10:38 07 April 2017
The US Department of Veteran Affairs has long embraced advanced technology to continuously find the right connected devices that can help improve the quality of lives of disabled veterans and service members. In 2014, it helped 6.6 million veterans who needed custom wheelchairs and other common gadgets like Amazon Echo and smart lights that can enable them to live more independent lives. The federally funded AT program in Richmond works directly with patients to find the right devices based on their needs and their injuries.
An AT device, according to the Technology-Related Assistance for Individuals With Disabilities Act of 1988, is "any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities."
To qualify for the program, a veteran must be referred by their doctor who believes that there’s a medical need for the AT device such as mental health issues, spinal cord injuries or short-tem illnesses. After the right tech has been identified for the patient, a local contractor is tasked to complete the installation.
Brian Burkhardt, a rehab specialist involved in the project, said that he aims to establish a working relationship with more consumer electronics companies. He explained: "If we can get these companies like Control4 and Amazon really on board with working with this population, and through feedback from these guys [the VA's AT patients], we could just come up with awesome stuff. And it could benefit the whole population."