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Everything you need to know about Assistive Technology and the NDIS

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Last Updated 11 July 2019

What is Assistive Technology (AT) in the NDIS? 

The NDIS uses the definition of Assistive Technology (AT), as defined by the World Health Organisation: 'any device or system that allows individuals to perform tasks they would otherwise be unable to do or increases the ease and safety with which tasks can be performed'.

The NDIS funds Assistive Technology that provides the support a person with a disability might use to reach their potential at home, in the community and the workplace and in so doing work towards reaching the goals in their NDIS plan.

AT under the NDIS does not include:

  • Items for treatment or rehabilitation
  • Built environment that is used by all – for example, ramps, pathways, and lifts
  • Mainstream technology that does not overcome a functional limitation but modifications to this technology could be AT – for example, a car would not be AT but modifications to the car could be AT
  • Something that does not include a device – for example, medicine or training

What Assistive Technology is funded by the NDIS?

Here is the latest Assistive Technology and Consumables Guide

This guide is not a comprehensive list of all AT supports that may be provided as 'reasonable and necessary' under the NDIS, but lists the most commonly used supports to assist providers to claim payments using a “best-fit” approach, and to assist participants with consistent terminology for AT comparison.

It also contains support category for fundingline item info and indicates if you need a quote to purchase the AT item.

When claiming funds, you would use the line item that is closest to the AT you have purchased. 

What are the different classifications of Assistive Technology items?

AT ranges from the really simple to the very complex and sometimes you may need help to figure out what is the right AT solution for you.

The NDIA uses 4 levels to describe the complexity of your AT needs.

Level 1 (Basic Assistive Technology)

  • Low-cost: less than $1500.
  • Safe to use and you don't need help setting it up.
  • Don't need an assessment or any quotes.
  • Buy this AT from your local store or the internet.
  • Funding for Low Cost AT in your NDIS Plan is included under your Core Budget and myPortal under ‘Low Cost AT’. 
  • Examples Include:
    • Daily living solutions/daily adaptive equipment: everyday use products with specific features that address functional limitations for the individual; medication management devices (except for vision impairment); nonslip bathmat; non-electronic magnifiers; signature guide; talking watch; long-handled or adapted grip equipment, cutlery (& similar items for daily living); tactile dots, large print calendar, large print labels; alert systems with flashing light e.g. baby cry, smoke alarm, doorbell.
    • Mobility: replacement mobility cane; replacement covers (like for like); walking stick
    • External continence: One off/short term supply of washable briefs; pads; bedding protectors.

Level 2 (Standard Assistive Technology)

  • Typically you can buy this AT 'off the shelf' from a specialist AT supplier.
  • You can test and trial before making a final choice, however, you might need help to set up.
  • Only minor adjustments needed (E.g. adjust height of shower chair legs).
  • Assessments may be required depending on availability and individual circumstances.
  • Examples include: 
    • Simple Bathing and toileting devices: showerstool/chair; bathseat; transfer bench; over-toilet frame; static commode; hand-showers+diverter;
    • Vision/hearing devices: video magnifier (optical, handheld); OCR reading machine
    • Basic Domestic AT: kitchen trolley; laundry & washing line adaptations; hand held devices for addressing severe vision impairment
    • Home adaptations (external or internal): single grabrail; handrail; portable ramps for a single step; single platform step; threshold ramps 35mm rise or less; basic single function environmental control units (ECU); personal alarms
    • Basic Seating: adjustable height upright seating;  chair raisers
    • Basic Transfer equipment: slide sheet; transfer equipment (slide board,  slide sheet, swivel discs, turn tables, transfer belts); monkey bar
    • Continence: continuation of previous supply without change of circumstances
    • Orthotics: Footwear, orthotic resupply where no contra-indications apparent etc.

Level 3 (Specialised Assistive Technology)

  • Similar to Level 2 but often requires modification to suit the needs of the participant.
  • Requires an Assessment.
  • Work with your AT assessor to identify suitable supplier of best AT solution for you.
  • Requires a written quote which includes supply, delivery and set-up, as well as ongoing maintenance/repair costs.
  • Examples may include:
    • Communication devices: non-complex devices/software; refreshable electronic Braille display; multipage communication books
    • Specialised vision/hearing devices: desktop electronic magnification, telescopes, daisy player, items for administering medication for people with vision impairment; hearing aids & accessories
    • Continence: initial supply of all continence items (with the exception of Level 4)/review of indwelling continence items
    • Environmental control units: medium complexity environmental control units ECUs
    • Standard home modifications: non portable ramps; adaptation of bathroom and kitchen fittings; shower screen removal; bidets – toilet attachment type;  stair lifts; repositioning of switches and power outlets; replacement of taps; application of slip resistant coatings; ambient assisted living appliances (combined solutions); activity monitoring solutions;
    • Non standard beds, mattresses & accessories: sleep support systems for non-complex postural/pressure needs; foot and body wedges; pressure mattresses; pressure mattress overlays; bed sticks/poles;
    • Specialised transfer and movement equipment: mobile or ceiling hoists and slings;
    • Mobility: power/power-assist wheelchairs; specialised strollers; scooters; gait aids; vehicle modifications (access); specialised car seats, harnesses and postural supports; positioning devices; assistance animal; mobility cane (first issue)
    • Low to medium level pressure care management:  low to medium level pressure cushions and mattress
    • Bathing and toileting devices: Shower commodes – individually configured from standard components; bath lifts

Level 4 (Complex Assistive Technology )

  • Custom made AT which is specially made or configured for you.
  • Needs an Assessment.
  • Work with your AT assessor to identify suitable supplier of best AT solution for you.
  • Will require specialist and/or ongoing support (including specialised training).
  • Requires a written quote which includes supply, delivery and set-up, as well as ongoing maintenance/repair costs.
  • Examples Include:
    • Mobility: power wheelchairs with integrated controls; motor vehicle AT (operator); highly configurable manual wheelchairs; electronic mobility AT for person who is blind
    • Adaptive seating and positioning system for complex posture: within wheelchair; vehicle passenger seat/tie down; static seating; bed systems 
    • Complex bathing and toileting devices: bathing devices including shower commodes
    • Complex pressure care management: high-level pressure cushions and pressure care sleep systems
    • Bed systems for complex need: full mattress replacements; bed rails & bedrail covers
    • Prosthetics: complex/myoelectric; Orthotics/footwear complex, high-risk;
    • Hearing: hearing aids and accessories (complex need); cochlear implant speech processors, BAHA
    • Specialised ICT access: specialised software; alternate access & mounting systems etc.
    • Complex home modifications: modifications that require structural changes to building and/or require council permits
    • Communication devices (initial / complex): electronic voice/voice prostheses; equipment for Deafblind individuals
    • Continence: initial supply/review of anal devices and intravaginal bladder supports
    • Enteral nutrition
    • Environmental control units: Multifunction complex control ECUs

When do I need an Assessment and does the NDIS pay for it?

Low cost and low risk items (Level 1) do not need an Assessment. Participants with AT funded supports in their plan can seek advice (from an Independent Living Centre, AT assessor) and buy it themselves from a retail store or online. 

The 'Low Cost AT' (previously 'Daily Adaptive Equipment') line item under a participant’s CORE budget (Consumables support category) would be where they would claim these expenses.

Supply of Level 2 (standard AT equipment purchased from an AT supplier) may require an assessment, depending on your individual circumstances.

Supply of Levels 3 – 4, require an appropriate Assessment Form which needs to be completed by or with the help of an AT Assessor. A participant’s plan can include funding under the 'Improved Daily Living Skills' budget (under Capacity Building) to enable an AT assessment to occur. 

A participant’s plan can include funding for AT assessments under the 'Improved Daily Living Skills' budget (under Capacity Building). 

Evidence that demonstrates the need for AT should be gathered before the planning meeting if possible. Without sufficient evidence, the actual AT supports may not be included in the participant's plan, but the plan would include funding for the needed AT assessment.

When an NDIS plan includes AT or home modifications in the Capital Support budget, there should also be funding included in the Capacity Building budget to help a participant with advice/help to select, trial and source the right AT solution for their needs. This may also include training in the use of AT.

When do I need to get a Quote first?

Supports over $1,500 in value will require a quote prior to supply -  no more than two quotes are required (part of the new AT improvements). 

The low cost, low risk AT (typically <$1500) doesn’t require a quote if you are buying them in the 'Low Cost AT' under a participant’s CORE budget (Consumables support category).

The NDIS Assistive Technology and Consumables Price Guide shows which items require a quote. See the last column in the table of supports in this document.

Participants can then decide whether or not to accept these quotes.

Quotes will not be processed automatically. If the quote received is higher than NDIA threshold, specific approval will be required from the NDIA.

The NDIA may offer reasonable and necessary funding and the participant can decide whether they wish to proceed with the quote and pay the gap themselves (co-payment).

How do I buy Assistive Technology

Self Managed

  • You are able to choose and negotiate directly with a supplier to get the best value for money.
  • You can use any AT provider (not just NDIS registered providers) and you pay the invoice, claim from the NDIS and keep records.

NDIA Managed

  • Local Area Coordinator (LAC) or Support Coordinator (if funded in your plan) will help you access an appropriate NDIS Registered AT Provider.
  • Your LAC or Support Coordinator (if funded in your plan) will help you engage with the provider and will create service agreements and issue service bookings.
  • The NDIS will pay your support provider directly.

Plan Managed

  • Your Plan Manager will assist you:
    • identify and source the right AT solution for you
    • accessing both NDIS Registered and non-registered providers on your behalf
    • engage with providers of your choice
    • establishing service agreements and issuing service bookings
    • Paying the support provider on your behalf

AT Prepayments and Co-Payments

  • AT prepayments are generally not required under the NDIS, unless the NDIA has given prior approval.
  • AT Co-Payments occur where a participant would like a customisation to a support or assistive technology that is not considered reasonable or necessary. They are required to pay for this themselves. These may include an aesthetic customisation (pink wheelchair costs extra) to assistive technology or modifications to a vehicle that are added to the assistive components.

What are AT Assessors and AT Mentors?

An AT assessor:

  • is someone who is able to consider a person's needs and situation and identify the most appropriate AT to meet those needs.
  • may be an AT Mentor, allied health practitioner, continence nurse, registered dietician, psychologist or rehabilitation engineer.

The appropriate AT assessor will depend on the type of AT and the complexity of your needs.

AT Mentors are people with a disability, or lived experience of disability, such as a family member/carer, who are certificate trained in assisting in the provision of AT. AT Mentors usually help find the best AT option for Level 1 or 2. They may also help negotiate more complex AT assessment, purchasing, and training.

Maintenance and Repairs

Participants should check who has responsibility for the maintenance and repair of their assistive technology.

Generally, if you lease or hire an item, the organisation who provided it would help fix it, or if necessary, replace it. If the item has been bought outright, Australian Consumer Law gives you warranty rights on the supplier if something is wrong with the item. 

Maintenance and repairs are usually the participant's responsibility so the participant should plan for those costs and, if necessary, create a service booking with a suitable provider if the equipment/AT is bought outright.

Participants and planners need to ensure appropriate funding for repairs and maintenance in plans reducing the need for plan reviews when AT fails.

The NDIS does not have an equipment repair service.

Location of repairs and maintenance in a participants plan

You can use your 'Low Cost AT' (previously named 'Daily Adaptive Equipment') budget for most repairs on Basic (Level 1) and Standard (Level 2) Assistive Technology or minor repairs for Specialised (Level 3) and Complex (Level 4) Assistive Technology.

The funds in this budget can also be used to purchase Basic (Level 1) and Standard (Level 2) Assistive Technology items. 

The NDIA will also allocate funds for repairs and maintenance in Capital > Assistive Technology. These funds will be based on equipment type, maintenance required and potential repairs over a plan’s duration, for Specialised (Level 3) and Complex (Level 4) Assistive Technology.

Repairs greater than $1500 will require a quote for NDIA acceptance prior to a payment request being made. 

Where to Find AT Service Providers

MyCareSpace AT Providers

Other Awesome AT Links

Sources:

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