Welcome to the AT3 Road Map for New Directors, an orientation guide for new Section 4 AT Act Program Directors.
The following suggestions are meant to help you get started by drawing your attention to critical information and related resources in a helpful sequence. We suggest you tackle one heading or subheading every day, although these will range from just a few minutes to an hour or more (especially if follow up steps are indicated!). Be sure to contact your AT3 technical assistance provider if you have questions as you go.
Please note that any reference to “state AT programs” throughout this document includes all funded Section 4 AT Act Programs (all 50 U.S. states, District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. territories of American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, and Virgin Islands).
Terms in italics are ones you may not be familiar with but are important to understanding and administering the program.
We encourage you to explore and familiarize yourself with the AT3 Center website. The content on this site along with many downloadable documents and other links can help you as you get oriented to and grow in your role as an AT Act program director. New information is continually added and currently posted documents and other resources are updated as needed. Under the AT Act Grantees header you will find information on program administration, state level and state leadership activities, state improvement initiatives, and Communities of Practice. The AT Act Information section contains links to the AT Act law, frequently asked questions related to the Act, and related resources. The following suggestions will frequently be referring to these sections and resources. Navigate to these by using the active links which will open in new tabs in your browser or be available in your device downloads folder as appropriate.
What’s What and Who’s Who
Acronyms and Laws
The Acronyms and Laws is located on the Program Administration General Resources page. Keep this quick reference handy as you will encounter these acronyms and laws in other materials and discussions.
A Who’s Who document is located on the Program Administration General Resources page and introduces you to people from:
- Association of Assistive Technology Act Programs (ATAP)
- National Assistive Technology Act Technical Assistance and Training Center (AT3)
- Center for Assistive Technology Act Data Assistance (CATADA)
- Administration for Community Living (ACL)
These individuals are available to assist you. Add them to your “contacts” and please be sure to do the following:
- Contact your AT3 TA provider to schedule an introductory meeting.
- Contact Jamie Anderson to join the Grantee Directors listserv, as well as other Communities of Practice listservs you are interested in joining.
- Contact Vance Dhooge for access to NATADS.
- Contact Rob Groenendaal to be sure he has your correct contact information.
The Assistive Technology Act of 2004
You will want to become familiar with the legislation itself. There are several resources on the AT Act Information page. We suggest the following sequence for an understanding of the law that is critical to state AT Act programs:
- Start by reviewing the Summary of AT Act Requirements document for a big picture overview.
- Review the AT Act for some history of the Act and a more in-depth review of the Section 4 requirements.
- After you are comfortable with the summaries provided in the document and slides, read the law itself.
- The AT Act differentiates between entities who are the program’s lead entity and those who are the implementing entity. Additionally, there are programs where the lead and implementing entity are one in the same. Make sure you understand these terms and where your program fits.
- Continue with the suggestions in this guide to achieve a deeper comprehension of the detailed requirements.
Note that you may find it helpful to have a copy of the law in which you can easily mark information and make notes for frequent quick reference. You will find copies of the AT Act in word and pdf formats on the AT Act information page.
State Level Activities
After reading the AT Act, you should have an understanding of how key activities are divided into state level and state leadership. State level activities are further divided into those that support access to assistive technology (device demonstration, device lending for decision making) and those that support acquisition of AT (state financing, reutilization, and device lending not for decision making). The State Level Activities page provides brief descriptions of these activities and links to detailed pages for each activity. You will find information on each of these more detailed pages that includes definitions, performance measures, data collection, “Frequently Asked Questions” and resources.
- Start by reading the definitions and “Frequently Asked Questions” sections for each activity.
- Familiarize yourself with how your program conducts each of these activities in your state.
- Revisit each of these pages once you are ready to move on to information about budgeting as well as data collection elements and required reporting.
State Leadership Activities
State leadership activities include training, technical assistance, and public awareness (which includes information and assistance). The State Leadership page provides brief descriptions of these activities and links to detailed pages for each activity.
- Start by reading the definitions and “Frequently Asked Questions” sections for each activity.
- Learn the differences between technical assistance, training, information and assistance, and public awareness.
- Understand the requirements for training and/or technical assistance on transition and accessible information and communication technology (ICT).
- Familiarize yourself with how your program conducts each of these activities in your state.
- Revisit each these pages once you are ready to move on to information about budgeting as well as data collection elements and required reporting.
There is a great deal of information available for Program Administration. You will find more detailed webpages for different administrative requirements including Administrative Guidance documents and more general resources.
The AT Act programs are formula-funded mandatory grants with unique requirements. It is important that you understand the difference between these programs and other types of discretionary grants. If you need to learn more about this, the Understanding Types of Grants and Associated Funding document provides a good overview.
As you learned when you reviewed the AT Act, there is a statutory requirement to establish an advisory council “to provide consumer-responsive, consumer-driven advice to the State for, planning of, implementation of, and evaluation of the activities carried out through the grant, including setting the measurable goals described in subsection (d)(3)”. Additional information, including FAQs, is available on the State Advisory Councils page.
- Review the composition of your program’s Advisory Council soon after you begin your tenure as director.
- Verify that the representation requirements are satisfied.
- Meet with your Advisory Council, face-to-face if possible, in your first few months of leadership.
- Learn the strengths and expertise of your individual members and Council as a whole.
Required Federal Reporting
There are two major federal reporting requirements: the State Plan for Assistive Technology and the Annual Progress report. We suggest you:
- Review the Annual AT Data and Fiscal Calendar document and enter the dates in your calendar and/or keep handy for easy reference.
- Use the Summary of AT Act Section 4 Grantee Requirements document as a reference for requirements and compliance.
State Plan for Assistive Technology (SPAT)
Once every three years, each funded program is required to develop a State Plan for Assistive Technology, updated annually when there are significant changes. The State Plan serves as the application for Section 4 AT Act formula funding and identifies which AT Act activities the grantee will conduct and how they will be implemented. The plan is reviewed by ACL to ensure it conforms to the requirements of the AT Act.
- Familiarize yourself with your program’s current approved State Plan. You can find it at the CATADA website.
- After you have read your program’s approved plan, explore the Instructions for the State Plan and the other resources found on the CATADA website.
- As you review the instructions for completing the State Plan, you will note information regarding “flexibility” and “comparability”. These terms have implications for both data collection and fiscal administration. Pay particular attention if your state claims flexibility or comparability for any state level activity.
- If needed, read the administrative guidance document on Flexibility and Comparability for a greater understanding of these options and their implications.
- Now that you have familiarized yourself with how your state carries out state level and state leadership activities and you have read your state plan, ensure that what your state is doing aligns with what is in your State Plan.
Annual Progress Report (APR)
Every state AT program is required to submit the Annual Progress Report (APR) by December 31 of each year. The APR covers the period of October 1st through September 30th of each federal fiscal year and includes all the data elements required by Section 4(f) of the AT Act for state financing, device loan, reuse, device demonstration, training, technical assistance, public awareness, information and referral, state improvement outcomes, and leveraged funding. APR data must be reported for each activity included as part of your State Plan for AT.
CATADA has developed and supports the web-based data reporting system for the Annual Progress Report (APR) called the National Assistive Technology Act Data System (NATADS). This is the data reporting system used by state AT programs to submit the required data elements of the APR in accordance with the AT Act mandates.
- Familiarize yourself with the CATADA website and available tools and resources.
- Use the CATADA data tools to run a few reports to identify trends (e.g. your state’s performance over several years, by activity). Keep in mind that comparing your data with a demographically similar state can be misleading due to differences in many variables (i.e. federal funding level, leveraged funding levels, program structure, available resources, etc.).
- Read the AT3 Center administrative guidance document Using Data for Program Improvement (word) for suggestions on using your data to analyze and gain insights into program performance and inform your planning and program delivery.
The measurable goals set by ACL for the state AT programs are referred to as performance measures. Data is collected and analyzed within the contexts of education, employment, or community living for access and acquisition activities. The percentage of goal attainment is auto-calculated in the APR. Performance measures are set by ACL in three areas: (1) AT access activities as a target percentage of individuals and entities who accessed device demonstration programs or device loan programs and made a decision about an AT device or service as a result of the assistance they received; (2) AT acquisition activities as a target percentage of individuals and entities who obtained devices or services from state financing, reutilization, or non-decision making device loan activities who would not have obtained that AT device or service absent the activity; and (3) ICT accessibility focused on obtaining an outcome/result from information and communication technology accessibility training including improvement of policies procedures or practices in the areas of website and software development and procurement.
- Review your program’s success in achieving the ACL measurable goals in the prior year’s APR.
- Review your program’s progress towards meeting the current fiscal year’s measurable goals set by ACL.
Day-to-Day Data Collection System
NATADS’ primary purpose is to serve as the official APR data collection mechanism for reporting aggregate data by the Section 4 formula funded grantees. However, NATADS also has a web-based “day-to-day” (D2D) data collection system that can optionally be used by Section 4 State AT Programs for collecting and managing data reporting for all activities included in the State Plan for AT and required by the Annual Progress Report (APR). This system covers all the required data elements for all Section 4 authorized State AT Program activities, State Financing, Reuse, Device Loan, Device Demonstration, Training, etc. The system allows for data entry by multiple people and sites in an online format with the State AT Program controlling access and includes validation rules to ensure the aggregate data will be clean for end of year reporting in the APR. Numeric aggregate data from the D2D component of NATADS will automatically populate into the APR. You will want to:
- Become familiar with whatever data collection system(s) your program uses.
- If applicable, become familiar with the method(s) by which data is reported by subcontractors or other partners.
- You may wish to discuss data collection systems with your AT3 TA provider.
The AT3center.net site has many reference documents for Fiscal Management. We suggest:
- Familiarize yourself with the available administrative guidance topic areas.
- If you are new to grants management, read the HHS Rules important highlights summary document then review and familiarize yourself with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Grant Rules.
- Identify how your program ensures you adhere to OMB requirements.
- Be certain you know if your state uses either the comparability or flexibility option and why it does so (previously discussed under the State Plan section).
- Read the administrative guidance document on Expenditure Tracking and Reporting.
- Learn your internal fiscal tracking system(s) and ensure they meet the AT Act budgetary requirements.
- Be familiar with your program’s history for obligating and liquidating fiscal funds as required. If your program has had lapsed funding (funds that were not drawn down on time) find out what happened and if there is a problem that is likely to re-occur. If there is, contact your TA provider and federal project officer immediately.
- Meet the people in your organization who are responsible for fiscal management and reporting of your formula grant.
- If your program is an implementing entity, meet the people at the lead entity that manage your contract.
Establishing and following a budgeting cycle will assure the expenditure of funds in a timely way. Section 4 AT Act Program Grantee awards are made for a two year period but it is expected that you will spend available funds during the year one period. Your budgeting cycle should identify a specific target date for obligation and liquidation of the entire fiscal year grant award long before the final deadline for each. This is especially true when grant funds are used for external contracts for which there is no guarantee of funding being liquidated by the final deadline date. The obligation deadline for all grants is September 30 of the second year – 24 months from the award date. The liquidation deadline is December 31 of the second year – 27 months from the award date. A recommended budget cycle sets April 1 in the second year as the target date for liquidation of all funds in the prior fiscal year award. Please note there is no “carryover” period for these formula funded programs. All of the two year period award funds must be obligated on time or you will lose them.
- Review the Annual AT Data and Fiscal Calendar (previously referenced under Required Federal Reporting).
- Review the Fiscal Management Frequently Asked Questions to explore some of the other fiscal requirements on this topic.
- Be certain your program will obligate and liquidate all funds by the required deadlines (preferably well before the deadlines).
- Be certain your program liquidates all previous award funds before drawing down new fiscal year award funds!
AT3 has several listservs that may be of interest. You have already been added to the email list of all AT Act grantees. This list disseminates important information including, but not limited to, information and announcements from the Administration on Community Living (ACL). If your state/territory is a member of ATAP, you will be added to the ATAP listserv as well. The AT3 listserv includes directors as well as key program staff if requested by the program director.
Communities of Practice
The AT3 Center has convened “Communities of Practice” (CoP) to promote sharing and problem-solving for AT Act Section 4 grantees and their partners. The CoPs provide opportunities for information and interaction in the implementation of state level activities as well as state leadership activities (technical assistance and training) related to information and communication technology (ICT) access. Although the primary members of the CoPs should be staff or program partners directly engaged in directing or implementing the CoP’s focus activities, others with interest in the topic(s) are welcome to join. You will want to learn which staff members and/or program partners are engaged in which CoP (hopefully your program has representation on each!).
Events such as CoP calls and AT3 webinars are announced through links provided at AT3 Events as well as through AT3 listservs. There are two national opportunities of note that you should plan to attend (and for which you should budget): the Leadership Symposium and the ATIA conference.
Each spring, the AT3 Center conducts a Leadership Symposium in Washington, DC. This event, preceded by a New Directors Orientation, provides high level content related to program administration, policy, and practice. The schedule also offers opportunities to meet ACL personnel, and for in-person technical assistance from AT3.
The Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA) sponsors a national conference held in late January/early February in Orlando, Florida. In addition to providing continuing education to build your (and your staff’s) assistive technology knowledge and skills, this conference provides both formal and informal opportunities for you to meet with AT3 staff and your colleagues in state/territory AT programs across the country. The conference offers numerous topical strands including a State AT Programs strand. In addition, ATIA offers many training webinars throughout the year. Through the AT3 and ATIA partnership, these webinars are available at no cost to AT Act programs. Speak with your TA provider for more information.
AT3 maintains a Facebook page and a Blog that includes information of interest related to AT3 and assistive technology in general. If you use either of these social media platforms:
- Follow AT3 on Facebook
- Subscribe to AT3’s blog AT News and Tips
- If your program uses these resources, feel free to “share” any of the AT3 posts.
Congratulations! You have completed your initial trip through AT3 Center’s Road Map for New Directors! We hope you have found it a valuable guide to getting started in your role as a program director, and a helpful adjunct to other technical assistance provided by AT3.
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