Coronavirus IDEA Funding Bill Introduced in the Senate

On June 29, Senators Chris Murphy (D-CT), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and Maggie Hassan (D-NH), introduced the Helping Children with Disabilities Act (S.4100). This bill would provide increased funding for IDEA in line with the amounts in the more comprehensive Senate bill, the Coronavirus Child Care and Education Relief Act, S.4112. Specifically, S.4100 would appropriate $11 billion for state grants under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), $1.2 billion for early childhood education programs, and $55 million under the Assistive Technology Act of 1998; and it requires recipients of funds to report to Congress how this money is spent. The Arc supports this legislation.

Technology/Education: Report on Digital Divide Published

Common Sense Media published a report on the digital divide showing that approximately one-third of public school students lack either an adequate internet connection or device for learning at home. Additionally, 10% of public school teachers lack an adequate internet connection. The percentage of students lacking a high-speed internet connection ranges from 20% in New Hampshire to 50% in Mississippi. The first-year cost of closing the divide is estimated to be between $6 and $11 billion for students and $1 billion for teachers. The report includes an interactive map showing the digital divide in each state.

Technology: Assistive Technology Act Reauthorization Introduced in the Senate

On June 13, Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Susan Collins (R-ME) introduced the 21st Century Assistive Technology Act (S.1835). This bill reauthorizes the Assistive Technology Act of 1998, which was passed to increase awareness and access to assistive technology. The proposed reauthorization clarifies that the program serves all people with disabilities, including those who develop disabilities later in life, and increases funding for programs serving rural areas. The Arc supports the 21st Century Assistive Technology Act.

Technology: Augmentative and Alternative Communication Bill Introduced in the Senate

On June 13, Senators Bob Casey (D-PA), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) introduced the Access to Free Speech for All Act (S.1836). This bill seeks to ensure that all individuals with significant disabilities affecting communication have access to augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) devices, services, and supports. It would create five training, technical assistance, and research centers focused on AAC. The Arc supports the Access to Free Speech for All Act.

Family Support/Technology – Webinar on AT Resources for Family Caregivers and Respite Care Providers Announced

On July 12, the AT3 Technical Assistance and Training Center will host a webinar titled “Assistive Technology Programs: AT Resources for Family Caregivers and Respite Care Providers.” This webinar will share how caregivers and respite providers can connect and avail themselves of AT Act programs and activities. Presenters will share information about resources for access (resources to find and select AT) and acquisition (resources to obtain needed AT). Presenters will be Rob Groenendaal, Assistive Technology Program Manager, Center for Integrated Programs, Office of Consumer Access and Self-Determination, Administration for Community Living, US Department of Health and Human Services; Mary Exline,¬†AT3 Center Director; and others be announced. The webinar will take place from 2:00-3:00 PM EDT. Register here. Learn more about the webinar here.

Technology – Senate Committee Holds Briefing on Aging and Social Isolation

On April 27, the Senate Committee on Aging sponsored a briefing entitled, “Aging Without Community: the Consequences of Isolation and Loneliness.” The hearing examined the consequences that social isolation and loneliness can have on older adults and those with disabilities as well as highlighting resources and programs to reduce and prevent isolation. One of the panelists, Richard Creech of Harrisburg, PA, discussed how technology can help maintain and enhance interpersonal relationships. Mr. Creech, who has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair, offered his testimony using an augmentative communication device. Watch the archived briefing on theCommittee’s website.

Technology – Access Board Issues Final Rule on Information and Communication Technology

The Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (Access Board or Board) released a final rule on January 9 that updates accessibility requirements for information and communication technology (ICT) in the federal sector covered by Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. The rule also refreshes guidelines for telecommunications equipment subject to Section 255 of the Communications Act. The rule was developed in response to market trends and innovations in technology. The updated requirements specify the technologies covered and provide requirements for hardware, software, and support documentation and services. Access is addressed for all types of disabilities, including those pertaining to vision, hearing, color perception, speech, cognition, manual dexterity, and reach. The rule restructures provisions so that they are categorized by functionality instead of by product type due to the increasingly multi-functional capabilities of ICT products. The rule will take effect in one year. The Board will conduct awebinar on the rule on February 2.

Health/Technology – Access Board Issues Final Rule on Accessible Medical Diagnostic Equipment

On January 9, the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (Access Board) issued a final rule on Standards for Accessible Medical Diagnostic Equipment (MDE). The accessibility standards provide minimum technical criteria for MDE, including but not limited to, examination tables, examination chairs, weight scales, and mammography equipment. The MDE Standards do not impose any mandatory requirements on health care providers or medical device manufacturers. However, other agencies may issue regulations or adopt policies that require health care providers to acquire accessible MDE that complies with these Standards.