NDIS – What is Assistive Technology
Assistive Technology (AT) is a device or a system that assists someone with independence and safety to complete an everyday task. NDIS Plans can include funding for AT, depending on what is reasonable and necessary to an individual’s disability.
Assistive Technology FAQs
The following frequently asked questions provide information about assistive technology (AT) under the NDIS.
What is Assistive Technology (or AT) in the NDIS?
Assistive technology, as defined by the World Health Organisation, is ‘any device or system that allows individuals to perform tasks they would otherwise be unable to do or increases the ease and safety with which tasks can be performed’. The NDIS uses this definition.
AT under the NDIS does not include:
- Items for treatment or rehabilitation;
- Built environment that is used by all – for example, ramps, pathways and lifts;
- Mainstream technology that does not overcome a functional limitation but modifications to this technology could be AT – for example, a car would not be AT but modifications to the car could be AT;
- Something that does not include a device – for example, medicine or training.
What is the difference between AT complexity levels?
AT is as diverse as a non-slip mat through to complex interfaces, for driver control of a car. The NDIS has described four AT complexity levels:
Level 1 (basic): is low-cost, low-risk and participants will mostly identify and source this themselves. Examples include: nonslip bathmats, large print labels, doorbells, etc.
Level 2 (standard): are typically ‘off the shelf’ AT that many participants can test and trial before making a final choice. Examples include: bath seat, handrails, ramps, etc.
Level 3 (specialised): is similar to Level 2 AT, however it often requires modification to suit the needs of the participant. Examples include: desktop electronic magnification, home modifications such as bathroom adaptions and pressure mattresses, etc.
Level 4 (complex): are typically custom made or ‘off the shelf’ but configured uniquely for the individual. Examples include: power wheelchairs, cochlear implant speech processors, complex home modifications that require major structural change, etc.
Sometimes an item of AT may be more complex to assess because of ‘risk factors’. These are explained in the AT Complexity Level Classification document.
Do I need assessments for AT?
If a participant identifies that they need assistance to overcome barriers – particularly using technology, the plan will include funding for an AT assessment. This assessment can assist a participant and the NDIA to understand what are the most appropriate AT solutions to meet the goals in the participant’s plan.
Low cost and low risk items (Level 1) do not need a form to be sent into the NDIS. Participants with AT funded supports in their plan can seek advice (from an Independent Living Centre, AT assessor) and buy it themselves. Supply of Levels 2 – 4, require an appropriate assessment form which needs to be completed by or with the oversight of an AT Assessor with suitable experience in that AT. Some AT will need greater consideration due to particular participant or environment issues.
Who is the AT assessor?
An AT assessor may be an AT Mentor, allied health practitioner, continence nurse, registered dietician, psychologist or rehabilitation engineer. The appropriate AT assessor will depend on the type and complexity of the AT and the needs of the participant. The Guide to Suitability on the NDIS website, provides details of the criteria that would qualify a provider for the different AT assessments.
What is an ‘AT Mentor’ and how are they different?
AT Mentors are people with a disability, or lived experience of disability, such as a family member/carer, who are certificate trained in assisting in AT assessment. AT Mentors usually assist with lower complexity AT, to identify the appropriate solution, but may contribute to more complex AT assessment and provision (including training).
What is the NDIA doing differently since trial?
During the trial stage, we recognised that there isn’t always an easy way of deciding what is reasonable and necessary for AT. We also learnt from participants that price can vary greatly between some suppliers. The NDIA is continuing to finalise arrangements with each State/Territory government AT provider to assist participants who require AT. We have prepared assessment templates to help guide participants and AT assessors to enhance the end result for the participant.
The NDIA continues to work with participants, peak bodies and the sector to enhance service delivery and achieve the best outcomes for participants. This ongoing work is particularly important for those who live in rural and remote regions. Any changes will be reflected on the NDIS website and in our presentations.
Where can I buy AT as a participant?
Participants can choose to source their AT from suitable suppliers they know, or through word-of-mouth from other participants and their own State/Territory government AT provider scheme.
For low cost, low risk items, the NDIA expects participants will often go to a local store or the internet to find suitable AT that meets their needs. The State/Territory government AT provider schemes are able to provide the majority of more complex AT needs. The exception is sensory disability which have their own specialised providers.
Do all NDIS participants need to use refurbished AT?
If participants require a particular item for a short period of time, then the Agency will ensure that participants have access to AT supports that will meet their needs. This is achieved through refurbished supplies from a State/Territory provider, or a lease/hire arrangement from a private supplier.
If the participant wishes to purchase the AT equipment outright, then they will receive a support payment at a suitable interval equivalent to the fee the Agency would have paid to utilise one of the market schemes – the participant will need to pay the gap or arrange some other form of financing.
What is the difference between quotable and fixed price capital supports?
The National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) Assistive Technology & Consumables Code Guide provides details in Section 2 about payments and invoicing for both assistive technology and home modification supports.
In general, supports over $1,000 in value will require a quote prior to supply, while lower cost items can be directly authorised (fixed price) through the myplace portal.
How are the different capital supports authorised?
Self Managed Supports:
For participants who are self-managing their supports, the provider should negotiate directly with the participant on the best value for money support that meets the participant’s goals and allocated budget. The participant is responsible for the payment of the invoice and claiming from the NDIA.
For all other participants the Participant Portal myplace should be used.
Agency Managed Supports:
For quotable supports:
- Request to NDIS Registered Provider(s), either through the Provider Portal myplace or by an email request from an NDIA staff member or NDIS Partners in the Community, to provide a quotation.
- Participant or plan manager selects the best value quotation in the myplace portal and approves that quotation.
- The myplace portal issues a service booking (for supply) to the successful provider.
- The agreed reasonable and necessary funding that will be provided is indicated on the service booking.
For most supports under $1,000 value (not marked ‘quotable’):
- Participant or plan manager talks to NDIS Registered Providers to find the best price for a support.
- Participant or plan manager creates a service booking for the proposed support and enters the proposed price to be paid.
- If the participant wishes, the NDIS Registered Provider may create the service booking for the agreed price.
- This will be immediately checked by the myplace portal against benchmark pricing and where:
- acceptable – will be approved.
- outside of benchmark limits – the system will advise the error.
- If a pricing error is received when trying to create a service booking, the participant can seek a lower price from the NDIS Registered Provider (or another NDIS Registered Provider) and/or consider whether other lower cost supports may address their requirements.
Plan Management Agency (PMA) Managed Supports:
PMA managed supports allow the PMA to access both NDIS Registered and non-registered providers on behalf of the participant.
- Where the support is sourced through an NDIS Registered Provider, the process listed under Agency Managed Supports above should be followed.
- If the support is sourced from a non-registered provider, the PMA will negotiate the best value for money price, pay the invoice and claim against the participant’s plan in line with the NDIS Terms of Business.
Module 7 of the Provider Toolkit gives details on payment and assurance.
Is a service booking required for each low cost, low risk AT item?
As outlined in the AT Complexity Classification document, the NDIA recognises some AT as low cost, low risk (Category 1) and participants who have AT identified in their plan will generally have funding in that plan for them to directly purchase a modest amount of this AT that is integral to meeting their plan goals.
The Daily Adaptive Equipment (03_131_0103_1_1) line item under a participant’s CORE budget (Consumables support category) would be where they would claim these expenses.