What is Assistive Technology?
Assistive Technology (AT) is a term that very specific to the NDIS. AT refers to equipment or technology that allows NDIS participants to live more independently and safely.
Equipment Prescription in South-East Melbourne
How we Help with Assistive Technology
Total Health Physio’s dedicated Occupational Therapists help predominantly with:
- Equipment assessments
- Environmental assessments
- Functional assessments
- Lodging assessment & request forms to the NDIS
- Equipment trials with participants
- Project management & funding required for home modifications
Types of Assistive Technology
There is a large range of AT, from simple concepts such as gait aids, right through to complex home modifications. We mostly assist with prescribing mobility and daily living equipment, such as:
- Manual wheelchairs
- Electric wheelchairs
- Walking frames
- Toilet and shower commodes
- Minor and complex home modifications
Through our expertise and core values of Trust, Compassion & Care we help NDIS participants obtain amazing AT to help them achieve their meaningful goals!
Working with Disability Equipment Suppliers
We have relationships with NDIS approved equipment suppliers throughout Melbourne. These companies send us booklets that provide us with information about the latest assistive equipment on the market.
Additionally, we attend relevant events, such as the Melbourne Disability Expo, which is an annual event where we can meet equipment providers. In terms of obtaining the AT, this can occur in three ways:
- For simple items, we can pick up equipment directly from the supplier
- For large items, we may meet the supplier at the participant’s residence to assist with installation or training
- We may also take a client to an equipment provider to test products (i.e. different beds or recliners)
Funding from the NDIA for Assistive Technology
The timeframes and process of actually obtaining AT depend on a few factors, namely how the plan is managed, as well as the cost of AT.
NDIS plans can be managed in varying ways. For example, an NDIS plan could be totally managed by an Agency. In contrast, there can be NDIS plans that are split, with some parts being Agency managed and the Assistive Technology component being self managed. The NDIS plan is initially put together by an NDIS planner, who is employed by the NDIA.
Agency managed plans would use an NDIS registered equipment supplier.
Self or plan managed NDIS participants have more options, and can purchase equipment from anywhere.
For low cost, low risk AT, there is a threshold (currently $1,500, soon to be $5,000) allowing a participant to obtain that equipment quite quickly. They would simply have our Occupational Therapist visit the property, perform an assessment and use clinical judgement to deem that the prospective equipment is safe and appropriate. The participant would then be able to purchase the equipment directly from the supplier using NDIS funding immediately.
For complex or higher risk AT over the threshold amount, a detailed NDIA AT Request Form (which is a national standard) would need to be completed by our Occupational Therapist. This process involves comparing one model against others, thereby justifying the funding from the NDIA. For example, the NDIA would want to know the clinical reasons of why a $10,000 wheelchair is needed when there are cheaper options. In this case, the participant would have to wait for approved funding for that piece of AT.
Assistive Technology FAQ
How long will it take to receive my AT equipment?
This is variable from a matter of days, to a matter of months. We have refined our processes to be able to turn these around as quickly as possible.
What happens if I could benefit from AT today but I might have to wait a few months?
Usually we would explore a hire option.
There is some flexibility with NDIS plans allowing people to pay for things out of the core budget, such as hiring a walking frame and other personal care.
We would also contact the NDIA to mention if a matter is high priority in an effort to speed up the process.
Can you give an example of a goal you’ve helped a NDIS participant achieve with AT?
The purpose of the NDIS and funding for AT is to help people live independently, and therefore live their best life!
One example was helping a lovely gentleman obtain additional funding for an electric wheelchair, as he was physically limited by his manual wheelchair.
His goal was to be able to independently visit the supermarket 500m from his property. We performed an assessment and lodged request forms to the NDIS. We helped the participants adjust to the new wheelchair and performed exercise therapy, focusing on sit-to-stand strength, allowing the person to safely mount and dismount his wheelchair.
Now he’s going to the shops everyday and living a better, more independent quality of life!
What happens if a piece of equipment malfunctions? For example, a person's electric wheelchair is faulty and no longer operates
The process surrounding warranty claims or product support is largely with the equipment supplier, not so much Total Health Physio.
In most cases, the NDIS would use a registered NDIS equipment provider. The piece of equipment is considered an Australian product, and therefore must adhere to national standards, namely Fair Trading.
In the event a person’s mobility equipment has malfunctioned, the equipment supplier will usually resolve this in a short amount of time.
What happens during an Assistive Technology review?
An AT review would be largely looking at the reports compiled with the NDIS plan for the respective participant.
NDIS AT reviews are performed as needed, which is usually between 3-12 months. This means the person has received a certain level of funding and healthcare for that time.
Total Health Physio helps NDIS support coordinators by performing assessments, reassessments and reporting on the participant’s progress towards their NDIS goals.
We base achieving goals on what the Physiotherapy community refer to as outcome measures, which is a series of different tools to assess a participant’s current status. Outcome measures are a systematic approach to record:
- Health status
- Goal status (both short & long term)
- Whether the existing AT has been effective
- Activity limitations
- Whether other equipment should be considered
- If the participant should be referred to another healthcare professional.
Depending on what physical and/or neurological disability the person has will change what outcome measure is used. The NDIS also has a list of preferred outcome measures to use. Examples of outcome measures include:
- Berg Balance Scale – used to assess a patient’s capacity to safely balance during set tasks
- Dynamic Gait Index – used to assess balance, falls and gait aid related risks. These are walking tests where the difficulty is increased by walking faster on command, turning of the head, pivoting, stepping over obstacles, stepping around obstacles and navigating steps
- Fatigue Severity Scale – used to assess the level of fatigue and effect on a person’s daily life. This outcome measure is commonly used on people with Multiple Sclerosis (MS condition has a high fatigue component from movement and heat). This is a test where the participant would complete a questionnaire and respond to nine questions, indicating the severity of their fatigue in relation to certain tasks.
NDIS AT plan reviews are very goal-orientated.
Outcome measures are very important, our reports are used to prove there are valid reasons to justify funding for reasonable and necessary Physiotherapy, Occupational Therapy or Assistive Technology from the NDIS. As an NDIS provider, Total Health Physio is supported by the scheme.
When performing reviews with Trust, Compassion & Care these ultimately let us know if we’re making a difference!