A program that provides assistive technology (AT) equipment to beneficiaries across Alaska who experience sensory impairments such as blindness, low vision, deafness, or hard of hearing to increase their quality of life and improve independent living needs
In July 2013, through a capital appropriation grant sponsored by the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority, the SensAbility program was born. Assistive Technology of Alaska (ATLA) was provided funds to administer this grant and money has been allocated to the Alaska Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired (ACBVI) as a partnering agency.
Both ATLA and ACBVI travel throughout Alaska to provide outreach, consultations, equipment and training to beneficiaries. It is the goal of the SensAbility program to provide services statewide, not just in the major metropolitan areas. Therefore, coordination of efforts is a priority along with collaboration with other partner agencies, such as the Independent Living Centers, Public Health system, Aging and Disability Resource Centers, etc.
Through a brief consultation, a specialist meets with the beneficiary to determine the most appropriate AT equipment that will increase their basic functional skills. This is not a formal assessment or evaluation, which tend to be much more in-depth and lengthy, but rather a starting point to locate AT that will help people with vision and/or hearing related disabilities become more independent. Depending on the circumstances, equipment is either provided at the time of the consultation or shipped to the consumer later at no cost.
Either during the initial or subsequent consultation, training and technical assistance are offered to ensure successful implementation. Due to complexity and training requirements, the intention of the program is not to provide an in-depth assessment or equipment that may require an extensive amount of time for individual training, but rather to meet the basic AT needs to improve independence and quality of life.
AT equipment available to beneficiaries through SensAbility has been predetermined by both agencies. By providing a limited number of equipment choices, ATLA has the ability to purchase AT in larger quantities at reduced rates, thus increasing the return on investment.
Whenever possible, a variety of selections are demonstrated in each category to allow for individual choice to be involved. Considerations of offered equipment are not only based on cost, but also on ease of use, functionality, dependability, and quality.
Equipment is offered as a “lifetime loan” and can be used for as long as it is helpful. Specialists offer information on the value of reutilization of AT to the beneficiary. If the beneficiary feels that the equipment is still in good working order but no longer needed, they are asked to return the equipment to ATLA so it can be placed in a reuse system and offered to another beneficiary in need.
Check out our recent SensAbility Program report to learn more about how this program is making a huge impact on Alaskans!