The Federal AT Act and the Formation of FAASTIn 1988 the Federal AT Act was passed to increase awareness and information about assistive technology. According to FAAST Assistive Technology can be defined as, “any device, gadget, hardware or software used by a person to do things for themselves that might otherwise be difficult or impossible to do because of their disability.” The AT Act provides federal funding for the U.S. Department of Education to support state efforts to improve provisions of assistive technology to people with disabilities. A few years later, in 1994, the Department of Education under Vocational Rehabilitation created FAAST Inc. to carry out the mission of the Federal AT Act in Florida. Today, every state in the US has their own AT program that are operated by nonprofits, public schools, or larger organizations. FAAST is a standalone organization that reports directly to the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation.
Programs and ServicesFAAST, Inc. provides a number of resources, training programs, and other services to aid those with disabilities in learning about and acquiring assistive technology. Their main programs and services include the following:
- Information & Assistance
- AT Device Demos – This program helps compare 2 or more devices, their functions, and capabilities to help an individual make a more informed decision on which to purchase or seek funding for (Insurance, Medicaid, grants, etc). A clear example of this would be whether a person would benefit from a handheld magnifier or a larger one that would sit on a desk. FAAST takes every necessary measure to ensure you are fit with the write device for you. They often work with Speech-Language Pathologists to show their clients different variations of communication devices from low tech felt boards to high tech software with switches.
- AT Training Services – FAAST, Inc. provides training on AT products and services available, IT/Telecom Accessibility, Transition into and out of school and the workplace, and funding options available.
- AT Funding Assistance – Once an individual finds the best AT for their situation, FAAST works with them to find out how they can obtain funding through public assistance, private insurance, or their own Financial Loans. Their loan program known as the New Horizon Loan Program provides low-interest loans for the purchase of AT, home, office, or vehicle modifications, and even to small businesses for implementation or development of AT. Additionally, through their “Reuse” program they provide funding for the repair, refurbishment, and cleaning of AT. These refurbished devices are available for free or very low cost to anyone in need.