The Richard West Assistive Technology Advocacy Center (ATAC) is New Jersey’s designated Assistive Technology Act program. The Center is a program of Disability Rights New Jersey (DRNJ), with the New Jersey Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services (DVRS) as its lead agency, and has served as the central clearing house for information about AT devices and services statewide since 1997. ATAC provides telephone and e-mail information and referral, a comprehensive website with links to AT resources, training and education, technical assistance, outreach, and individual legal and non-legal advocacy assistance to support people with disabilities of all ages to access the AT that they need.
The proposed AT Network, with ATAC at its center, will establish a network system of providers, including consumer groups, self-advocates, non-profit and public agencies, manufacturers, vendors, therapists, and school districts, and provide them with a common and centralized connection and a means of communicating with one another through a listserv, web portal, newsletter, and annual meeting, all hosted and marketed through ATAC. ATAC will continually update and disseminate information to all members of the AT Network. ATAC, in turn, will serve as the one-stop entry point for the disability community and the public seeking information about AT devices, device demonstration and loan opportunities, and recycling and reutilization of used AT devices. The AT Network will be marketed by ATAC through information and referral, outreach, and training and education, including newsletters, advertisements, press releases, and public service announcements.
The initial idea for the AT Network originated with DVRS and its goal of having a single resource for its counselors and clients to access information about AT. The vision was further developed through the collaboration of participants at the 2007 Assistive Technology Summit, whose participants identified three values as the foundation for New Jersey’s AT Network. These values are the participation of a wide range of network participants; ongoing, consistent and timely communication; and inclusion and diversity in reaching all geographic areas of the state, people with disabilities of all ages, and people of different ethnic and racial backgrounds, as well as emerging disability populations such as veterans and individuals who are newly disabled.
AT NETWORK COMPONENTS
Device reutilization programs facilitate the exchange, repair, recycling, or other reutilization of assistive technology devices, whether through device sales, loans, rentals, or donations. Currently, ATAC operates the Back-in-Action assistive technology equipment reutilization matching service and will continue to serve as the central clearinghouse for information about device reutilization. Members of the AT Network will be trained to use the new Back-in-Action website to help individuals connect with devices and to make effective referrals. Funding will be available through ATAC to selected members of the network to augment device reutilization services offered by ATAC.
Device Loan and Demonstration
Device loan programs provide assistive technology devices to individuals with disabilities on a temporary basis for evaluation or to serve as a stopgap when an individual’s own device needs repair or replacement. Device demonstration programs allow individuals with disabilities to try out one or more assistive technology devices or services before purchase. ATAC proposes to build New Jersey’s AT network through subcontracts and grants with organizations offering device loan and demonstration services, particularly those organizations that in combination will ensure a comprehensive range of devices to people with disabilities of all ages and in all regions of the state. ATAC will oversee the creation of a database of devices available for loan or demonstration and market the AT Network, providing information and referral, technical assistance, and outreach.