By Rosalie H. Wang, PhD, OT Reg. (Ont.) and Michael G. Wilson, PhD
As we know, assistive technology is designed to help people living with disabilities to perform daily activities, participate in their communities and be fully included in society. Assistive technology includes aids, devices or equipment such a grab bars, walkers, wheelchairs, hearing aids, medication reminders and often technology such as smartphones and mobile applications.
However, Canadians living with disabilities often have difficulty accessing the assistive technology they need, with its cost regularly stated as the reason for it not being acquired. We subsequently discovered that a lack of information and difficulty navigating the numerous and complex government and charitable-organization programs that provide funding and services for assistive technology are also problems.
In our team’s research, aimed at enhancing equity of access to assistive technology in Canada, we found an incredible 87 federal and provincial/territorial government and 135 charitable organization programs. As expected, given the high number, complexity, and lack of coordination between programs, study participants found it not only frustrating but difficult to find and understand necessary information required in order to obtain funding to purchase what they needed.
To address this problem, we created a central access point for users or potential users of assistive technology, health care providers, caregivers, or others to get information about programs. We created a website, called ATAccessCanada. The website has a searchable database with over 220 programs that provide funding and services for assistive technology. The website, currently undergoing usability testing and due to launch in the summer of 2020, will enable Canadians to search for programs
in their province or territory and for assistive technology that helps with mobility, sensory (vision or hearing), communication, cognitive, or mental health concerns.
This research is funded by AGE-WELL NCE (agewell-nce.ca) in collaboration with March of Dimes Canada.