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  The FAQ Page

Back to Basics: How to Get Help

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Most people dealing with disability for the first time don't know where to turn for help -- and it's no surprise. The so-called "disability system" in the United States is an amalgam of thousands of federal, state and local government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and commercial services. There are a number of key national and state agencies and organizations that can help people with disabilities negotiate their way through this maze of resources. Most of them can provide referrals to more specialized, disability-specific, or local programs. Here's an overview.

Topics:


ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY
 
 Every state has a Tech Act program which develops and implements assistive technology services for its residents with disabilities. To locate the program in your state, check the Resna Technical Assistance Project State Contact List.
 
 The Alliance for Technology Access (ATA) is a large coalition of assistive technology programs throughout the country. To find out if there is an ATA program near you, check the list of ATA Centers on the Alliance's website.
 
 ABLEDATA maintains an online database of over 20,000 assistive technology products, and provides related information.
 
 Additional Resources: Assistive Technology; State Resources
 

CHILDREN
 
 Focusing on children from birth to age 22, the National Information Center on Children and Youth with Disabilities (NICHCY) is a national clearinghouse on information about disabilities and disability-related issues for families, educators, and other professionals. NICHCY staff will walk you through the service maze and provide guidance and informational materials relating to early intervention, education, health care resources, legal rights, and a host of other concerns.
 
 Additional Resources: Just for Parents (and Service Providers); State Resources
 

FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE
 
 Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is available to eligible workers with disabilities (and their children or surviving spouses) who have Social Security coverage. The Social Security Disability Planner will guide you through this process.
 
 Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is for people with little or no income and resources, regardless of Social Security coverage or disability. Social Security's Supplemental Security Income pages will tell you more about this resource.
 
 Medicare is a federal health insurance program for people over 65 and people with disabilities of any age.
 
 Medicaid is a federal-state assistance program which pays medical bills of low-income people of all ages. The National Association of State Medicaid Directors provides a List of State Medicaid Web Sites.
 
 Many of the resources listed elsewhere on this page can provide financial assistance related to their areas. For example, some state Tech Act programs offer low-interest loans for assistive technology. Some vocational rehabilitation programs will pay for computer equipment, adaptive vans, and even personal assistants if they are necessary for you to work. Your local independent living center may be aware of these and other funding resources in your own community.
 
 Additional Resources: Financial Assistance; Medicare and Medicaid; Social Security; State Resources
 

HIGHER EDUCATION & VOCATIONAL SERVICES
 
 The HEATH Resource Center is a national clearinghouse on postsecondary education for individuals with disabilities. HEATH serves as an information exchange about educational support services, policies, procedures, adaptations, and opportunities at American campuses, vocational-technical schools, and other postsecondary training entities.
 
 Every state has a Department of Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) which helps adults with disabilities prepare for employment. The VR may provide medical, therapeutic, counseling, education, training, and other support services. The National Clearinghouse of Rehabilitation Training Materials provides a complete list of state VR agencies. The State Rehabilitation Advisory Council for BVS of Pennsylvania also lists state VR agencies on its website.
 
 Additional Resources: Employment; Higher Education; Vocational Rehabilitation; State Resources
 

HOUSING
 
 Affordable housing may be available through public housing, privately owned subsidized housing, or "Section 8" housing. Check your telephone directory for your local public housing agency (PHA) or contact the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) 24-hour Housing Counseling Referral Line online or by calling 800-569-4287.
 The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development also provides information about fair housing laws and other resources for people with disabilities.
 
 Additional Resources: Employment; Higher Education; Vocational Rehabilitation; State Resources
 

INDEPENDENT LIVING
 
 Independent Living Centers (ILCs) help individuals with disabilities live independently in the community through information and referral, skill training, advocacy, peer support, systems change, and other community-based programs. There are hundreds of ILCs throughout the country. To find one near you, contact the Independent Living Research Utilization Project (ILRU) and/or the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL).
 
 Additional Resources: Independent Living; State Resources
 

LEGAL RIGHTS
 
 Americans with Disabilities Act Disability and Business Technical Assistance Centers (DBTACs) provide information, referral, technical assistance, and training on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to businesses, state and local governments, and individuals. Call v/tty 800-949-4232 to be automatically routed to the DBTAC in your region.
 
 Every state has a Protection and Advocacy (P&A) system which helps resolve problems and provide legal and advocacy counsel and litigation for eligible individuals with disabilities. To find the P&A in your state, contact the National Association of Protection and Advocacy Systems (NAPACS).
 
 Each state also has a Client Assistance Program (CAP) which helps individuals seeking or receiving vocational rehabilitation services. Contact NAPACS to locate the CAP in your area.
 
 Additional Resources: Advocacy, Americans with Disabilities Act, Legal Rights; State Resources
 
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