People with disabilities can benefit from a number of useful low-cost technology devices that can help carry out day-to-day activities easily and help enable them to be more independent with such aids and equipment.
The funds for purchasing these technology devices can be made available through their NDIS plans from either the Core support category or capital support category depending on the item's cost. We would distinguish the difference between these two a bit later in this blog.
Assistive technology is the term used by NDIA to refer to these aids or assistive equipment.
How can you get low-cost assistive technology funding in your NDIS plan?
You can get funding from the NDIS for any device, piece of equipment, or technology that’s directly related to your disability - it may be a therapy device or equipment that enables you to carry out a task you couldn’t otherwise do.
The NDIA doesn't provide any comprehensive list of what exactly can be funded however there is quite detailed information along with examples provided around eligibility criteria on their operational guideline website, as to when would these devices be funded.
Which support category of my ndis plan do I use to buy these devices?
A general rule of thumb is that the NDIS considers this equipment to be low-cost assistive technology if it costs less than $1500 and if these devices are available to be purchased off-the-shelf. Your Core funding can be used to purchase these smaller items, as it falls under the category of Consumables.
Items over $1500 are considered NDIS assistive technology and are then funded from the capital support category. This category of funding can be found listed at the very end part of the NDIS plan.
What low-cost assistive technology can the NDIS fund?
Below is the list of some Assistive Technology items that may help you explore some suitable options for your disability needs:
1. iPads and Tablets: Due to many providers limiting face-to-face sessions since the start of Covid-19, the NDIS realized the importance of these devices for therapists to run telehealth sessions, and hence NDIA has changed its rules around iPads and tablets and has started to fund the tablets.
One another reason besides telehealth for these devices to be funded in the NDIS plan would be if the participant is considered eligible by NDIA as the device could be related to the communication aid or cognitive development of a person with a disability.
2. Apps: People with disabilities can benefit from many smartphone apps out there. There are several useful apps in the market that can support you in achieving your NDIS goals, ranging from text-to-speech apps for people with vision impairments to non-verbal communication apps for people who have difficulty communicating verbally. You must speak to your therapist to get further guidance on apps.
3. Headphones: People with autism may find noise-canceling headphones useful for blocking out distracting background noise and avoiding sensory overload. Therapist advice can be sought.
4. Smartwatches: Smartwatches contain many features that can simplify life for people with disabilities, including GPS, fall detection, and heart rate monitoring.
5. Smart-home accessories: There are a number of devices and technologies available to help you with daily living around the house, including voice-activated lights and doors for people with mobility problems, visual doorbells for people with hearing impairments, and smart speakers that let you listen to the weather and news.
What are the NDIA rules for funding low-cost assistive technology in an NDIS plan?
Any technology you are willing to purchase must meet the criteria of reasonable and necessary as with all NDIS supports.
You may need to provide evidence for any item and/or more specifically in case you have a preference to purchase a more expensive option. An occupational therapist might write a letter explaining how the more expensive item has an additional feature you need.
Furthermore, NDIA would consider the below points when they think about assistive technology support, and some of the questions NDIA may ask before funding these items, could be the below -
1. How does the assistive technology relate to your disability?
Your activities will be improved, or something you are not able to do now will be made possible.
We don't fund everyday household items like furniture that everyone needs.
2. Does the assistive technology meet your needs or is it right for you?
The NDIA needs to be aware that assistive technology:
Is this the right item for you?
Is it safe for your use, and it meets Australia's safety standards?
Can it be used to accomplish your goals?
Can you use it where you need it?
3. Is the assistive technology you need value for money?
NDIA considers the benefits of assistive technology in each scenario before it could be funded and also determine eligibility based on how it will help you in the long term.
Some other factors considered as better value for money could include -
Alternatives that are less expensive
What is the expected lifespan of assistive technology
What is the frequency of maintenance or repair for assistive technology
Whether renting the assistive technology for the time you need it may be less expensive.
4. Can someone else pay for or fund your assistive technology?
Assistive technology cannot be funded or provided by NDIA if it is funded or provided by another organization. NDIA representative may be able to help you figure out who is responsible for funding or providing what you require.
How to buy low-cost assistive technology with my NDIS funds?
For most low-cost items available off the shelf, you will need to purchase them with your own money, then submit your invoice for reimbursement to your plan manager or you could claim it from NDIS if you are self-managing your funds. In case your plan is agency-managed, you'll have to purchase the item from a supplier who is an NDIS registered provider.