What is the AT Act?
The AT Act was first passed by Congress in 1998 as an extension of the Technology-Related Assistance Act of 1988 (the "Tech Act"). It was amended in 2004 and is referred to now as either the "AT Act of 1998, as amended" or as the "AT Act of 2004." MassMATCH is funded by a federal grant authorized by the AT Act of 2004.
The original Tech Act established AT Programs in every state and U.S. territory to raise awareness of assistive technology and to increase access to AT devices and services for people with disabilities. National initiatives were also supported. The AT Act of 1998 and the 2004 amendments provide continued support for the state AT Programs, now called "AT Act Programs."
The 2004 AT Act amendments focus on continuing or developing state programs that create access to assistive technology. While the funds do not directly purchase AT for individuals, they do support programs that help get affordable equipment to people who can benefit from it. These programs include device demonstration programs (to try out equipment), AT lending libraries, device reutilization programs (to exchange, repair or recycle used equipment), and alternative financing programs (to provide access to low-cost loans).
The amendments also call for training and technical assistance initiatives, particularly to help people with disabilities transition from school to work (or continued education) or from institution to community living. They also call for protection and advocacy programs related to AT, public awareness activities, information and referral services, coordination and collaboration between relevant public and private entities, and compliance with Section 508 standards (of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973) for accessible electronic and information technology. In addition, states must have an advisory council to provide consumer-responsive, consumer-driven advice for, planning of, implementation of, and evaluation of the activities carried out through the AT Act grant, including setting the "measurable goals."
National activities supported by the AT Act of 2004 include a public-awareness tool kit, research and development, technical assistance and training, data collection and a national public internet site.