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Association of Assistive Technology Act Programs

The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) 2014 TITLE IV – Amendments to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973

OVERVIEW

On May 21, 2014, U.S. Senators Patty Murray (D-WA), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), and Johnny Isakson (R-GA), in addition to U.S. Representatives John Kline (R-MN), Virginia Foxx (R-NC), George Miller (D-CA), and Ruben Hinojosa (D-TX), introduced the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). The bill was introduced as a bipartisan, bicameral piece of legislation, which easily passed through both the House and the Senate in July of 2014.

President Barack Obama signed the WIOA into law on July 22, 2014. This law not only supersedes the Workforce Innovation Act of 1998, but also amends the Rehabilitation Act. While the law makes significant reforms to the public workforce investment system, most notably for State Assistive Technology (AT) Programs, Title IV – Amendments to the Rehabilitation Act includes changes in statutory language that bolster and improve the position of State Assistive Technology Programs and assistive technology at large. The bill amends the law in a number of ways regarding the AT Act. Key changes include:

  • Transfer of the Assistive Technology Act from the Department of Education to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration on Community Living
  • Improved and more formal coordination between State Assistive Technology Programs and Vocational Rehabilitation (VR). This coordination includes working with VR to train VR professionals in rehabilitation technology. The intention of the law is to develop a more formal working relationship between State Assistive Technology Programs and VR given the critical role they play in the delivery of appropriate VR services to clients who need assistive technology to achieve or maintain employment.
  • Broadens research scope of the Rehabilitation Research and Training Centers to include assistive technology as a research priority and also prioritizes training rehabilitation professionals on assistive technology. Additionally, the law states that the centers should be run in collaboration with a university but also providers of assistive technology devices, and assistive technology services.

A PDF Document Icon Side-By-Side Comparasion of WIA and WIOA identifies the changes in legislative language from the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) with the new language in the WIOA, and provides an analysis of how this impacts State Assistive Technology Act programs. This summary and excerpts of legislation is limited to assistive technology language.

New AT Specific Language in WIOA

The following text is new assistive technology language in WIOA that has a direct impact on State AT Programs –

Sec. 412 STATE PLANS
COORDINATION WITH ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY PROGRAMS.—

The State plan shall include an assurance that the designated State unit, and the lead agency and implementing entity (if any) designated by the Governor of the State under section 4 of the Assistive Technology Act of 1998 (29 U.S.C. 3003), have developed working relationships and will enter into agreements for the coordination of their activities, including the referral of individuals with disabilities to programs and activities described in that section.

Sec. 414 VOCATIONAL REHABILITATION SERVICES

--Vocational rehabilitation services provided for the benefit of groups of individuals with disabilities may also include the following:‘‘(8) The establishment, development, or improvement of assistive technology demonstration, loan, reutilization, or financing programs in coordination with activities authorized under the Assistive Technology Act of 1998 (29 U.S.C. 3001 et seq.) to promote access to assistive technology for individuals with disabilities and employers.

SEC. 415. STATE REHABILITATION COUNCIL.

The council shall coordinate with --
“ . . . , and with the activities of entities carrying out programs under the Assistive Technology Act of 1998 (29 U.S.C. 3001 et seq.);’’

Transfer of AT Act Administration

WIOA administratively transferred administration of the AT Act from the Rehabilitation Services Administration in the Department of Education to the Administration on Community Living in the Department of Health and Human Services. The actual statute language implementing this transfer is as follows –

SEC. 7. ADMINISTRATIVE PROVISIONS.

(a) GENERAL ADMINISTRATION

(1) IN GENERAL.—Notwithstanding any other provision of law, Administrator of the Administration for Community Living, shall be responsible for the administration of this Act.

(2) COLLABORATION.— The Administrator of the Administration for Community Living shall consult with the Office of Special Education Programs of the Department of Education, the Rehabilitation Services Administration of the Department of Education, the Office of Disability Employment Policy of the Department of Labor, the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research, and other appropriate Federal entities in the administration of this Act.

(3) ADMINISTRATION.—In administering this Act, the Administrator of the Administration for Community Living shall ensure that programs funded under this Act will address the needs of individuals with disabilities of all ages, whether the individuals will use the assistive technology to obtain or maintain employment, to obtain education, or for other reasons.