Written by: Stephen March, FreedomTech’s Financial Lending Specialist
For many folks with disabilities, assistive technology (AT) is crucial for increasing and/or maintaining independence. According to the World Health Organization, globally more than one billion people need one or more AT devices and only 1 in 10 people actually have access to the AT they need.
As you probably know, one of the biggest obstacles to accessing AT is figuring out how to pay for it. We’ve compiled some funding resources on our “How to Pay” page of our website here. Below we discuss two additional programs that may help you or someone you know get the Assistive Technology they need:
- Plan to Achieve Self Support (PASS) is a program administered by the Social Security Administration that enables people with disabilities to set aside money without it impacting their SSI benefits as long as the funds will be used to reach a work related goal such as starting a business or getting a job.
Example: Let’s say you needed to purchase hearing aids costing $2,000.00 in order to get the job you want. With the PASS program, you could get a part time job and set aside up to $2,000.00 without it impacting your SSI benefits. So, if you made $500/month, you could contribute this amount to your PASS account each month until you have saved up the $2,000.00 for the hearing aids and still receive your full SSI monthly income. That means in this scenario, you could have your hearing aids in 4 months. Learn more and apply for PASS at: https://www.ssa.gov/disabilityresearch/wi/pass.htm
- Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) accounts are tax-advantaged savings accounts that allow individuals with disabilities that meet the eligibility requirements to save more than the $2,000 cash savings limit set by most public benefits programs. The funds saved can then be used for eligible expenses including purchasing assistive technology.
Example: Let’s look an example of an individual receiving SSI benefits using an ABLE account to fund a power wheelchair that costs $3,000.00. Normally if the individual were to save more than $2,000.00, they would be at risk of losing their SSI benefits. With an ABLE account they could save the $3,000.00 and purchase the wheelchair without losing their benefits. Now, we understand that saving $3,000.00 on a limited income is extremely challenging, however, you could also use the ABLE account in conjunction with the PASS account and work a part time job to pay for the AT like we mention above or use gifted funds from friends, family or donors to save the $3,000.00 without it impacting your benefits.
ABLE accounts are not yet available in California, but don’t let that stop you. You can choose to open an account up in another state’s ABLE program. To learn more about ABLE accounts, please visit: http://www.ablenrc.org/