Funding Assistive Technology for Libraries and Other Organizations

There are two primary ways to fund assistive technology acquisition: build it into your organization's budget, or seek outside funding. When these don't work, it may be worth trying some creative strategies. This article covers all three approaches.

What to Budget For

When putting together a budget, keep in mind that it needs to cover more than assistive technology hardware and software. It should also include as many of the following as appropriate:

  • Planning time
  • Consultant fees
  • Staff time for implementation and training. This is essential -- even the best equipment will be underused or even abandoned unless it is matched by the skill and confidence of your staff.
  • Replacements and upgrades
  • Purchasing extra copies of popular products

Using Your Organization's Existing Budget

As you plan funding for assistive technology, see whether it can be fit into the library's existing budget. For example, if the library uses a line-item budget, then the assistive technology items to be funded might be spread among multiple line items. Work with library staff who are responsible for establishing the overall budget, and ask them to keep you apprised of procedures and deadlines for submitting requests.

Alternative Funding Sources

Potential alternative funding sources include foundations, supporters such as Friends of the Library, and endowments. Some sources may have a particular interest in funding services to people with disabilities, public computer labs, or both. See if there is a Foundation Center in your area that can assist you with researching resources.

For libraries, the Institute for Museum and Library Services  list grants under community engagement that could funding to serve people with disabilities. Contact your state library to discuss ways that you might benefit from LSTA funds.

Creative Strategies

If you can't find funding to cover all the equipment you would like to install, here are some alternative ideas:

  • Recycled Equipment. Every state has at least one assistive technology reuse program. Some have searchable online databases. General resources such as eBay, Craigslist, and Freecycle may also list assistive technology.
  • Talk to Manufacturers and Vendors. Manufacturers and vendors may have a product that they want to discontinue or expose to a wider audience. Contact them to see if you can get a donation or a discount.
  • Work with Community Partners. Talk to other local organizations that have public computer labs and may be open to pooling funds to purchase equipment of mutual interest.

Many assistive technologies are available free, or in inexpensive versions. They may meet the needs of your users. In any event, staff and users who are familiar with "low end" AT will have a better idea of which "upscale" products they can benefit from, and can make a more persuasive argument for funding.

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