The nonprofit Cure SMA is rallying public support in urging Congress to make assistive technology more accessible for people living with disabilities. Congress is currently considering whether to reauthorize the Assistive Technology Act, which last year provided more than 72,000 people with training on AT devices and loaned nearly 50,000 AT devices to those in need.
Assistive technology refers to devices and services that help individuals with disabilities — including those associated with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) — more easily function in everyday life. They include mobility devices, screen readers, voice recognition technology, and more.
Cure SMA has created a letter template that people can fill out online and have automatically sent to their congressional representatives. The letter urges Congress members to include $50 million in funding for the Assistive Technology Act in the next federal budget.
Congress passed the Assistive Technology Act in 1988 to increase awareness of and access to assistive technology. The legislation was reauthorized in 2004 so that states no longer had to compete to receive funding. Now, each U.S. state and territory receives federal funding to operate statewide AT programs. Programs like the Assistive Technology State Grant Program, for instance, help provide assistive devices and training to those who need them.
However, as Cure SMA reported, people still face barriers to accessing these technologies. Citing a 2017 report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, Cure SMA noted that restrictions in insurance coverage can prevent people from accessing AT-related devices and services. “Overall, coverage for assistive products and technologies is frequently limited and varies considerably across insurance coverage and disability benefit models,” said Linda Resnick, a co-author of the study.
Another barrier: AT is advancing too quickly for legislation, education, and reimbursement programs to keep pace.
Visit Cure SMA’s Advocacy page for more information about the organization’s efforts.