1999 Conference Proceedings

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Alliance for Technology Access: an evolving model

Russ Holland
Program Director
Alliance for Technology Access 687 Figert Road
Cold Brook, NY 13324
315.826.3929 voice and fax
russholland@ATAccess.org 
www.ATAccess.org

Mary Lester
Associate Director
Alliance for Technology Access
2175 E. Francisco Blvd, Suite L
San Rafael, CA 94901
415.455.4575 voice
415.455.0654 fax
marylester@ATAccess.org 
www.ATAccess.org

Summary

The Alliance for Technology Access shares plans to evolve into a more inclusive assistive technology organization and invites all working to connect children and adults with disabilities to technology tools to explore a relationship to support our common goals.

Mission of the Alliance for Technology Access: to connect children and adults with disabilities to technology tools

The Alliance for Technology Access is an alliance of 40 community based, consumer directed non-profit assistive technology access centers and 80 vendors and developers of assistive technology. The alliance strives, through direct services and advocacy on a local and national level, to make technology tools and support in their use available to all who may benefit from them. The Alliance model was developed by consumers and families to provide an alternative to the typical evaluation/prescription medical model. It seeks to put the consumer in control of the entire process of researching, evaluating, obtaining and using tools to increase independence and mainstream participation.

Initially we were unique because information about these tools was very scarce, and we were definitely the only ones providing that access in a consumer directed environment. We filled a critical role. It was and remains an excellent model. The information we had was needed. Our philosophy was unique. The economic and political climate were more kind to non-profits. We articulated our uniqueness and that was a large part of our appeal.

As we began to grow, we wished to retain that consumer directed uniqueness and we developed requirements for new centers intended to do just that. We asked for such criteria as non-profit status, consumer/family/professional governance, services to all individuals regardless of age, nature or degree of disability - as a way to try to ensure the consumer experience. These guidelines served us well in our formative years. It was a new frontier of assistive technology and we developed and implemented the right model to try to ensure that individuals with disabilities could indeed pursue their own search for and acquire tools to increase their independence. We joined and supported centers where people could come and pursue their search. We joined with developers and vendors to make sure that all possible options were available. And it worked. The Alliance has grown to 40 centers and over 80 developers and vendors of assistive technology. In its first decade it serve almost 2.5 million people.

Our values are still the same ones they have always been:

And still only a fraction of people with disabilities who might benefit from access to technology tools have that access. We need to keep making the connections: we need to keep advocating, we need to keep making sure that people have places to go and people to help in their searches. We need to ensure more opportunities for consumer directed experience.

We still want to accomplish our original mission, goals and values. We want to connect children and adults with disabilities to technology tools. The question we have been struggling with is how do we best accomplish this in today's environment?

There are many entities now providing assistive technology access through a variety of models - with varying degrees of success and congruence with our philosophy. Our question is how to define new relationships that are inclusive in some way of all entities in the AT field? Might we define new sets of relationships to be inclusive of colleagues in the field. We believe the Alliance can become the organization under which the broad field of assistive technology providers are associated.

We are aware that we share mission and goals with such as:

We are investigating ways these entities might have a relationship that enable them to provide a better service and support the Alliance mission as well. Might they subscribe to the Alliance for technical, disability rights or advocacy support? Might we become a forum to bring them all together to greatly expand the critical types of training and support that we provided internally at our annual Institute?

Our 2-5 year goal is that the Alliance for Technology Access be inclusive of all those, service providers and vendors, who support the consumers right to search for technology tools. Together we will be influencing a much broader array of assistive technology providers, reaching many more consumers, and speaking with a much more powerful advocacy voice.

We believe there is an open window of opportunity in which to evolve. As a result we share with you two specific and immediate components of a more inclusive Alliance for Technology Access.

ATA Resource Centers

Alliance for Technology Access Centers will continue to provide excellent community based, consumer directed services. They will continue to be non-profit organizations and to provide service or referral to all who request it. We have carefully looked at expectations for centers and have adopted a set of Standards of Excellence. These standards outline the consumer experience that centers provide rather than exactly how it is achieved. Decisions as to organization, governance and funding are handled individually by the member centers and we invite applications from all who have a plan to work towards these standards.

ATA Affiliations

The Alliance for Technology Access invites affiliations with all individuals and organizations working in any way to connect children and adults with disabilities to technology tools.

If you wish to support the provision of increased consumer-directed access to assistive technology, the Alliance for Technology Access is open to you. We invite you to talk with us about a relationship to support our common goals.


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