1998 Conference Proceedings

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THE NEW ENGLAND REGIONAL ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY EXCHANGE

Marion Pawlek
University of New Hampshire
Institute on Disability/UAP
NH Assistive Technology Partnership Project
10 Ferry St.
Unit #17, Concord NH 03301
Telephone (603) 224-0630
E-mail: mjpawlek@christa.unh.edu


Lee Learson
New Hampshire Alliance for Assistive Technology
Recycled Equipment Marketplace
84A Iron Works Rd.
Concord NH 03301
Telephone (603) 223-2384
E-mail: llearson@nhaat.mv.com 

Laura (Marko) Miller
New Hampshire Alliance for Assistive Technology
Five Right Way Path
Laconia NH 03246
Telephone (603) 528-3060
E-mail: lmarko@nhaat.mv.com

OVERVIEW

Health care continues to be an issue of discussion nationally, regionally and locally. The struggle of meeting long-term health care needs in an environment where cuts continue to be made in federal health related spending has necessitated new ways of thinking about how to meet consumer needs. In addition, demographics of an aging population will put increased demands on health care delivery systems thus making these problems worse.

One answer to the problem of decreasing funding is to make better use of the resources that are already available. As we look at the issues of trying to meet consumer assistive technology needs, we must take advantage of the large amount of technology that currently exists within organizations and with individuals that can meet both short and long term needs. Many organizations in New England offer programs ranging from equipment loan to comprehensive equipment recycling programs. In addition many individuals have equipment that is no longer needed and could be of use to another person.

Each year, ten billion dollars is spent on assistive technology. Approximately thirty (30%) percent to forty (40%) percent of that equipment is abandoned. The causes for abandonment range from children outgrowing their equipment, to inappropriate equipment being purchased, to death. In just four years of operation, the New Hampshire Recycled Equipment Marketplace has refurbished and ensured the reuse of thousands of pieces of durable medical equipment and computers, and saving consumers more than a half million dollars. Our goal, and the one of the goals of this database is to save ten percent (10%) per year on assistive technology costs.

One barrier to making better use of existing resources, is knowing that the resource exists. The knowledge of the availability of equipment resources is usually quite limited as organizations who operate these programs do not ordinarily have extensive marketing budgets that can be used for publicity. Also, equipment is not usually the main business of these organizations and therefore not a priority. The cost of placing advertisements to buy or sell equipment for an individual or organization can be expensive and may or may not achieve the desired results.

The New England Regional Assistive Technology Exchange will provide a resource for consumers, organizations and professionals in their search for assistive technology equipment to buy, sell, loan or donate.

DEVELOPMENT

The concept for the New England Regional Assistive Technology Exchange was developed by New Hampshires Tech Act Program located within the University of New Hampshires Institute on Disability. The AT Exchange system builds on the success of the New Hampshire Alliance for Assistive Technologys Recycled Equipment Marketplace, a comprehensive assistive technology redistribution program that has been operating for four years. The experience of the program has shown that there is much assistive technology that can be brought into the marketplace for reuse. In Addition, some assistive technology is very specialized and a potential end user might not be in the state but perhaps somewhere else in the region. In both cases, the issue of getting information about equipment availability still remained.

It was decided to pursue a solution to this issue on a regional basis. The New Hampshire project convened a group which included representatives from the five other New England states with the intent of creating a means to share information about the availability of existing assistive technology in a more effective way. The concept of a Web based database system that could be easily accessed from anywhere in the region, and in fact anywhere in the world was chosen and a plan was put together to complete the process. The Tech Act Project and NH Alliance for Assistive Technology enlisted the help and support of the Yuri Rubinsky Insight Foundation and Reply.net in the development of the AT Exchange. The system is open to any organization or individual who has equipment to add to the marketplace in whatever way that is most appropriate for them. With more information available, and the elimination of artificial state barriers, more and better use of recycled equipment will occur.

GOALS OF THE SYSTEM

HOW IT WORKS

The New England Regional Assistive Technology Exchange enables consumers and professionals to access a variety of assistive technology by providing a forum to list equipment available for sale, loan, exchange or donation. This process is convenient, easy to use and accessible to everyone. Any individual, agency or organization can be a part of the Exchange. Restrictions, if any, to accessing equipment are defined by the individual or organization, such as a specific disability, geographic limitations, or income guidelines for the sale, loan or donation are a part of the equipment listing. The Exchange includes information on the availability of equipment from all sources in New England choosing to participate in the program. These programs include equipment recycling programs, independent living centers, visiting nurse organizations, and hearing, vision or communication related organizations to name a few.

When first logging on to the exchange, youll have the option to "add equipment", "edit an entry", "delete an entry", or look for equipment, searching by "category of equipment", by "region", "state" or "zip". The individual or organization will have complete control over how the information is listed, as well as defining the contact information. The fields in the database cover all available options to sell, loan or donate assistive technology equipment.

LISTING EQUIPMENT

The AT Exchange has two ways to list equipment when and individual or organization has unused assistive technology. One, is to manually type in the equipment that is available for sale, loan or to donate. This method is for individuals and small organizations that have small numbers of equipment to list. The second entry method, to be used by organizations with large inventories, is to submit a diskette of available inventory in the required format.

Entering information into the AT Exchange is at the discretion of the person or organization entering data. Some may or may not have detailed information about the equipment available and want to be contacted for further information. The lister can determine how they would like to be contacted, some may only want to be contacted by e-mail, by telephone or mail, or all three. Its up to them! Some fields may or may not be applicable when equipment is for loan or donation, such as the "Price" field, etc. Weve tried to make the database as flexible as possible.

At the end of the equipment listing screen, there is space for additional information. This field can be used for other information about the equipment or used for comments that will help "sell it"!

The last step is to "Choose a password". This password will ensure that the entry cannot be changed or deleted by anyone except the person or organization entering the data.

Editing or Deleting Entries: These areas enable the person who has entered a listing in the AT Exchange to change their entries. Entries can be changed in any way or deleted entirely if the equipment has been sold, loaned or donated. Entries will be automatically aged off after ninety (90) days.

LOOKING FOR EQUIPMENT

There are many ways to look for equipment in the New England Regional AT Exchange.

The search engine allows for individuals or organizations to search by category of equipment, by geographical region, state, city or zip, or by word search.

Search by Categories of equipment -

There are a variety of search categories which include audio, visual, communication, home health, mobility, lift, seating and positioning, walking aids, bath, recreational and equipment parts.

Search by Region, City or Zip-

Searches are available by region, city or zip code, whichever is more convenient for someone looking for equipment. If transporting equipment within New England is not a problem, a regional search may be appropriate, or it may be easier for equipment to be acquired if it is within a state or local area.

THE FUTURE

As the system develops, we envision the establishment of many activities that will support the distribution system. Transportation of equipment on a regional scale will be addressed through other collaborative efforts to assist in the process of getting a piece of equipment from here to there. Also, developing similar sites and networks in other parts of the country will expand the pool from which specialized pieces can be identified for redistribution. In addition, links will be developed to identify needs beyond our national borders and mechanisms for moving surplus equipment to individuals with needs all over the world.

The expanding Internet has great promise for meeting the needs of individuals with disabilities. Identifying and redistributing surplus assistive technology will not only meet an individuals need, but has the potential to reduce costs on durable medical equipment by millions of dollars. We have taken the first step in this process and look forward to gaining the full potential of the Internet in helping to meet assistive technology needs.


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