Older people with disability are a focus of the Assistive Technology for All (ATFA) campaign, which launches this month. The campaign calls for a national aids, equipment and assistive technology program to meet the needs of people with disability who are not eligible for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). An alliance of peak bodies and consumer representatives from the ageing and disability sectors, including COTA Australia and COTA Victoria, is driving the campaign.
‘Assistive technology’ is equipment that provides a practical solution to help someone complete an everyday task. Examples include wheelchairs, communication aids, prostheses and memory aids.
While the NDIS fully funds assistive technology, a person must be under 65 when making an access request to be eligible for the scheme. As such, older people with disability make up the largest cohort of people who fall outside the NDIS. This includes:
- people who were born with or acquired disability early in life who had already turned 65 when the NDIS was rolled out
- people over 65 who acquire disability as part of the ageing process
- people over 65 who acquire disability through catastrophic injury (e.g. car crash)
- people over 65 who acquire disability due to the progression of a pre-existing condition (e.g. polio).
While older people who fall outside the NDIS may be eligible to receive support under the Commonwealth Continuity of Support Program, My Aged Care or state-based aids and equipment programs, none of these pathways provide equitable access to assistive technology. Shortfalls include:
- a lack of access to specialist advice and information about assistive technology options
- inadequate funding, leaving many people to fund the assistive technology they need themselves or go without
- long waiting lists.
ATFA Campaign Coordinator, Lauren Henley, said establishing a national aids and equipment program would go a long way towards addressing service gaps. The program would also reduce health and social services cost by:
- reducing the need for GP visits
- reducing demand for home care services
- reducing hospital admissions
- delaying entry to residential care
- reducing people’s vulnerability to experiences of violence, abuse, neglect and/or exploitation.
Support the campaign by:
- writing to state and federal ministers with responsibility for disability, health and ageing
- contacting your local MP
- making a submission to the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety.
Submissions to the Royal Commission will be accepted until the end of April 2020. Contact details are:
Phone: 1800 960 711
Mail: Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety
GPO Box 1151
Adelaide SA 5001
Visit the campaign’s website, assistivetechforall.org.au, for more information on how you can get involved.