WASHINGTON – Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions Subcommittee Chair Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11) and Congressman Joe Sempolinski (NY-23) announced introduction of the 21st Century Assistive Technology Act (H.R. 9028), bipartisan legislation to help people with disabilities live independently by expanding access to assistive technology.
Assistive technologies—from smart home systems to magnifying glasses—are critical to ensuring that people with disabilities can live, work, and participate in their communities independently. While the Assistive Technology Act, first enacted in 1998, is designed to provide states with the resources to help people with disabilities access assistive technology, this law has not been reauthorized since 2004.
“Assistive technology is critical to helping individuals with disabilities to connect, work, participate in their communities, and thrive more independently,” said Congressman DeSaulnier. “As someone who has advocated for the disability community throughout my career, I am proud to lead this bipartisan bill with Congressman Sempolinski to modernize the Assistive Technology Act, making this important technology available to more people and combatting the social isolation disproportionately felt by the disability community, especially since the start of the pandemic.”
“As a parent to a child with a disability, helping Americans living with disabilities is something I take very seriously and is a centerpiece of my time in Congress,” said Congressman Sempolinski. “The AT Act is a fiscally responsible bill that empowers states to promote the use of assistive technologies, such as walkers and speech assistants, to Americans with disabilities. Frankly, these tools will enhance an individual’s mobility and independence and keep individuals with disabilities on the path to self-reliance. The AT Act is a commonsense bill to help protect and uplift Americans living with disabilities.”
The need to secure access to assistive technology is greater than ever. During the pandemic, people with disabilities across the country faced disproportionate barriers to accessing the necessary technologies to remain connected to their work and loved ones. Moreover, over 40 million people currently live with a disability and estimates indicate that 77 million people will be 65 years old or older by 2030. Congress must ensure that we can meet the increased demand for assistive technology and help people with disabilities secure the support they need to succeed.
The 21st Century Assistive Technology Act would increase the quality of life, and expand work opportunities, for people with disabilities through increased access to technology, equipment, and services. Specifically, the legislation:
- Facilitates access to AT by streamlining funding to focus on the four state-level activities, including state financing activities, device reutiization programs, device loan programs, and device demonstrations.
- Enhances capacity building and services for Protection & Advocacy agencies and increases the grants for states with minimum allotments once the program reaches $8 million in funding.
- Establishes technical assistance support for state-level activities and Protection & Advocacy systems.
- Encourages Innovation and Collaboration: If the amount appropriated exceeds $49 million, the legislation provides funding for “Projects of National Significance” that may focus on the needs of specific populations, such as youth in transition, or on collaboration among state agencies that provide AT and other services to people with disabilities.
For more on Congressman Mark DeSaulnier: https://desaulnier.house.gov/