In March, the NDIA announced changes to the way assistive technology purchases are approved – in many cases making it easier for participants to get the equipment they need.

Key among the changes was an increase in the upper limit for automatic approval of assistive technology (AT) purchases, from $5,000 to $15,000.

In announcing the changes, Minister for the NDIS Senator Linda Reynolds said: “I have listened closely to participants and their representatives, and what they have told me is they want a Scheme which is more person-focused, with less red tape.”

For participants who have quotable AT less than $15,000 in their plans, the NDIA will now automatically approve the funding for these items so participants can access this AT faster. However, the usual checks and balances remain – such as providing evidence the AT is needed, and helpful.

The most common purchases in this price range include manual wheelchairs, specialty beds and bathroom chairs/stools. The changes mean that people who need these AT items can get them faster and more easily.

The changes are summarised in an updated guideline and factsheet, which explains what evidence participants need to provide and what to do before buying AT.

Let’s have a look at the main points:

What is assistive technology?

Assistive technology is any equipment or device that helps you do things you can’t usually do because of your disability, or which helps you do things more safely.

Any assistive technology funded under the NDIS must meet the criteria of being reasonable and necessary.

Assistive technology ranges from simple products that can be purchased in retail stores and are easy to set up and use without professional advice, to more complex technologies that will likely require the help of an AT assessor to determine the right solution for your needs. These more complex technologies include things like powered wheelchairs.

What are the cost levels of AT?

  • Low cost – less than $1,500
  • Mid cost – $1,500 to $15,000
  • High cost – more than $15,000

What do the changes mean?

Quotes are no longer needed for mid cost AT items – however, you still need to provide evidence that it is the right AT for your needs. In most cases, that will require speaking with a qualified AT assessor –  such as an allied health practitioner, continence nurse, rehabilitation engineer, AT mentor or other qualified practitioner – and getting written confirmation the AT is right for you. You should do this BEFORE purchasing the AT.

How do I contact an AT assessor, or who should I speak to for more information?

The best person to speak to is your contact at LiveBig. LiveBig is a specialist allied health and assessment services provider for people with disability, including those on an NDIS plan. LiveBig’s team of experts include allied health professionals such as occupational therapists, physiotherapists, psychologists, exercise physiotherapists, speech therapists, counsellors, and assessors.

Were there any other changes?

The NDIA also created a new guideline and template on vehicle modifications and driving supports, which includes simpler and clearer information. These will help participants work with assessors to provide evidence for vehicle modification support requests over $15,000.