The mission of the Virginia Assistive Technology System (VATS) is to ensure that Virginians of all ages and abilities can acquire the appropriate, affordable assistive and information technologies and services they need to participate in society as active citizens.
Explore our site to learn more about our programs and services and all you have ever wanted to know about assistive technology.
The Virginia Assistive Technology System (VATS) is a statewide program authorized and funded by the Assistive Technology Act of 2004, as amended and administered by the Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services (DARS). VATS was established in 1990 with commitment to increasing awareness, accessibility and acquisition of assistive technology. The program is guided by an Advisory Council composed of individuals with disabilities, family members and representatives from Virginia's disability service agencies.
VATS has three Regional Sites that provide an array of services, but also specialize in certain services. VATS contracts with the Foundation for Rehabilitation Equipment & Endowment (F.R.E.E.) to provide Durable Medical Equipment (DME) collection and re-assignment programs in all four regions of the Commonwealth served by DARS. F.R.E.E. is located in southwest Virginia. VATS Southeast Site at Old Dominion University (ODU) has focus on youth in transition and community activities. VATS North Site at George Mason University (GMU) helps coordinate data collection, information and assistance, and youth in transition activities. Both ODU and GMU provide a hand-on demonstration center, short-term equipment loans, training, public awareness, local and statewide resources, and general technical assistance for consumers who can benefit from the use of assistive technology.
Through VATS Information and Assistance System, callers can access information on assistive technology products, funding options, and resources that range from therapists to service providers to vendors of assistive technology devices and services. The toll free number, 1-800-435-8490, connects you with a professional who can answer inquiries and guide you to the best resources in your community.
Currently, the VATS Advisory Council is composed of seventeen (17) members. All members of the Advisory Council are appointed by the Commissioner of the Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services.
The majority of the membership of this advisory council is required to be individuals with disabilities who use assistive technology (AT), or their family members or guardians. Council members live in cities and counties throughout the state and are representative of both rural and urban areas of Virginia. Similarly, the membership reflects the racial and ethnic diversity of the State.
In addition, representatives of several state agencies must be included on the council. Representation from mandated public agencies includes the Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services, the Virginia Department for the Blind and Vision Impaired (DBVI), the Virginia Department of Education, the Virginia Workforce Investment Council and the Virginia Council of Independent Living Centers. Other public agencies represented on the Advisory Council include the Virginia Department of Medical Assistance Services and the Virginia Department for the Aging.
The VATS Advisory Council meets several times each year and, as resources permit, rotate meeting locations around the State. The Council is led by a Chairperson who works with VATS staff to develop the agenda and content of the meetings. In addition to the Chair, the Council elects a Vice Chair, who will be the rising Chairperson, and a Secretary who will review minutes prepared by staff and act as the signatory as needed. The Council will select subcommittees that will act as tasks specific, ad hoc work groups (identification of vendors, collaborative use of funds, state plan development, etc.) and to advise on particular responsibilities, e.g. planning, implementation, and evaluation of activities, plus other issues that may be brought before the Council.
The Council will follow Robert’s Rules of Order in conducting each meeting. At the chairperson’s discretion, council decisions will be made either through consensus or by member vote. It will be the responsibility of VATS staff to make meeting room arrangements, develop materials for information packets for each member, and assure accessibility of meeting sites and materials. Staff of the VATS will update the Advisory Council on program activities, and present any planned initiatives for Council input. The composition of the Council will enable input that is consumer-driven and consumer-responsive.
The definition of assistive technology is divided into two categories: devices and services.
Assistive technology devices: any item, piece of equipment, or product system that may be used by a person with a disability to perform specific tasks, improve functional capabilities, and become more independent. It can help redefine what is possible for people with a wide range of cognitive, physical, or sensory disabilities.
Assistive technology services: any service that directly assists an individual with a disability in the selection, acquisition, or use of assistive technology devices that result in greater independence, safety of comfort of an individual.
Assistive technology enables individuals with disabilities and age-related health conditions to enjoy their optimal level of independence and to live in the least restrictive environment. The technology is designed to reduce the impact of one's disability. Where the ability to move is an issue, wheelchairs, scooters, wheeled walkers, etc. can make greater mobility possible. Individuals can participate in everyday activities; play and enjoy recreational activities; communicate, hear and see better; learn more easily, and take care of the usual daily activities, including bathing, dressing, and eating. At the same time parents, family or other caregivers enjoy relief from the responsibilities of caring for another.
This technology may range from very low-cost, low-tech devices, such as a reacher or an adapted bottle opener, to high-tech, very expensive devices, such as a powered wheelchair, stair lifts, and environmental controls that respond to voice command. Assistive technology may be used at home, in the workplace, in the classroom and in the community to provide creative solutions for assisting individuals as they go about their activities of living, learning, working, and playing. The types of assistive technology available can address just about any tasks an individual might want to undertake.
One of the major focuses of the AT Act is to ensure that school systems and state agencies use a pro-active approach by planning for expected needs, procuring equipment and services and having them available before the need becomes acute. Schools, for example, are now required to include consideration of assistive technology devices and services when the Individual Education Plan (IEP) is being developed. Parents and students can make sure this happens by asking about it during a planning session. Once in the plan, acquisition is a sure thing. The same would be true for someone who is receiving disability services. A plan to achieve an individual's goals is established and assistive technology, as needed, should be a part of that plan.
The most effective device or equipment for an individual is determined through an evaluation, and often uses a team approach. The age, disability and goals of each individual will determine the makeup of the assessment team. Physical and occupational therapies, vocational rehabilitation, psychology, social services, recreational therapy, vision therapy, audiology, and medicine are other disciplines which may be involved in the assessment.
The purpose of the team assessment is to determine the needs of an individual based on their physical and cognitive abilities, while also taking into account the environmental factors that will affect how the assistive technology is used. It is therefore very useful to perform an assessment in the environment or environments where the individual will be using the equipment.
The individual and their family members should always participate in each component of an intervention. An intervention will include a needs assessment to define goals and identify characteristics or features that will best meet the individual's particular needs. Once the need is well defined, then the most suitable or appropriate system can be chosen. In addition, the assessment may provide information on funding sources, and make recommendations for training and follow-up services.
The type of devices or equipment selected for an individual will depend on the sensory, physical and cognitive levels of the individual. Other considerations include how easy it is to move from one environment to another, how well it stands up to typical daily wear and tear, how available the vendors or manufacturers are for repair and technical assistance, how easy the equipment is to use, how easily changes can be made, and if the device has the capacity to grow as the users needs change.