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Access for all !!! - National Equipment Distribution Program

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What is the National Deaf-Blind Equipment Distribution Program, or the iCanConnect Program, and who qualifies?



The National Deaf-Blind Equipment Distribution Program, also known as iCanConnect, is a program administered by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to provide individuals who have a combination of significant vision and hearing loss with equipment and training for distance communication. The FCC certifies one entity per state to lead the program. Equipment provided by the program includes a variety of technologies that can be used for emails, phone calls, video calls, text messaging, instant messaging, and the like. For someone to qualify, he or she must have a professional, who has direct knowledge of an individual’s hearing and vision impairment, provide an attestation that their combined hearing and vision loss meets the program’s definition of deaf-blind. Additionally, applicants must have a household income below 400% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines, excluding Hawaii and Alaska, or participate in a qualifying low-income program


The current income eligibility per number of residents in a home is as follows: 



2018 Federal Povery Guidelines



Household                      400%                     400% Alaska                         400% Hawaii



      1                             $48,560                      $60,720                                 $55,840


      2                             $65,840                      $82,320                                  $75,720


      3                             $83,120                     $103,920                                 $95,600


      4                           $100,400                     $125,520                                $115,480


      5                           $117,680                     $147,120                                $135,360


      6                           $134,960                     $168,720                                $155,240


      7                           $152,240                     $190,320                                 $175,120


      8                           $169,520                     $211,920                                 $195,000



    *For each additional person add $17, 280, or add $21,600 in Alaska, and $195,880 in Hawaii



For a list of examples of the equipment currently being provided by the iCanConnect Program and to find the entity that provides services in your state, click on the following link http://www.icanconnect.org/ . The website also includes success stories and applications that can be downloaded.



Definition of Deaf-Blind

For this program, the definition of "deaf-blind" follows the definition provided in the Helen Keller National Center Act. Applicants must have a vision and hearing loss that results in difficulty in attaining independence in daily life activities.


The definition of Deaf-Blind as per the HKNC Act is:


(1) Any individual:


(i) Who has a central visual acuity of 20/200 or less in the better eye with corrective lenses, or a field defect such that the peripheral diameter of visual field subtends an angular distance no greater than 20 degrees, or a progressive visual loss having a prognosis leading to one or both these conditions;


(ii) Who has a chronic hearing impairment so severe that most speech cannot be understood with optimum amplification, or a progressive hearing loss having a prognosis leading to this condition; and


(iii) For whom the combination of impairments described in . . . (i) and (ii) of this section cause extreme difficulty in attaining independence in daily life activities, achieving psychosocial adjustment, or obtaining a vocation.


(2) An individual’s functional abilities with respect to using Telecommunications service, Internet access service, and advanced communications services, including interexchange services and advanced telecommunications and information services in various environments shall be considered when determining whether the individual is deaf-blind under . . . (ii) and (iii) of this section.



(3) The definition in this paragraph (c) also includes any individual who, despite the inability to be measured accurately for hearing and vision loss due to cognitive or behavioral constraints, or both, can be determined through functional and performance assessment to have severe hearing and visual disabilities that cause extreme difficulty in attaining independence in daily life activities, achieving psychosocial adjustment, or obtaining vocational objectives.


Where else can you learn about the NDBEDP/ iCC?

Well, you don’t have to go far! In addition to the accessible iCanConnect website, NCDB has a previously recorded webinar hosted by Marcia Brooks, the Director of the Perkins School for the Blind iCanConnect programs, and Carly Fredericks, who is the Program Coordinator for the iCanConnect Program in New Jersey. Here’s the link: https://hknc.adobeconnect.com/_a772371855/p9janyua2ons/?launcher=false&fcsContent=true&pbMode=normal


Also reference the FCC’s website for the NDBEDP: https://www.fcc.gov/general/national-deaf-blind-equipment-distribution-program


However, I’ll gladly respond to any additional questions you may have regarding the program (with Marcia Brooks on backup, of course :-) ). And, as someone who’s working collaboratively with the Perkins team to coordinate the iCanConnect Program in Texas, I’d love to learn how programs are designed in your state!  Looking forward to our further dialogue.



Molly

Molly Sinanan, M.S.

HKNC, Region 6 Representative

Molly Sinanan

Posted Aug 16, 2018 by Molly Sinanan

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Comments (20)

That's a good question, Mike. Regional Representatives have varying degrees of responsibility and involvement in their region's iCanConnect programs. Of course, we are always available for consultation and support when needed. However, in six states and U.S. territories, we are the FCC-certified state entity responsible to lead the iCanConnect programs there. In others states, we work more closely in collaboration with the state entity. I'll use my region as an example. When the program began, there wasn't an agency that applied to be the state entity in both Texas and Arkansas. I know there was some interest expressed by some Texas agencies, but for whatever reason they were not able to apply. Not wanting consumers to go unserved there, the Perkins School for the Blind applied for the FCC certification, in collaboration with the Helen Keller National Center. Fast forward to 2018, I am now still very involved as a partner to Perkins in the day to day functioning of the iCanConnect program in Texas, but much less in Arkansas. Two other states in my region, Oklahoma, and Louisiana, have entities who are doing an exceptional job running their programs. Those entities are my collaborating partners in my work separate from that of iCC, and I also collaborate beyond iCanConnect with Perkins’ partner in New Mexico. So, although I am not involved in the daily coordination of the program in these states, my colleagues know I'm available to support them when needed. The same goes with consumers, families, and other professionals who are outside of each state entity. We are there to advocate, to provide consultation, to train, to evaluate, and to really provide support where it's needed.

I'm including the web address that lists the FY 2018-2019 (July to June) state funding allocations. It also lists the program entities for each state. Take note that the partners of those state entities are not listed. In some states, the partners play a greater role than in other states.
https://www.fcc.gov/fcc-announces-ndbedp-funding-allocations-2018-2019

Molly Sinanan

Posted 11 Mo. Ago by Molly Sinanan

Thanks Molly - your answers really clarify a great deal for me. I wondered about the state entities who support this program. They can vary from state to state. What role would the HKNC regional rep play in working with the state entities on behalf of the family / consumer who needs technical support?

Mike Fagbemi

Posted 11 Mo. Ago by Mike Fagbemi

Hi Everyone! I hit a small hiccup, but I'm back in the groove again.

Mike, that would be a decision made by the state program. If a new assessment is needed, that is an option. If something needs to be fixed, sometimes the trainer might be able to problem solve the issue on the spot. Ultimately, I think what you are asking is whether or not the program has the flexibility to continue working with a consumer when problems arise after receiving equipment and training. The answer is that it does have that flexibility, but there may need to be some conversations with the state entity to come up with a viable solution. There are many factors that a state entity needs to consider in order to come up with a plan. It's really a case by case issue.

Debra, is that your son? How old is he now? It's wonderful to see how the program has followed him from age 16 into college!

Molly Sinanan

Posted 11 Mo. Ago by Molly Sinanan

Nice Debra!

Patti McGowan

Posted 11 Mo. Ago by Patti McGowan

Hey Mike- I bet if there was a change in hearing and vision, I would hope one could get a new assessment? I am curious too what Molly will think. But I do know here in PA, because I had inquired about warranties on specific equipment and was told if something would happen to a piece of equipment to contact our iCanConnectPA and could easily return for repair? So to add to your question if the piece of equipment could not be repaired, I wonder if it would simply be replaced?

Patti McGowan

Posted 11 Mo. Ago by Patti McGowan

Good stuff Molly - After the initial assessment and a determination is made about the type of equipment that the student will receive , what happens if the equipment malfunctions or there is a change in vision / hearing ? What recourse does the student and family have ?

Mike Fagbemi

Posted 11 Mo. Ago by Mike Fagbemi

Great discussion Molly, thanks for this!

Patti McGowan

Posted 11 Mo. Ago by Patti McGowan

Hi Mike, just to reiterate, all equipment purchased through the iCC program must be for the purpose of distance communication. If there is equipment a student is using for distance communication at school, then the iCC program may purchase duplicate equipment for the home.

Also, per the FCC’s rules: “the permanent NDBEDP should continue to serve as a program that supplements, rather than supplants, state or federal resources otherwise available to assist persons who are deaf-blind, and thus, where communications equipment needs are being met through such other available resources, those should be used as a primary source of assistance before turning to the NDBEDP”.

So, to your question, the focus is more about whether or not a student has equipment, outside of school, that he or she can use for distance communication. If the student can get equipment for home through another program, such as STAP, then the student needs to go through that program first.
The same is true for any participant in iCanConnect, as above.
 
The program rules do not specifically disallow a device for home or mobile use that a person may otherwise be using in school or the workplace, but the FCC leaves discretion to each state program to manage their limited resources within the program rules for distribution of equipment and services. It’s always best for inquiries to be directed specifically to each state/U.S. Territory programs. Contact info for each state can be found at www.icanconnect.org/states

Molly Sinanan

Posted 11 Mo. Ago by Molly Sinanan

Hi Everyone! The FCC has rules that all state entities must follow. These rules include the types of equipment that can be purchased and what training can be provided (only for distance communication). However, within those rules, each state program has the ability to set up their program in a way that provides equipment and training to as many participants as possible. I asked Marcia Brooks for more feedback and this was her response,
"The FCC does not have rules that require whether equipment is loaned or given, or how many pieces of equipment or hours of training each person can receive. Those decisions are left to each state program to determine, within the program rules, under the FCC's oversight."

Therefore, questions such as:
Do I need to re-apply after two years? Is the equipment mine to keep, or do I need to return it? How much equipment can I get? How much training can I get?
Those are all questions that need to be directed to the state entity running the program.

Patti, to answer your question about whether or not there has been an increase in applicants since the program became permanent, I can only answer for Texas. We tend to have new applicants every month, some months more than others. I never noticed a huge increase once the program became permanent. I'd love to hear from others to see if there was an increase in applicants in other states.
Patti, you also asked about the timeframe it takes for folks from beginning to end. That's really difficult to answer because there's so many factors to consider. Some individuals just need a couple of pieces of equipment and very little training, and other need much more. So, it's really hard to say.

Molly Sinanan

Posted 11 Mo. Ago by Molly Sinanan

Thank you Molly I was thinking about your response and tying it to Laura's. You both alluded to variables that would allow for a state to support the purchase of identical equipment that is already in use at schools. Typically the schools are reluctant to allow a student to bring DOE funded equipment home. Is that one of the variables that factor into whether or not this equipment is distributed for home use through the federal distribution program? Are the variables state specific or is there a national standard all vendors have to adhere to?

Mike Fagbemi

Posted 11 Mo. Ago by Mike Fagbemi

Patti - we had been told 2 years to reapply but I wonder, as in your son’s case when there are changes like going away to college, perhaps they can reassess earlier. I like your question about time frame. It seems to vary by state (or perhaps equipment needs) from what I’ve heard from parents. Our second time around it took longer to get the equipment and items came in at different times.

Sheri Stanger

Posted 11 Mo. Ago by Sheri Stanger

My son with deaflindness, due to the etiology of Usher syndrome, has been a participant of iCanConnect, the National Deaf-Blind Equipment Distribution Program, since its inception as a pilot program six years ago. I was fortunate to hear about the program first through the National Family Association for Deaf-Blind (NFADB).

He received his first assessment through iCanConnect in high school, and was provided with the equipment and technology that best met his communication needs at the time, which included a desktop computer, screen reader and magnification software.

In 2016, my son applied for a reassessment of the equipment and technology he received through iCanConnect when he transferred to his University in western Pennsylvania at the start of his sophomore year. Based on his reassessment, He received updated equipment and training, to meet his distance communication needs as he adjusted to life three hours from home.

Sheri- I was not sure about the opportunity to re-apply either at first, and I wonder if states do differ with this? It is a wonderful program and my hope is that more families and individuals with deafblindness are able to utilize the program. Now that iCanConnect is a permanent program, are you seeing an increase of applicants? I also would ask if inquired, what is the typical timeframe from beginning to end of the process for folks ( application, assessment, ordering of the equipment, receiving and training)?

Patti McGowan

Posted 11 Mo. Ago by Patti McGowan

My son received equipment from the iCanConnect program when he was in high school for distance communication. He is now in college and still using the equipment to communicate with family, friends and professors. He took it to HKNC for some additional training this past summer since the previous training was not enough. They recommended some additional equipment that would help him with his distance communication. Since he has had the equipment for more than 2 years, he plans to reapply this year.
This is an excellent program and has made a difference with his communication. He is actually majoring in Communication in college.

Debra Pickens

Posted 11 Mo. Ago by Debra Pickens

Thank you for this great information, Molly. I've used this program twice in NY for my daughter. Since she was over 18, she qualified based on her personal income and not ours. I have a question that may vary state by state - if you reapply after 2 years (I believe you still have to wait 2 years to reapply?) to obtain new equipment such as an iphone/ipad/laptop - do you need to return the old equipment?

Sheri Stanger

Posted 11 Mo. Ago by Sheri Stanger

Thank you Molly, this was very helpful!

Laura Benge

Posted 11 Mo. Ago by Laura Benge

Mike, the student in high school can qualify for services. However, if the student wants a braille reader for the purpose of doing school work, then he or she would not be able to get it through the iCanConnect program.The iCanConnect program can only purchase equipment for distance communication. Additionally, it cannot duplicate pre-existing services that might be able to provide such equipment for a school setting. However, in some cases when a student has been able to successfully use technology for distance communication in the school, we were able to purchase identical equipment for the home.

Molly Sinanan

Posted Aug 20, 2018 by Molly Sinanan

Laura,
The FCC certifies one entity in each state and U.S. territory to run the iCanConnect Program, or the NDBEDP, across the country. Although all entities follow the same program rules, the FCC gives certified entities decision making within the program rules to implement depending on states’ resources and funding. For example, some states may have a limit on how much equipment and training individuals can receive, whereas some programs decide on a case-by-case basis. Therefore, programs may vary slightly from state to state based on a number of variables.

Molly Sinanan

Posted Aug 20, 2018 by Molly Sinanan

Hi Molly ,

A young adult who meets the poverty guidelines and the combined vision and hearing loss definition would like to apply for a braille reader in high school. Is this an appropriate use of this distribution program?

Mike Fagbemi

Posted Aug 20, 2018 by Mike Fagbemi

Great info Molly. In a previous position I administered services for iCanConnect, later I found that other states seem to have a variety of approaches in approving equipment and what I would have assumed would be approved is not always. Other than criteria of personal telecommunication use, what else factors in to this approval? Does a budget variation between states impact their flexibility on approving equipment or is this pretty consistent state to state? Perhaps if it's not budget then it could be the way those applying for equipment are writing their justifications for how it will be used.

Looking forward to your thoughts. Thanks!

Laura Benge

Posted Aug 17, 2018 by Laura Benge

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