heard this kind argument before where people say "Oh, I don't have kids. I don't think... I don't have to pay taxes to the local schools" you know? So what you're saying is you don't want the school... The kids who live next door to you to be educated, right? So that those are the kids who are going to grow up and be on your city council and your board of education and those are the kids who are going to work in your local community businesses and all that. You want a town full of idiots is that where you want to live? You know? It's... My old economics professor would call this a positive externality. You know, you're get... You're contributing something to benefit... To externally benefit you. A similar thing happens when you take good care of your yard. You know, your real estate value goes up, so does your neighbors' and all that. If you do it collectively it's better for the whole place...

Mark: Let me... I'm gonna jump over to the other side a fence here and help you with your point. So let me take a second here and get over the fence... I gotta get... Left leg, right leg. All right, now I'm on your side. So, the way I would put this kinda simply, Mike, is that you you have... You can take your pick, right? Do you want a group of people that is being supported on the public dole because they have a less... A lesser ability to compete in a competitive environment, right? Because that environment that job environment, the environment in which we make our way... The only way we know how to quote Waylon Jennings... It's a competitive environment and if you have a competitive disadvantage then you're not gonna make it and you're going to end up in the in the public system, right? So, I look at this is kind of like an investment in people with disabilities to give them the same advantages and compete that same environment, so you essentially convert somebody who is... Could potentially be a drain on the system, right? You've got to pay tax money to keep them alive you know and going into somebody who's a productive member of society I'm all for it and this has gotta be a small investment to do that you know what I'm saying? Essentially your point, but... But just a little bit different of an angle to look at it.

Mike: Well and it's easy... It's easy to look at funding grants and things like that as, you know, handouts to certain groups and all that sort of stuff... and yeah, there might be room for debate on a lot of different issues when it comes to what our country and what our government spends money on... But I would argue that this is a very small amount in the grand scheme of things and also it's not going to buy, you know, thousand-dollar hammers. This is the kind of program where assistive technology is expensive not because it's a specialty, or not because it's just for the sake of it being expensive, not because it's being for, you know, not because it's cool like, you know, Google Glass or things like that. We're talking about things that are, you know, low-volume and high utility things and... what happens when an object is produced in low volume, low quantity? Its price is sky high because... yeah, it's expensive, so there are things like...

Mark: Even simple assistive technologies that we don't think of as assistive technologies but that we see every day in society like glasses, right? They're maybe... they're not as expensive as some other technologies we're talking about here, but they're my wife wears glasses I don't wanna pay for them any more... it's difficult, I mean, I'm going to, right? But, I'd love for her to go get lasix surgery because, quite frankly the overhead have dealing with glasses is a a pain in the rear, and I don't know how she does it. But the bottom line is that... things are expensive, you know, but you need them.

Mike: They are, right.

Mark: Without them she would run into walls...

Mike: Yeah, exactly. You know... another example would be the... a Perkins Braille writer, you know, those things are heavy, very old school... essentially a typewriter that embosses Braille. And if you ever get to see one, you think hey, this is a very basic you know machine. It doesn't plug in, it doesn't use batteries, there's nothing to it except the keys on it... and it smashes the little pens in the paper and embosses the paper when you type. Those things are, you know, seven eight hundred dollars for one of those things... but people who don't have a job can't necessarily afford to spend eight hundred dollars on a typewriter.

Mark: And like you said, it's not like they're throwing these things on Amazon and everybody's buying them because they're the next hot thing... there's a smaller market for it, and there's less of them produced, therefore it's a lot more expensive to produce 'em and to... and you have to make more profit margin on it so that the company can continue. So these things do become extremely difficult I think to acquire.

Mike: Right, and that's not even... I mean, that's just touching the surface... when you get into things like vehicle modifications to allow people independent mobility, you know, customized vans, and things like that, you see them driving all over the place, but you don't really register what it took to get that van... to the point where someone could operate it, given their specific type of disability limitation...

Mark: I was a big fan of Pimp My Ride, so I know how expensive it is to make custom modifications to a vehicle.

Mark & Mike: [laughing]

Mark: And these are probably a little more practical than the Pimp My Ride modifications...

Mike: A bit more practical, I would suspect.

Mark: Well, good one that was a... that's a good topic and... I think it's good to see people forward thinking like this and doing things that are investments in people versus... it's kinda the "teach a man to fish versus give a man a fish" and I think that, you know, a lot of the things that we give keep people right where they are. This is one of those ones that's an investment that is going to allow people to progress in their life so...

Mike: Yeah I think... investments in quality education and investments in helping people find employment, or help people get further education... is always a good idea.

Mark: All right, good topic Mike. We gotta wrap it up though. This is Mark Miller and

Mike: Michael Guill

Mark: ...reminding you to keep it accessible.

Announcer: The IAP - Interactive Accessibility Podcast brought to you by Interactive Accessibility, the accessibility experts. You can find their Access Matters Blog at Interactiveaccessibility.com/blog


Share This Post