MDRC cultivates disability pride and strengthens the disability movement by recognizing disability as a natural and beautiful part of human diversity while collaborating to dismantle all forms of oppression.
Considering the purpose will help with selecting which source/sources is most likely to provide funding. Make a list of all possible funding sources and then prioritize them. You may even find two different funding sources that will equal or come close to the total cost of your need. Some funding sources to explore are listed below. You can also check the "AT Directory" section of this web page for additional funding resources.
What is considered "medically necessary" varies depending on the health insurance program. The general definition is a service or piece of equipment that is required for the diagnosis or treatment of an illness, injury, condition or disease in accordance with current medical practice. Determinations are made on an individual basis and have a reasonable chance for a substantial benefit by preventing regression or by maintaining or improving function.
Which assistive technology is covered by insurance varies greatly. Technology and services must be medically necessary in order to be covered. Call your customer service representative if you don’t feel the coverage is clearly stated in your policy. Be sure and ask about their criteria for determining medical necessity.
Medicaid is a national program of medical assistance for individuals whose income and resources are insufficient to meet the costs of necessary medical services. Administration occurs at the state level. It will purchase, rent or lease various types of assistive technology known as “durable medical equipment” (DME). Check with your local social security office or the Michigan Department of Human Services for further information.
The Medicaid Reference Desk offers information on Medicaid for people with cognitive disabilities. It also has links to regional, State and local organizations that may be of assistance to all people with disabilities.
Many people think of Medicare as a federally funded health insurance program that is only for Americans over 65 years old. However, Medicare also provides insurance to many children and adults with severe disabilities. The program has two parts: Part A- Mandatory Hospital Insurance and Part B- Optional Medical Insurance. It is Part B that may pay for all or a portion of your AT devices if they qualify as “durable medical equipment.” As with Medicaid, to qualify, an AT device must be considered medically necessary. Your doctor must prescribe a specific device and it must be supplied by a Medicare-approved provider. A comprehensive reference is Medicare Funding of Assistive Technology, a guide written in 2004 by Neighborhood Legal Services, Inc. and the Arizona Center for Disability Law.
Children with Special Needs Fund
The Children with Special Needs Fund, provides support for children in Michigan with special health care needs not available through any other funding source. The Fund helps with the purchase of equipment and services that promote optimal health, mobility, and development.
Districts must make available the technology devices required for a student’s access to a free, appropriate public education, which is documented in the student’s Individual Education Plan (IEP).Michigan Protection & Advocacy has a Special Education Manual available. You can contact them at 1-800-288-5923 for more information or order the manual from their website.
Michigan Alliance for Families provides information, support, and education for families who have children (birth through 26 years of age) who receive (or may be eligible to receive) special education services. This website can help you with finding information on special education issues as well as disability specific information.
Alt+Shift collaborates with districts and buildings to create and sustain accessible educational environments that have a direct and positive impact on every student. They have an extensive lending library focused on improving outcomes for all students to local school districts. The library could help meet students’ needs for a short time period, helping with decisions about which technology to choose.
A resource for AT in a Post-Secondary Institution is the office set up to help students access accommodations needed for education while that setting. For information see Michigan Association of Higher Education and Disabilities. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the ADA apply to most of these settings. See Public Funds below for information about Post Secondary Institutions.
A person with a disability may be eligible for Michigan Rehabilitation Services or the Michigan Bureau of Services for Blind Persons (BSBP) if the disability causes problems in preparing for, finding, or keeping a job. The individual must also require vocational rehabilitation services in order to work. Examples of services received by the customer are job-seeking skills training; job placement assistance; accommodations/assistive technology; job coaches; tools, equipment, and licenses needed to go to work; job training; prostheses and other medical services; and support services such as interpreters, readers, and transportation. You can use this link: To locate your local MRS Office or call 1-800-605-6722. To find local BSBP offices or call 517-373-2062 or 1-800-292-4200, TTY 1-888-864-1212 or 1-517-373-4025.
The cost of AT which enables to you to work could be deducted from your earned income amount in determining how much your SSI or will be reduced due to having work income. You can also use impairment-related work expenses to reduce the "substantial gainful activity" amount if you receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). You'd have to pay for the items out of pocket, track these expenses and be ready to report them to your Social Security Office. These would have to be expenses that you are not otherwise reimbursed for.
If you are on the MiChoice Medicaid Waiver program or are receiving supports from Community Mental Health to live in the community, these programs may pay for AT to help you maintain your independence. If you are moving out of a group home or nursing home, these programs also may provide AT for you to gain independent living. They also might assist with home modifications. Ask your supports coordinator what options are available to you.
Check with your local Disability Network to learn about additional service organizations and resources in your community. Some communities have groups that help with home modifications and ramp building for people that cannot get a ramp through other means.
Many communities also have Senior Millages that help fund tools for independence. Check with your local Area Agency on Aging to see if these types of funds are available for you or if they know of other resources in your community. Most Area Agencies on Aging serve older adults and younger adults with disabilities.
If your disability is a result of an automobile accident, your insurance may cover home modifications and AT for community living.
The USDA Rural Development Office in your area also may help with home purchase or home modification. Their Home Repair Loan and Grant Program is for very low income families who own homes in need of repair and provides loans and grants for renovation. The Home Repair Program also provides funds to make a home accessible to someone with disabilities.
For some other options, you may want to contact your local 2-1-1. 2-1-1 provides the health and human services equivalent of 9-1-1 to give or get help. United Way organizes this service. Your local 2-1-1 will also have ideas on equipment loan closets in your community.
If you are interested in home ownership, the Center for Financial Health is a great first stop to learn about home ownership programs and services to support you in that goal.
You may also want to check and see if there is a Housing Resource Center (HRC) that is up and running in your community. The HRC is an agency that has agreed to receive calls for assistance with housing needs on behalf of anyone that is homeless or in imminent danger of homelessness. You can find out if your area has an HRC by calling 2-1-1 or checking with your local Housing Continuum of Care.
Occasionally local Home Builder’s Associations, Habitats for Humanity and home repair service groups will also help with home modifications.Check with your local 2-1-1 to see if this is an option in your community.
If you are in danger of becoming homeless or are currently homeless, a Housing Assessment and Resource Agency (HARA) provides centralized intake and housing assessment, assuring a comprehensive community-wide services. HARAs practice shelter diversion and work to rapidly re-house people who are homeless.
Two loan guarantee programs from the Federal Housing Administration, Title 1 Home Improvement Loans and 203K Rehabilitation Mortgages, can be used for home modification, acquisition or rehabilitation. The 203K program will also loan up to 80% of the repaired value of the home, making it useful for a household that chooses to move and make accessibility improvements in the new home. To find a lender for either of these programs go to HUDs lender list. Both programs have many guidelines and rules. Be sure to read the information on the Housing and Urban Development website information on these loans. The HUD lender list allows you to look for lenders that have processed similar loans within the last 12 months.
Home Improvement Structural Alterations (HISA) –For veterans. Under the Home Improvements and Structural Alterations (HISA) program, Veterans with service-connected disabilities or Veterans with non-service-connected disabilities may receive assistance for any home improvement necessary for the continuation of treatment or for disability access to the home and essential lavatory and sanitary facilities. A HISA grant is available to Veterans who have received a medical determination indicating that improvements and structural alterations are necessary or appropriate for the effective and economical treatment of his/her disability. A Veteran may receive both a HISA grant and either a Special Home Adaptation (SHA) grant or a Specially Adapted Housing (SAH) grant. Call 1-800-827-1000 to speak with a Benefits Counselor.
Social Security has two programs that may pay for home modifications, the Impairment-Related Work Expense Program (IRWE) and the Plan for Achieving Self-Support (PASS). The IRWE allows SSI and SSDI recipients to deduct the amount they pay for home modifications from their earned income allowing the individual to receive applicable amount of benefits. However, the individual must prove that these modifications will enable them to go to work. The PASS plan allows SSI recipients who are working for a vocational goal to deduct the amount they pay for home modifications from their earned income allowing the individual to receive applicable amount of benefits. However, the individual must prove that these modifications will enable them to go to work and they have a limited amount of time to achieve an occupational goal. Also the Community Based Services must approve a PASS plan before it goes into effect. For more information on any of these programs, contact your local Social Security office or visit the Work Incentives website. You can get a PASS Specialist’s telephone number by calling the Social Security toll-free number 1-800-772-1213.
Ability Experience (formerly Push America)is an organization founded by the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity whose purpose is to benefit people with disabilities. Through one of their programs, Accessability, volunteers build wheelchair ramps for people in low and moderate income areas. In staying true to their mission, Push America is dedicated to leadership, service and making a difference in the lives of people with disabilities. MSU, UofM, CMU and WMU have active chapters. GVSU and EMU have also had chapters. For more information call the director of team services, at 800-929-1904 or connect with the chapter on your closest college campus.
Rebuilding Together (formerly Christmas in April) The nation's largest volunteer housing rehabilitation organization and the only national-level organization that focuses exclusively on the home repair, accessibility, and improvement needs of lower-income homeowners, Rebuilding Together is uniquely qualified and poised to deliver home modification services across the country. In addition to their work during National Rebuilding Month in April, affiliates work year round delivering critical home modifications. There are 200 affiliated non-profits around the nation. In Michigan Rebuilding together has affiliates in Ingham County, Oakland County, and Detroit. Contact the affiliate in your area to learn about upcoming work days. 1800-4REHAB9
Fraternal Clubs: Organizations such as Knights of Columbus, Ambucs, or Kiwanis may have in their annual budgets assistance for people with disabilities. Check with organizations in your community.
Local Chapters of Disability Organizations These informational resources may make grants to individuals and families who demonstrate financial need if funds are available. Contacting the Multiple Sclerosis Society, United Cerebral Palsy, National Easter Seals, etc., may be worth the try.;
Special Gift Funds: The Department of Social Services at some of the hospitals may be aware of in-hospital grants that may be available to those qualified. Well worth asking about.
Townships/Villages: Townships serving many local villages often times have a Disabilities Coordinator. On occasion, grants are in place with funds available for home accessibility modifications.
Income Tax Deductions: Many people can take advantage of income tax deductions under the federal tax code. To do so, the cost of the modifications must be treated as a medical deduction and be itemized and shown as an expense on federal tax form 1040 "Schedule A". In order for home modifications or equipment to be treated as a tax deduction, they must be certified by a physician as being required for health reasons. For a renter, the cost of accessibility modifications becomes a deduction from taxable income. Homeowners can also deduct modifications cost from income but need to account for any increase in the value of the home. A written opinion from a competent real estate appraiser specifying how much and why the home's value has increased is necessary and an experienced accountant should be contacted.
The Department of Veterans Affairs is a cabinet level government department responsible for administering a system of health care and benefits for veterans, their families and dependents. It was established in 1989, to replace the Veterans Administration, an independent agency that dates back to 1930.
Many service clubs will often contribute funds or organize a fundraiser to help raise necessary funds for individuals in need of assistive technology who live in their local areas. Your local Chamber of Commerce may be of help for a directory of these clubs/organizations. Local Habitats for Humanity may be able to assist with the building of a ramp, as long as the materials are available.
Advocacy groups may be able to put you in touch with other families who have already purchased devices and successfully found funds. The organizations may also be able to provide some funds. Your local Disability Network is also an excellent resource for possible additional funding sources.
Manufacturers and Vendors of Assistive Technology
Some manufacturers may have special payment plans or low-interest loans available for their products. Companies that sell AT devices may produce funding guides and/or have funding specialists on staff to work with you. Please check the AT Directory at for providers of assistive technology.
The Michigan Employment Loan Fund’s mission is to reduce or eliminate barriers to employment through low-interest loans. Potential borrowers represent those interested in self-employment, those needing assistive devices to maintain, increase, or enhance employment, and those who require equipment to engage in telecommuting employment arrangements with an employer.
Approaching Funding Resources
When approaching funding sources, it is important to note that there is no one specific method to assure funding. Traditional sources that have provided funding for assistive technology in the past are currently undergoing a period of adjustment. If the assistive technology is new to the marketplace, the funding source may take a “hands-off” attitude. Knowing these things will be important to help you plan your strategy and show patience and respect when dealing with prospective funding sources.
Some helpful hints are:
Be polite and pleasant, but always be businesslike.
Communicate in writing whenever possible and keep a copy for yourself.
Maintain a routine connection with the funding source and do not permit time gaps of three or more months between communications.
Encourage a positive working relationship by directing letters or calls to the same person each time.
Maintain a routine connection with the funding source and do not permit time gaps of three or more months between communications. This is a time that you should not follow any “don’t call us, we’ll call you” practices.
Offer your cooperation and willingness to provide proof of medical necessity and to show how the technology will benefit the consumer and the funding source.
When questioned, try to educate and inform in an assertive fashion, emphasizing long-term monetary benefits to the funding source.
Never threaten with legal action, unless you know that you are being discriminated against. This is an often-heard threat and will not intimidate any agency or insurance company.
When someone (a case manager, therapist, durable medical equipment (DME) dealer, etc.) goes out of her or his way to help, express your sincere thanks and appreciation. Thoroughly document all written and verbal communications.
Remain patient and diplomatic while being persistent.
Document, document and document.
Keep records of names of people to whom you spoke, what was said and to whom you were referred next.
The contents of this web page were developed under a grant from the Department of Education. However those contents do not necessarily represent the policy of the Department of Education, and you should not assume endorsement by the Federal government.