As assistive tech market for the blind grows, costs remain prohibitive

Written by on May 4, 2021

As assistive tech market for the blind grows, costs remain prohibitive

By Megan Frank

May 4, 2021

Photo by Adrianna Calvo from Pexels

Sophisticated gadgets like special laptops and tablets are being developed to assist people who are blind, but the equipment can cost thousands of dollars.

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And none of it is covered by health insurance. 

A Pennsylvania group is working to make it easier to afford these tools. 

Joe Drenth, vice president of the state chapter of the National Federation of the Blind, price tags on new devices for blind people are way too high. And he says outfitting an existing computer with braille is not cheap either.

“Braille displays, for instance, typically cost over $5,000. It’s essentially like a tablet that has dynamic braille dots,” Drenth says. 

Insurance companies don’t cover the cost of these tools, he says, because they’re not classified as a “medical necessity.”

That’s why his group is supporting a legislative effort, the Access Technology Affordability Act, that would create a refundable tax credit for people who buy the tech.

The credit would reimburse people for up to $2,000 for items they purchase over a three-year period. 

“[I think this bill]… it has appeal to both sides of the aisle. From getting people employed and getting people the services and technology that they need,” Drenth says. 

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