The Agency has been working hard over the trial period to refine this large area of support to ensure sustainability and equity into the future. Over 2015-16 the Agency has been working on initiatives to support the overarching vision for AT.
Assistive technologies cover the full spectrum of technology from new and sophisticated (specialised apps on smartphones) to the simple but effective (tactile maps and walking sticks). Better design and accessibility features are increasingly making universal technologies (e.g. tablet computers) an important assistive technology for people with disability in their daily lives. AT enables people with disability to live a better, more independent and more inclusive life. It enables people with disability to maximise their independence at home, in the community and in the workplace, ensuring greater economic and social participation.
It is important to note that strong evidence of need and the benefit that will be delivered will still be required for AT to be supplied, like any other support, in participant plans and applications for individualised support packages.
The release of the Assistive Technology strategy
The AT strategy was released in October 2015 to support the development of an empowering, sustainable and consistent approach to ensure Scheme participants have choice in, and access to, individualised assistive technology solutions that enable and enhance their economic and community participation.
Figure 5: AT supports and expected expenditure by cluster at full Scheme
Note: values in brackets total $1b, and represent full Scheme funding estimates for AT in 2019-20, based on NDIA actuarial forecasts, BCG analysis, World Health Organisation.
The Agency’s investment in Assistive Technology
Spending on AT will be considerable as the Scheme is fully rolled out in 2019-20. It is anticipated that the Scheme’s rollout will stimulate the AT market in Australia, encouraging investment and the development of emerging technology solutions.
As knowledge of this increasing demand filters through the Australian and global technology community, the expectation is that Australia could become a hub of AT innovation.
Demonstrated importance of Assistive Technology in trial sites
As AT evolves it will provide more opportunities for people with disability. Experiences from the trial sites indicated that AT will be very important as the Scheme rolls out nationally from July 2016.
At the Scheme trial sites by the end of May 2016, AT is included in 35 per cent of participants’ broader plans, rising to over 55 per cent for participants who are over 45 years old. Of over 400 AT support item types, the two largest value clusters coming out of the trial sites are assistive products for personal care and safety, and for personal mobility (Figure 5, page 33). Personal care and safety products include consumables such as home enteral nutrition (HEN) and continence products, as well as capital items such as bathroom and bedroom equipment. Personal mobility equipment includes capital items such as wheelchairs, walkers, hoists and transfer equipment.
The highest committed AT expenditure is for participants with ‘other neurological disability’ (approx. $15.6m), followed by ‘cerebral palsy’ (approx. $11.7m), ‘other physical’ (approx. $7.6m), and ‘intellectual disability’ (approx. $4.4m). People with intellectual disability and autism combined make up over 50 per cent of Scheme participants. AT spend in this area has historically been low, but new technologies—many used in the mainstream, such as tablet and smartphone applications—are offering opportunities to enhance independence, confidence and participation outcomes for this group.