Assistive Technology and the NDIS – Fostering Independence


The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) provides funding and support to people with disabilities to help them achieve their goals and improve their quality of life. Assistive technology is an important category of support that the NDIS can fund. However, there are specific rules and guidelines governing the purchase of assistive technology through the NDIS. Please note that these rules and guidelines are accurate as of last NDIS update in September 2021, and there may have been changes or updates since then. It’s essential to check the NDIS website or consult with NDIS planners and Local Area Coordinators for the most current information.

Here are some general principles and rules for purchasing assistive technology through the NDIS:

  1. Reasonable and Necessary: The NDIS provides funding for supports and services that are considered “reasonable and necessary” for a person’s disability. To receive funding for assistive technology, it must meet this criterion. This means that the technology must be directly related to the person’s disability and necessary to achieve their goals.
  2. Assessments and Reports: Typically, an assessment or report from a qualified healthcare professional, such as an occupational therapist or physiotherapist, is required to demonstrate the need for assistive technology. This report should detail how the technology will support the participant’s disability-related goals.
  3. Value for Money: The NDIS considers value for money when funding assistive technology. This means that the technology should be cost-effective and provide long-term benefits to the participant. If there are multiple options available, the NDIS may fund the most cost-effective solution.
  4. Maintenance and Repairs: The NDIS may also provide funding for the maintenance and repairs of assistive technology that is considered reasonable and necessary. Participants should keep records of any maintenance and repair costs.
  5. Lifespan of Technology: The NDIS generally funds assistive technology that has a reasonable lifespan and is expected to last for a reasonable period. This is to ensure that participants can continue to benefit from the technology over time.
  6. Consideration of Alternative Supports: Before funding assistive technology, the NDIS may consider whether there are alternative supports or strategies that could achieve the same goals. If there are less expensive or more effective alternatives, they may be preferred.
  7. Specialized Equipment: Some participants may require highly specialized equipment that is not readily available commercially. In such cases, the NDIS may fund the design and development of customized assistive technology solutions.
  8. Funding Categories: Assistive technology may fall under different NDIS support categories, such as Core Supports, Capital Supports, or Capacity Building Supports, depending on its purpose and use. The specific category will depend on the participant’s plan and goals.
  9. Review and Appeals: If a participant’s request for funding for assistive technology is denied or not fully approved, there is an appeals process available. Participants can request a review of the decision if they believe it was made in error.

It’s important for NDIS participants and their Support Coordinators or Local Area Coordinators to work closely with NDIS planners and assessors to determine eligibility for assistive technology and ensure that it aligns with the participant’s NDIS plan and goals. Additionally, NDIS policies and guidelines may change over time, so it’s crucial to stay informed about the latest updates from the NDIS.

The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) in Australia categorizes assistive technology (AT) into different levels based on complexity and cost. The levels of assistive technology help determine how funding is allocated for these supports. As of last NDIS update September 2021, here are the common levels of assistive technology under the NDIS:

  1. Level 1 (Basic or Low-Cost AT):
    • Level 1 AT includes low-cost and commonly used assistive technology items that can help participants with everyday activities and mobility.
    • Examples of Level 1 AT might include walking aids (e.g., canes, walking frames), basic communication aids, basic hearing aids, and simple home modifications (e.g., handrails, ramps).
    • Participants typically do not need an assessment or report for Level 1 AT, and they can purchase these items with their NDIS funding if it is in their plan.
  2. Level 2 (Mid-Level AT):
    • Level 2 AT includes more complex and specialized technology that may require assessment and customization to meet the participant’s specific needs.
    • Examples of Level 2 AT could include manual or power wheelchairs, communication devices with voice output, customized home modifications (e.g., bathroom modifications), and environmental control systems.
    • Participants usually need an assessment or report from a healthcare professional to justify the need for Level 2 AT. The assessment helps determine the most suitable solution for the individual’s needs.
  3. Level 3 (High-Level or Complex AT):
    • Level 3 AT includes highly specialized and expensive assistive technology that is customized to meet the unique requirements of the participant.
    • Examples of Level 3 AT may encompass complex communication devices with advanced features, advanced power wheelchairs with complex seating and positioning systems, and custom-built home modifications.
    • Participants typically require comprehensive assessments, trials, and reports from healthcare professionals, such as occupational therapists, speech therapists, or physiotherapists, to justify the need for Level 3 AT. The assessments help ensure that the technology meets the participant’s specific needs and goals.
  4. Level 4 (Extreme AT):
    • Level 4 AT represents the highest level of complexity and cost in assistive technology.
    • Level 4 AT may include devices such as robotic exoskeletons, advanced environmental control systems for individuals with profound disabilities, and highly specialized and customized mobility solutions.
    • Participants need extensive assessments, trials, and reports from specialized healthcare professionals to access Level 4 AT. These assessments are critical due to the complexity and cost of these technologies.

It’s important to note that participants will have different levels of funding allocated to their NDIS plans based on their assessed needs and goals. The NDIS planners will work closely with participants at review time to determine the appropriate level of AT required to support their disability-related goals. Assistive Technology can be built into the plan at planning meetings or requested at any time with the appropriate supporting documentation. The NDIS has templates available for use by supporting therapists that must be provided when applying for complex and high risk Assistive Technology options.

What are Some examples of Assistive Technology for people with Disability?

Assistive technology encompasses a wide range of devices and tools designed to help individuals with disabilities enhance their independence and quality of life. Here are some examples of assistive technology for various types of disabilities:

  1. Mobility and Physical Disabilities:
    • Wheelchairs and Mobility Scooters: These assistive devices help individuals with mobility impairments move around independently.
    • Prosthetic Limbs and Orthotics: Artificial limbs and braces can aid individuals with limb amputations or musculoskeletal conditions.
    • Adaptive Utensils: Specialized utensils with ergonomic designs for individuals with limited hand dexterity.
  2. Visual Impairments:
    • Screen Readers: Software that reads aloud text on computers or mobile devices to assist individuals with visual impairments.
    • Braille Displays: Refreshable braille displays that convert digital text into braille for tactile reading.
    • Magnification Software: Tools that enlarge on-screen text and images for low-vision users.
  3. Communication and Speech Disorders:
    • Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) Devices: Devices and software that assist individuals with speech disorders in expressing themselves, including communication boards and speech-generating devices.
    • Text-to-Speech Software: Tools that convert typed or text-based input into spoken words.
  4. Cognitive Disabilities:
    • Visual Schedules and Timers: Visual aids and timers to help individuals with cognitive impairments better understand and manage their daily routines.
    • Memory Aids: Apps and devices that provide reminders and prompts for tasks and appointments.
    • Electronic Organizers: Tools for organizing and tracking tasks, schedules, and to-do lists.
  5. Learning Disabilities:
    • Text-to-Speech and Speech-to-Text Software: Tools that convert text to speech and vice versa, assisting individuals with reading and writing difficulties.
    • Graphic Organizers: Software that helps individuals with learning disabilities visualize and organize information.
  6. Neurological and Developmental Disabilities:
    • Sensory Integration Tools: Some sensory integration tools are funded by the NDIS but an Occupational Therapist must recommend the tools in a letter of support before you make purchases
    • Communication Apps: Apps that facilitate social and communication skills development for individuals with autism spectrum disorders.
  7. Environmental Control:
    • Smart Home Technology: Voice-activated or app-controlled devices that allow individuals to control lights, appliances, thermostats, and security systems.
    • Environmental Control Units (ECUs): Assistive technology systems that enable individuals to control various home functions using adapted switches or voice commands.
  8. Adaptive Software and Apps:
    • Screen Magnification and VoiceOver (iOS): Built-in accessibility features on smartphones and computers.
    • Word Prediction Software: Software that suggests words or phrases as the user types, aiding individuals with typing difficulties.

These examples illustrate the diversity of assistive technology available to support individuals with disabilities, and there are many more specialized tools and devices designed to cater to specific needs within each category. The selection of assistive technology should always be tailored to the individual’s unique requirements and preferences and assessment for assistive technology can be carried out by experienced allied health therapists in particular Occupational Therapists.

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