As a part of their coronavirus, COVID-19, response, the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) has announced further support for participants and disability providers, including increased access to low-cost assistive technology.
Earlier this week Minister for the NDIS, Stuart Robert announced that for the next five months, eligible NDIS participants will be able to use existing NDIS plan funding to purchase low-cost assistive technology.
Included in the assistive technology funding are smart devices, to enable continued access to disability supports through telehealth and telepractice while physical and social distancing restrictions remain in place during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The inclusion of funding for assistive technology is a move that has been welcomed by the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN), the peak advocacy group for Australian communications consumers.
ACCAN Director of Inclusion Wayne Hawkins says, “Having access to the right phone or assistive technology is vital for people with disability to be able to access important telehealth services during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Mr Hawkins adds that it is important for consumers to understand what mainstream and assistive technology is available and may best suit their individual needs.
“There is no one-size-fits-all approach to communications products for people with disability. Someone with a vision-impairment is going to have very different needs to someone who is Deaf.
“As a service that has been funded through the National Disability Insurance Agency, it’s heartening that Accessible Telecoms is able to play a key role in providing information that is vital to keep people with disability connected during this challenging time.”
It follows ACCAN’s previous caution that the full benefits of telehealth may not be realised if Australians are not online with ACCAN CEO, Teresa Corbi saying at the time, “While it is pleasing that the Government has listened to the medical community and made bulk-billed telehealth services available for all Australians, the underlying issue of connectivity remains.”
Further support for NDIS providers was also announced by Minister Robert with new support items for Supported Independent Living (SIL) providers now available. The new supports for SIL providers is available if a participant has been diagnosed with COVID-19, including those who access higher intensity support and cleaning services. It is designed to try and ensure there is minimum service disruption and that delivery of services can continue.
Also included in the announcement is the inclusion of downloadable Access Request and Supporting Evidence Forms being made available on the NDIS website.
The NDIS announcement says that this is to ensure all eligible Australians continue to be able to apply for access to the NDIS.
These supports build on the previous COVID-19 measures announced by the NDIS for participants and providers.
Previous measures include extending NDIS plans, flexible use of funding to access disability supports and for providers, and a 10 percent COVID-19 loading on some services, and outreach to high-risk participants.
According to the NDIS, since the announcement of previous initiatives more than $300 million in weekly provider payments were processed, indicating the majority of services are continuing and participants are still accessing the disability supports they need.
For more information about using your budget to access assistive technology visit the NDIS website.
You can also visit our dedicated COVID-19 information page for the latest updates on how COVID-19 is impacting the disability sector.
What support do you need during COVID-19? Tell us in the comments below or email us at [email protected].