AUSTIN, TexasPresident Bush has signed into law the McKeon Assistive Technology Act of 2004, ensuring that the Texas Technology Access Project (TTAP) at The University of Texas at Austin will be able to continue to offer services to Texans with disabilities through 2010.
The legislation authorizes “such sums as may be necessary” be appropriated to states’ assistive technology programs for state grants and national activities.
The TTAP, which is part of the Texas Center for Disability Studies and is affiliated with the College of Education, helps individuals with disabilities access the latest in assistive technology. In addition, it offers training and support to technology professionals, disability advocacy organizations, service providers and educators who work with people with disabilities.
To assure that individuals with disabilities gain the greatest degree of independence and control over their environment possible, the TTAP helps them obtain services and devices, such as cell phones and customized computer workstations, that make seeing, hearing, moving about and speaking easier.
“The Texas Technology Access Project, which was created here at The University of Texas at Austin in 1992, is a vital tool for enabling people with disabilities to become more independent and do more for their communities,” said Dr. Penny Seay, executive director for the Center for Disability Studies.
The TTAP also works closely with policymakers, offering assistance and information to ensure that technology access for all is incorporated into public policies.
Because of the TTAP’s work, teachers in Texas’ public schools can address the technology needs of students with disabilities in the classroom, Texas state government Web sites are accessible to all, Medicaid patients have improved coverage for power wheelchairs and communities from the Panhandle to the Valley have technology demonstration and lending centers.
“In East Texas, for example, we have partnered with the Brazos Valley Rehabilitation Center, Brazoria Center for Independent Living, East Texas Center for Independent Living, Nacogdoches Treatment Center and RISE Independent Living Center to provide computer workstations at each of those facilities,” said Seay. “Each workstation is equipped with onscreen keyboards, infrared pointers, magnification software and voice recognition software, which gives an unprecedented level of independence to disabled users.”
With the McKeon Act, states have been called upon to reinforce assistance to two specific populations: students with disabilities who are transitioning from school to jobs and adults with disabilities who are maintaining or transitioning to community living. This aligns the Assistive Technology Act with recent federal priorities, including the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and the Americans with Disabilities integration mandate.
The legislation also requires that assistive technology programs recycle the technology devices that are used and offer financing such as low-interest loans.
Legislation supporting state assistive technology programs had been scheduled to end on Sept. 30.
For more information contact: Kay Randall, 512-232-3910.