New Report by the California Assistive Technology Coalition Calls for Educating Consumers, Health Care Professionals, Policy Makers and Insurers

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Coalition research finds that public lack of awareness is major obstacle to wider use of beneficial assistive technology devices

Research just completed by the California Assistive Technology Coalition finds that not knowing about the availability and benefits of assistive technology (AT) is limiting public use of devices and gadgets that would benefit consumers in California.

The Coalition found that most Californians, especially aging adults and their caregivers, are unaware of how AT can help them live safely and independently in their own homes. Michael Carbine, a facilitator of the Coalition says, “Even though general consumer ignorance about AT exists, a small but growing number of Californians are already using assistive technology.” Carbine continues, “But even among those who are aware of AT’s potential benefits, most say they are unsure of where they can go to find and purchase these devices and gadgets.”

This points to the pressing need for outreach and education initiatives to inform consumers, caregivers, health and social service providers and others of the kinds of AT devices that are available on the market and where to find them, according to the fourth and final report of the California Assistive Technology Coalition. The report further recommends that state legislators and other policy makers be targeted for education initiatives focusing on the potential benefits of AT use, including its potential for lowering health care costs.

The California Assistive Technology Coalition was formed in June 2008 by the Independent Living Partnership with California State University, Fullerton and the California Dept of Aging to advance the development, testing and use of assistive technology to help Californians who are aging and the disabled live independently in their homes and to age in place. Members of the coalition have included representatives of the senior and disability communities, health and human service providers, state agencies, the academic community, professional and trade associations and private industry.

During the past three years, the Coalition has assessed the availability of assistive technology products, including “low-tech and no-tech devices and gadgets that can be used to make living at home safer and to maintain greater degrees of independence”. The Coalition then identified continuing needs for assistive technology, as well as barriers to obtaining and using it. The fourth and final report of the Coalition makes specific recommendations for policymakers, regulators and other public and private decision-makers on the steps that can be taken to ensure that California’s aging and disabled populations have access to the AT they need to remain independent and productive citizens.

According to Michael Carbine, Chairman of the Board of the Independent Living Partnership, “Research finds than many people with disabilities, and especially aging adults and their caregivers, are unaware of the variety of AT devices that are available.” But he adds that “In addition to the lack of awareness, there are significant financial barriers that prevent people from obtaining the AT devices and home modifications they need, and these barriers must be addressed by legislators, policy makers and insurers.”

The full report, as well as earlier reports from the Coalition, are available online at the Coalition website.

The Independent Living Partnership is a 501(c)3 organization working for the rights of all to live independently in their homes and communities. ILP is a co-convener of the California Assistive Technology Coalition and operates the nationally acclaimed TRIP volunteer driver program.

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