3 Ways to Fund Assistive Technology in North Carolina

We hope that a lack of funding for assistive technology never hinders people with developmental disabilities from leading full and independent lives in the community. The reality, of course, is that funding for people with disabilities can be very limited, and enabling technology can become an afterthought.

What you may not know: You may have a right to assistive technology. When assistive technology is necessary for a person with a disability to be able to learn, live, have independence, or have a job, certain public programs may pay for that AT (Source: Disability Rights NC).

Today on the blog, we feature three of those assistive technology programs here in our home state of North Carolina.

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1. Through the local school system:

If a student needs a piece of Assistive Technology to receive what is called a “free appropriate public education” (FAPE), then the student’s school must provide it. This right is guaranteed by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

According to Disability Rights NC, AT may be considered either as special education and related services or as supplementary aids and services that maintain a student in the least restrictive environment. 

Learn more about AT in schools.


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2. Through Vocational Rehab (VR):

If you are a client of the NC Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services (VR), VR may pay for Assistive Technology in two situations. First, if after creating an IPE (Individualized Plan for Employment) with your VR counselor, your employment goal requires assistive technology for you to reach that goal, VR should provide it. Secondly, if the AT will help you live independently in your own home, VR's Independent Living program may purchase the technology.

Learn more about Vocational Rehab.


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3. Through Medicaid:

In North Carolina, at least three Medicaid waiver programs include AT services:

A. The Innovations Waiver. This is a Medicaid program that provides home and community-based services to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). About 12,000 people in North Carolina receive the Innovations Waiver, and about 12,000 people are on the waiting list to get the waiver. (Find out how to get on the wait-list here.) If you have the Innovations Waiver, then you can obtain assistive technology to increase, maintain, or improve your functional capabilities.

B. CAP/C, or the Community Alternatives Program for Children. This program can pay for AT that improves or maximizes the functional capabilities of the child beneficiary, improves the accessibility and use of the child’s environment, and/or addresses 24/7 coverage issues.

C. CAP/DA, or the Community Alternatives Program for Disabled Adults. This program includes AT that enables the adult beneficiary to increase or maintain function in daily life, as well as accessibility, safety, and monitoring systems.

Additionally, if there are children under the age of 21 who are the Medicaid State Plan, they are entitled to all services that are medically necessary to keep them physically or mentally healthy. If a child’s therapy or medical provider believes that AT would correct or improve the child’s condition, Medicaid should pay for that AT.

Learn more about the Medicaid plan for children.

With all of the above Medicaid programs, the amount of supports (including AT) an individual gets must be based on medical necessity. There are guidelines available for Letters of Medical Necessity.

We want to give a big shout-out to Disability Rights NC for their new resource "Your Right to Assistive Technology," which was the primary inspiration for this blog post. Thank you for all you do!