Baltimore, MD-Maurice Peret, an employee of Blind Industries and Services of Maryland, uses assistive technology daily to readily access print materials at work, read and compose documents, facilitate sales, and more. These daily activities are a requirement of his job and seamlessly made possible through devices which convert information into accessible formats. Mr. Peret recently utilized the Assistive Technology Financial Loan Program to finance a VarioUltra 20 Braille display, a device that can cost $2500 and upward. This piece of equipment is imperative to Mr. Peret's work, but the cost of the equipment was a barrier to its use.
Assistive technologies (AT) are devices which enable people with disabilities to live, work, learn, and play independently. While these devices can be a road to freedom for many with disabilities, their costs can often be out of reach for a significant number of Marylanders. With limited private grant options and most agency funding stretched to capacity, many people who use assistive technology need to find ways to fund part, if not all, of the various technologies themselves. Because of this very real need to support independence by facilitating access to devices required for employment and other activities, the Assistive Technology Financial Loan Program was established in 1999.
A program of the Maryland Department of Disabilities, the Assistive Technology Financial Loan Program offers low interest financial loans for a range of assistive technologies, from hearing aids to adapted vehicles, computers to home modifications. The program enables applicants to purchase technology at a lower-than-prime interest rate, often between 3 and 4 percent. It also provides longer repayment terms in order to make monthly payments manageable for all applicants. Whether the loans are for equipment to increase independence or equipment to start a business, the Assistive Technology Financial Loan Program is aligned with Governor Hogan's statewide focus to strengthen businesses and ensure the availability of a vibrant and prepared workforce which reflects the diversity of our state.
The Assistive Technology Financial Loan Program Board of Directors recently expanded the program's lending parameters. These expansions include increasing the loan amount for adapted vehicles up to $60,000; increasing adapted vehicle financing terms for up to ten years; providing same day decisions on some adapted vehicle loan requests; and increasing the unsecured lending limits for home modifications to $10,000. These expansions reflect trends of the current market and make it possible for more individuals with disabilities to affordably access assistive technology that they may otherwise not be able to purchase.
For Maurice, access to assistive technology is fundamental to employment and his independence, "I would and have recommended the AT Loan option through the Maryland Technology Assistance Program because the adaptive AT which exists is far too often priced out of range for most people with disabilities. This critical avenue of acquisition can make it possible to earn and learn through accessible technology that can make the difference between productivity and dependence."
You can learn more about assistive technology and The Assistive Technology Financial Loan Program on the program's website. The Maryland Technology Assistance Program also offers periodic tours of their technology library offering those with disabilities a chance to test technology options before purchase. See the website for details.