Assistive technology can provide an excellent way to increase inclusion for students with disabilities or additional learning needs in your school community. However, technology is not always inclusively priced. Fortunately, a number of schemes across the country provide a grant - or 'boost' - to facilitate the purchase of assistive technology, opening new avenues for communication, mobility, learning and more.
From portable amplification equipment to cutting edge communication software, 'assistive technology' simply refers to equipment or tools that can be used to aid those with disabilities, helping individuals to complete tasks that they may otherwise find very difficult. The Victorian Department of Education and Training lists a number of different examples of assistive technology, including:
Forms of assistive technology can have a transformative effect on the individuals who use them and their wider community. In an educational context, this is crucial to ensuring school's are inclusive spaces of learning, where all are able to achieve. Yet, even in high income countries like Australia, provision of assistive technology is often limited. The World Health Organisation (WHO) states "assistive products are often rationed or not included within health and welfare schemes, leading to high out-of-pocket payments by users and their families." This often also applies in the education sector, too.
Depending on your state or territory, however, you may find that funding for assistive technology is subject to a grant or financial 'boost'. In this week's Compass blog, we outline the options available for schools in Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania. The information below is taken directly from the respective Department website for each state, with links provided to ensure you have ready access to all the additional information you may need.
For a number of years the Victorian Department of Education and Training has run an annual Equipment Boost for Schools. In Term 3 3019, schools can submit in an application for funding to purchase new assistive technology, with a deadline for applications of 20 September 2019. After applications are submitted, they are assessed according to a strict eligibility criteria, outlined here, with the Department determining whether funds are fully granted, partially granted, or unsuccessful.
The Queensland Department of Education runs the Students with Disability Equipment Trial Service, intended to "support access and participation in schooling and improve educational outcomes for students with disability". Through this service, the Department allocates an annual fixed budget of $150,000, which is distributed to regional offices and host schools throughout the state, based on the relative size of the student population in each.
The South Australian government runs a program granting schools access a range of assistive technologies through the Special Education Resource Unit. These include laptops and iPads with specialised software and apps, digital pens, and alternative keyboards. These items are available for long term loan to student's in state schools or preschools, and access requires the submission of a Request for Assistive Technology form in consultation with the AHP.
In 2018-19, the Tasmanian Department of Education's funding for students with disabilities was $88.85 million, part of a concerted effort to ensure that government schools in Tasmania can address the requirements of all students. The Department have adopted a strategy of targeted funding for individual students in alignment with student Learning Plans, while also working on the development of a new 'needs based funding model' to "support inclusive practice in schools and align supports to the educational adjustments teachers make in classrooms to ensure students with disability can access and engage in appropriate teaching and learning programs"