Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Susan Collins announced that the 21st Century Assistive Technology Act, bipartisan legislation she introduced with Senators Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Bob Casey (D-PA), and Kevin Cramer (R-ND), was signed into law as part of the National Defense Authorization Act.
The 21st Century Assistive Technology Act will expand access to affordable assistive technology for seniors and individuals with disabilities. Assistive technology is any piece of equipment, device, or system that makes it easier for someone with a disability to live more independently and safely, work at a job, learn in school, get around their community, or pursue play and leisure.
“As our population ages, the need for care and support is increasing,” said Senator Collins. “Advances in technology are working to bridge the ‘care gap,’ improving function in activities of daily living, helping to manage multiple chronic conditions, reducing risk of hazards, and making homes safer for seniors. In support of the disability and aging communities, this legislation will make assistive technology more available to Maine children, adults, and seniors who need access to these life-changing technologies to maintain their independence.”
Specifically, the legislation reauthorizes state assistive technology grant programs for the first time since 2004 to improve access to assistive technology for people across the country with disabilities. It also clarifies that the program serves all people with disabilities, including veterans and older adults who developed disabilities later in life, and will increase the funding authorized for programs that serve rural areas.
The Maine CITE Program, located at the University of Maine Augusta, is Maine’s statewide AT program that provides information, training, and services about AT, manages the statewide device demo, loan, and reuse programs, and provides technical assistance to organizations and individuals. The reauthorization of the AT Act will provide the supports and capacity building necessary for Maine’s AT program to address identified gaps in services, including plans to grow their device demonstration and loan program to rural areas in the state.
Maine CITE oversees a centralized inventory of more than 1,000 AT devices available through select partner across the state. The inventory includes devices such as tablets with communication apps, medication management devices, smart home tech, remote door lock devices, vision/magnifiers, adapted keyboards, hearing/personal amplifier devices, and vibrating/alerting watches.