The AT Act describes device demonstrations as activities to “directly, or in collaboration with public and private entities, such as one-stop partners, as defined in section 101 of the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 (29 U.S.C. 2801), demonstrate a variety of assistive technology devices and assistive technology services (including assisting individuals in making informed choices regarding, and providing experiences with, the devices and services), using personnel who are familiar with such devices and services and their applications.” Section 4(e)(2)(D)
Device demonstrations compare the features and benefits of a particular AT device or category of devices for an individual or small group of individuals. The purpose of a device demonstration is to enable an individual to make an informed choice. For the purpose of collecting Annual Performance Data (APR), devices are classified into ten categories. These categories are defined in the APR Instructions and can also be found as a reference document at CATADA Resources Federal Reporting Forms (weblink)
The AT Act specifies the provision of information and referral to device demonstration participants as a key component of device demonstrations: ‘‘(ii) COMPREHENSIVE INFORMATION.—The State shall directly, or through referrals, provide to individuals, to the extent practicable, comprehensive information about State and local assistive technology vendors, providers, and repair services.”
Characteristics of Device Demonstrations
In a device demonstration for an individual with a disability, his/her family, service providers and other stakeholders (e.g. “team members”), a guided experience with the device(s) is provided to the participant with the assistance of someone who has technical expertise related to the device(s). This expert may be in the same location as the participant or may assist the participant through Internet or distance learning mechanisms that provide real-time, effective communication to deliver the necessary device exploration. Whenever possible, the participant should have a “hands on” experience and should be shown a variety of similar devices in order to sufficiently understand, compare and contrast the features of the devices and subsequently make an informed decision.
Device demonstrations may be individual or group (e.g. several people with disabilities who are interested in the same device or category of devices) as long as the purpose is to help the participants make a decision about whether or which AT can help them (or a person with a disability who they represent). Device demonstrations may be conducted at mutually agreeable locations (state AT program location, public library, independent living center, etc.) by arrangement, or in a designated “demonstration center”. They may be conducted by appointment, or on a pre-determined schedule.
Demonstrations Include Information and Referrals
During or after a demonstration, participants should be provided with information regarding vendors or manufacturers from which the demonstrated device(s) can be purchased, e.g. product brochures, vendor listings including websites. Information about funding sources (including but not limited to any state financing activity provided by the state AT program) is frequently useful. Participants may also benefit from referrals to service providers, for example, when a full assessment is required before funding can be requested (e.g. from Medicaid or Medicare).
Key characteristics of information and referral provided as a component of device demonstrations include: the information is about specific source(s) where the consumer may obtain additional information about the device(s) demonstrated or services (including assessment, repair, training, funding); specific contact information is provided (e.g. email, web, telephone); information and referral may include but goes beyond the services and programs offered by the State AT program.
Performance Measures and Required Data Collection Elements
Device demonstration activities are covered by the Access Performance Measure. State AT programs must collect information from consumers who received the device demonstration and others who may have accompanied him/her. Because the overarching purpose of device demonstrations is to help a person with a disability (or those providing services and supports to the person) make a decision about whether an AT device will work for him/her, the outcome of the demonstration is a key element. For each demonstration, the report of one (1) participant/decision-maker (consumer or his/her representative) must be obtained regarding the outcome of the demonstration. For ALL attendees at each demonstration, customer satisfaction data should be obtained and reported. In addition, Programs must provide one anecdote about an individual who benefited from the activity.
When reporting on device demonstration information and referrals, referrals to other components of the state AT program are NOT counted.
Detailed information on performance measures and the required data collection elements can be found in the Instructions for the Annual Progress Report (APR) and the APR reporting instrument.
Using Data for Program Improvement
Definitions (found in State Plan and Instructions 2018-20 and Instruction Manual for the State AT APR OMB Approved Dec 2017) should be reviewed with staff and subcontractors to insure fidelity in your data collection. In particular, the definition of demonstration should be reviewed and contrasted with “public awareness” activities, and the categorization of devices should be reviewed in accordance with the classification decision rules and instructions for the APR. Review instructions about counting the number of participants, as there are likely to be more than one (e.g. person with a disability plus her parents and/or IEP team members) in each demonstration (even though only one outcome/decision will be reported per demonstration).
Number of Device Demonstrations over Time
Is the total number of demonstrations changing over time? You can generate a report that compares this activity by year (e.g. FFY 2015, 2016, and 2017). You can also compare your state’s trend (e.g. increase or decrease) with the national trend data.
Ask: How can we explain the increase/decrease and was the change intentional? e.g., we changed subcontractors due to poor performance in 2016, and saw the increase in 2017; we changed subcontractors and our new subcontractor had staff with greater competencies for conducting demonstrations with a variety of devices; due to an aging inventory, there is less consumer interest in demonstrations; we had a vacancy of several months with the position responsible for device demonstration. Is the change (e.g. decrease) similar to that in the national trend data?
Decide: Do we want to increase the overall numbers of demonstrations and if so, will that take additional resources? Do we need to increase outreach to let people know about the availability of device demonstrations, or change how, where, or when they are offered?
Demonstration and Device Type
How well do your demonstrations represent the full taxonomy of AT devices? You can generate a report that compares this activity by year, exploring the percentage of demonstrations by device category. You can also compare your state’s activity by device type with national data.
Ask: Why do we have so many demonstrations in some of the categories, and so few in the others? Is our data different than the national data, and if so, why? For example, nationally, 15% of demonstrations are in the category of environmental adaptations, yet in our state that category accounts for less than 1%. How can we explain changes over time, and differences among the device categories? What are the implications for building staff competencies and/or adding to our inventory?
Decide: Do we need to expand our inventory in one or more areas and if so, what will we need to do if this requires additional funding? Do staff need to increase their professional development with one or more categories of devices (refer to core competencies information found in the Resources section of this page.
Are you reaching the “targeted” populations described in the AT Act?
Ask: Can we explain the distribution of participants? For example, does the AT program’s location in the state VR agency explain why there are so many “representatives of employment” and far fewer “representatives of education”? How does the distribution by role in our state compare with percentages by role nationally? Has there been a shift in distribution of participants over the last three years and if so, how can we explain that? If the number of demonstration participants is equal to but not greater than the number of demonstration events, does that mean we are somehow discouraging participants from bringing friends, allies, other team members, etc.? Or are we not counting this data correctly?
Decide: Do we need to increase our outreach to one or more groups (which ones?), to increase their participation in device demonstrations? Will this entail changing how we schedule device demonstrations or where we hold them?
Are demonstration participants satisfied with the demonstration? You will want to be sure you are asking about satisfaction with your service, not the degree to which participants are satisfied with the demonstrated device(s).
Ask: If satisfaction is declining over time (e.g. movement from “highly satisfied” to “satisfied”), what factors might account for that trend? Are we asking the satisfaction questions the “right way”? Are satisfaction data for our program in alignment with national trends?
Decide: If necessary, how can we get more information from participants about the reasons they are less than “highly satisfied”? What would it take for them to become “highly satisfied”?
Frequently Asked Questions about Device Demonstrations
Must the state AT program conduct device demonstrations?
No. Section 4(e)(6) of the AT Act allows a state to carry out any two or more of the four required state-level activities. This means the state can choose not to conduct up to two activities. If it chooses not to conduct device demonstrations the state must claim either flexibility or comparability (word) in its state plan.
Do all of the kinds of demonstration activities need to be conducted (scheduled “demonstration days”, at permanent demonstration center, etc.)?
No. A program can select any type or types of demonstration activities in response to the needs in its state, as long as the demonstration activities are clearly described in the State Plan for Assistive Technology. In the interest of reaching as many consumers as possible and assuring “statewide-ness”, the State AT program (and its subcontractors and other partners) may choose to offer demonstrations at a variety of community-based locations.
Does each demonstration location need to offer comprehensive demonstrations (e.g. for most/all of the device categories)?
It is permissible to have demonstration locations that target specific groups by type of AT, disability, functional need, or other parameters, as long as the “big picture” provides statewide, cross-disability opportunities for demonstrations of a range of technologies. For example, a program may have leveraged funds to conduct device demonstrations for specific disability groups, e.g. seniors or people who need AT for telephone access. It should be noted, however, that this kind of framework may mean a consumer needs several trips (possibly to different locations) to receive demonstrations because of the extent of his/her needs. Having a way to provide comprehensive demonstrations (whether “static” or “on demand”) may be more user-friendly.
We have limited funds for acquiring additions to our demonstration inventory. What are some alternatives to outright purchase of products?
Many device manufacturers have formal programs where they will loan their products for several weeks, at no cost, to consumers and/or state AT programs. You can schedule your demonstrations (and/or training or public awareness events) predicated on the time frame during which you will have the loaner. Some vendors/manufacturers will send a representative, along with their product, for a demonstration. In this case, program staff should be present to assure the demonstration includes fair comparisons with similar products, and make it clear to the representative that there is not to be a “sales pitch”. In addition, some vendors/manufacturers are willing to provide a “long-term” loan to the program, understanding that having their product represented and available in an AT Act program’s inventory is a good way to promote it to consumers! As you prioritize your “wish list” of additions, consider the availability of these free avenues to obtaining devices for demonstration.
Does a person with a disability need to be present at a device demonstration?
It is ideal for the person with a disability for whom a device decision is being sought to be involved in the demonstration and decision-making process. Where this is not possible, it may be appropriate for family members and/or service providers to participate in the demonstration, and for a family member or other authorized person to make and report on the decision.
We will be conducting demonstrations in remote areas via video conference. Must the demonstration recipients have access to the device(s) that are demonstrated?
In order to make an informed decision, it is preferable to have the device(s) available to the consumer for “hands-on” exploration of features and functions. The state AT program could make the AT available to the consumer at his/her location through its device lending program, or the vendor(s) may be willing and able to provide the AT. In any case, it is critical that the demonstration be real-time, interactive, provide one-on-one assistance to answer the consumer’s questions and increase his/her knowledge and understanding of the devices.
We are hosting a webinar series in which we will review device/software features with participants, who will have the ability to ask questions in real time. We plan to recruit broadly, and obtain performance measures from attendees. Is this a demonstration?
No. This does not meet the AT Act definition of demonstration. Although it has several of the characteristics (exploration of features with a technology expert; ability for participants to ask questions in real time), a demonstration is typically responsive to the needs of the consumer and is held in an individual or small group setting. Generally, a person with a disability (or members of their team) would request the demonstration and one-on-one assistance in learning about the desired product(s), in order to make a decision. In a large event for which participants are broadly recruited, the person with a disability may be reluctant to ask questions or to provide more details about their functional limitations. As described, this is more appropriately counted as a public awareness event or, depending upon how focused your webinar is, a training event.
Must the decision (performance measure outcome) be related to the appropriateness of the specific brand/model of device(s) that are demonstrated, or can the decision be more general (e.g. that some AT device would probably be useful)?
The options for the performance measures are (1) a decision was made that AT would help; (2) a decision was made that AT would not help; or (3) no decision was made. The performance outcome measure may be related to either a specific or general consideration of whether an assistive technology device might help. Even if none of the demonstrated devices was selected, the consumer still might be able to decide that AT would help. For example, the consumer may not have been aware that there are communication apps for a tablet in addition to specialized speech generating devices (SGD). When examples were demonstrated, the consumer’s decision might not be related to one of the specific items demonstrated (and in fact, in the case of AT for communication, an evaluation may be indicated in order to select the appropriate AT) but rather a decision was made that AT could help and the consumer would pursue an assessment to find the “right” device.
Our staff does not have expertise in the devices for which a demonstration has been requested. Can we have a vendor come in and conduct the demonstration?
An effective demonstration requires someone with operational skills with the devices being demonstrated. It is critical to provide an opportunity to compare and contrast at least two devices – including options that may come from more than one manufacturer or vendor. In addition, state AT Program staff (or its subcontractors) should always be present at and mediate vendor-provided demonstrations in order to prevent a vendor demonstration from becoming a sales pitch.
Do we need to have an inventory for device demonstrations that is separate from the inventory for device loans?
You may use the same pool of devices for lending and demonstration. In this case, you will need to develop a system to make sure your devices are available when you need them for a demonstration (or vice versa).
How is demonstration different from public awareness?
The purpose of a device demonstration is to compare the features and benefits of a particular AT device or category of devices, so an informed decision can be made by (or on behalf of) an individual with a disability. Public awareness activities are conducted in order to increase general understanding of the nature, scope and benefits of assistive technology and the resources of the state AT program; no decision is expected or reported.
We were at a regional (multi-state) conference, and were approached by a consumer from another state regarding some devices on our exhibit table. We took the opportunity to provide a hands-on experience with several devices that perform similar functions, and led the consumer through a comparison of features. The consumer reported she was able to make a decision after the demonstration, and we collected her demographic and satisfaction information as well. Can we count this in our data, even though the consumer was out-of-state and the actual demonstration happened out of state as well?
Yes, this meets the definition of “demonstration” and you can count it as you have obtained requisite performance measures. However, you should make sure the consumer’s resident state does not also count it.
Community of Practice in Demonstration and Device Lending
A schedule of upcoming Demo/Loan webinars can be found on our webinars page.
View the Demo/Loan CoP page
Because both of these activities depend on access to and maintenance of an inventory of assistive technology devices, there is one combined Community of Practice (CoP) to address these two “access” activities. The CoP addresses topics ranging from procurement of discounts and donations; maintenance and repair; policies and procedures for centralized inventories; policies and procedures for programs requiring in-person collection/return; inventory management; and other topics of concern to the COP members. To join, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Core Competencies for Providing Device Demonstrations
The Core Competencies documents provide a framework to identify essential knowledge and skills for individuals providing AT demonstrations for State AT Programs. These documents identify minimum core competencies necessary for professional AT demonstrations. These competencies can be used to:
- Establish expected minimum skills for staff and subcontractors
- identify and guide personal AT professional development needs
- Useful for hiring process and decisions (i.e. job descriptions; interview questions; hiring decision criteria etc.)
Special thanks goes out to the AT programs workgroup who helped with the development of these documents.