Plan Management Basics: Risk Levels in Assistive Technology
NDIS participants depend on their funding to cover a range of necessities, which often includes Assistive Technologies.
Where there may be some flexibility in each NDIS Plan for participants to decide what they wish to purchase, there are also some fairly strict policies and guidelines around other types of purchases, all aimed at protecting participants and making sure they get the right solution for their needs.
What is Assistive Technology?
Assistive Technology, or AT, is any device or piece of equipment that helps someone do things they may not otherwise be able to.
For people living with disability, that could mean fairly simple items like continence equipment or crutches, but it also includes complex, heavy machinery such as a motorised wheelchair or lift.
As a result, there’s an element of risk that needs to be taken into account with AT, which the NDIS breaks down into two broad categories according to the risk and complexity of each item.
There are other reasons why a request to fund a particular type of AT may be rejected by the NDIA, and a $1,500 cost threshold to come to terms with, too. We’ve covered these concepts alongside some of the more outlandish AT funding requests we’ve received, and why the NDIS wouldn’t fund them, here.
AT Risk Level Categories
The AT Risk categories will impact what documentation or additional admin is required for a participant to be able to have a given item funded.
Low risk AT is defined as easily purchased and used by the participant or their family, for assistance with the participant’s functional limitations. Like everything else in the NDIS, they should be both reasonable and necessary according to the participant’s goals as stated in their Plan.
Examples of Low Risk AT include:
- Nonslip bathmats
- Large print labels or calendars
- Mobility canes
- External continence products
It’s worth noting that some low-cost items can still have a higher risk profile (such as, an incorrect selection could hurt someone), which means purchases like bedsticks, poles, bedrails and bedrail covers are all considered ‘higher risk’.
These are products and services defined as requiring an AT assessor to recommend this purchase, such as if the participant is a first-time user of the device, or if they’ve undergone significant changes in their physical capacity since they were last supplied with the
item in question.
Products regulated by the Therapeutic Goods Administration are considered higher risk, while the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission will inform on the risk category for other items.
Examples of Higher Risk AT include:
- Power wheelchairs with integrated controls
- Motor vehicle adjustments
- Complex bathing and toileting devices
- Bed systems
- Complex and myoelectric prosthetic devices, orthotics and footwear
- Specialised ICT access
- Complex home modifications
How to Get AT Assessed
If a participant has AT in their Plan, they will have at least $500 included under the Capacity Building Improved Daily Living budget to spend on getting advice about AT needs from an independent advisor (also known as an AT assessor).
An experienced AT advisor should be able to provide written guidance specifying the solutions a participant needs and whether or not they would be considered low or higher risk.
An AT assessor is usually a relevant, qualified specialist in the field related to the participant’s AT needs. In many cases, this would be an Occupational Therapist (OT), but could be an audiologist, speech pathologist and so on.
If AT is not already included in a participant’s Plan and they believe it should be, a Plan Reassessment may be called for. In this case, we advise the participant to start the conversation with their NDIA contact, such as an LAC or planner.